A Basic Brain Game That Every Dog Should Play
A Basic Brain Game that Every Dog Should Play.
Dogs are creatures of habit. They learn by repetition. Because of this, it is important to remember that training should always be done the same exact way every time. Consistency builds habit and habit turns into a routine.
Before I take any dog out of their kennel I do several very basic “mental stimulation games” with them. These games serve several purposes. They are designed to get the dog to:
- focus on my voice
- listen for instruction and direction via voice or hand signal commands
- “Think” about its previous training sessions and remember what actions have gotten a favorable reward in the past.
Here is my normal routine with the dogs I work with.
When I walk through the door I START by putting some treats in my pocket or training pouch.
1). As I walk up to the kennel I say hello to the dog in a calm and pleasant voice. (Not Squeaky or excited, just pleasant), and I give a few pieces of treat through the fencing.
2). Next I ask the dog to SIT. When it complies I give a few more pieces treat.
3). As I reach for the latch on the kennel door I reinforce the SIT command again. If the dog stays seated I unlatch the door. If it comes out of SIT, I move back to #2 and begin again.
NOTE: The dog needs to realize that nothing happens if it doesn’t comply with the command. The dog is looking for a “reward” and in this case, entering the dog’s space IS the reward. This is because the dog wants to engage with you. So if you give in and do not make the dog comply, the dog learns that it doesn’t need to listen because the reward will come no matter what it does.
4). As I open the door to the kennel I ask the dog to step BACK and then SIT again. When it complies I close the door behind me and give a reward (treat, verbal or tactile). If the dog does NOT comply, I step back through the door and the door closes with me outside. Then we begin again.
5). Once inside (with the door closed), I then ask the dog to SIT or lay DOWN and wait calmly. Once I see that the dog is going to stay calmly in position I give a reward (treat, verbal or tactile).
6). I then do a few minutes of “Impulse Control Training”. If you have NOT been to one of my “Handler’s Workshops” this training teaches the dog not to take an object it wants until it is told that it can have it.
To do this training you place a treat about 6” in front of the dog’s paws while it is lying in front of you. If the dog tries to take it, BLOCK it with your hand and say NO or LEAVE-IT. When it stops trying to get the treat remove your hand and say NO or LEAVE-IT again.
Continue blocking each time the dog tries to get the treat. Eventually the dog will either back away or not try to take it. When this happens, tell the dog: “GOOD DOG” and give it the treat. Repeat this 3-5 times before putting the walking leash on the dog.
NOTE: Most dogs pick up the rules to this game within just a few minutes. This game is actually the base for my complete training method. Once mastered, this method can be used to teach many of the basic commands and a few advanced ones as well.
7). Put the harness or collar and leash on the dog. Ask the dog to SIT again before you open the kennel door. As you begin to open the door, make sure the dog stays seated. If he breaks the SIT, close the door and begin again. When you get the door open, the dog should remain seated until you ask it to come out “EASY”. If they begin to charge out or pull you, put them back in the kennel and begin again.
It is important that they do not pull you out. They need to be calm and respectful. Not excited. Excited can get you or the dog hurt.
8). Repeat #7 at every doorway as you leave the building. The most important door is the OUTSIDE door. If the dog is not calm and under your control as you open the outside door he could run out, get in a fight or get run over by a car. The common term for this is “Door Dashing” and a lot of dogs are lost, injured and killed every year when they “Dash” out the door. This is why you have been so careful to have the dog be calm and listening to you up to this point.
9). Continue communicating with the dog as you walk. Tell the dog what you want, and when it complies be sure to reward it with verbal praise, tactile or food rewards.
NOTE: The reason dog trainers often get much faster results is because we communicate much more often than the average dog owner. Average owners one speak to there dogs 3-5 times per minute. And it is usually just to give the dog a command. Trainers are constantly telling the dog what they want, and giving praise and direction. We speak to the dog on the average of 40 times per minute.
Yes, when you do this the citizens around you may think you are nuts because you are talking to the dog. But your dog will LOVE it and it will show you it’s appreciation by being more in tune to you and also more obedient.