Dogs love fun. Who can doubt it, watching a group of dogs running joyously across a field or dog park? Today’s dog training tip is simple: play with your dogs.
There is a movement afoot to encourage us to play with our dogs. New books and DVDs are coming out, and training experts are suggesting that we lighten up and play. Great advice for most humans, I’d say, and most dogs could have told us that in the first place. In this tip, I’m talking about human-dog play, but dog-dog play is also valuable for our canine friends.
So how can you use play in training? Here are two ways:
1. You can use play as a reward when the dog does something you want it to. For example, you ask your dog to sit and it does. At the moment of sitting, you click your clicker if you are using one, or you say “Yes!” or “Good!”
Then instead of giving the more conventional food reward, you whip a toy out of your pocket. It could be a chew toy for a tug of war or a squeaky toy for the dog to chase… whatever your dog likes and is appropriate for your location.
2. The whole training project can be turned into something fun. For example, if you want your dog to walk on a loose leash, one of the main tricks to teaching this is to stop abruptly if the dog is pulling out in front of you. In some versions of this method, you then walk the other way. Well, depending on your fitness and the dog’s size, this can be turned into pure play:
You and the dog are walking along together on leash, in a place with enough space for movement in various directions. The dog starts pulling. You quickly go off in another direction — it can be 180 degrees, but it can be any angle. If necessary, you take a few walking steps to get the dog heading in the right direction, then you jog or flat out run a ways, the dog happily keeping up. You can slow to a more moderate pace, but then the moment the dog pulls ahead, you charge off in a new direction. I’m almost out of breath just writing about this, but I could keep it up for quite a few changes. How about you?
If you have favorite ways of playing with your dog that have a training element, do comment below!