Category Archives: Games

Playing games with our dogs is a very important aspect of our responsibility towards dogs. One might think, “They are games, how important can they be?” Games do a variety of things for you and your dog. Remember that most dogs love to play games and all too often people do not fully understand the negative or the positive consequences surrounding the games that they are taking part in. You need to fully understand why you play them, how you play them, when you should play them, and how to control them.

3 Reasons To Train Your Puppy

A dynamic view from below of a young woman jumps over a ditch with her sheepdog.

See Me, Hear Me

pull quote reads: Adored, coddled or handled without care, frequently misunderstood and uneducated.We all want to be heard and understood. I remember being at a workshop many years ago, can’t remember when or where, listening to Ian Dunbar (one of my heroes) tell a moving story about the sad fate of many dogs. In brief, I will recount it in my words. It’s the tale of many a puppy. Adored, coddled or handled without care, frequently misunderstood and uneducated. Moving into adolescence they become problematic, annoying and unmanageable. Perhaps from here delegated to the backyard. Problems gaining momentum until eventually the dog is surrendered to a shelter and who knows their fate from there. The odds are not looking good for this dog’s future. What if this dog had been educated early on and his folks knew how to help prepare, ‘prevent’ and/or deal with particular adolescent dog behavior?

An Early Education Helps

pull quote reads: a big part of my motivation is to help the new puppy folks work to prevent specific problematic, yet predictable behaviors.As a dog trainer who specializes in early education for puppies a big part of my motivation is to help the new puppy folks work to prevent specific problematic, yet predictable behaviors. Things like guarding behavior or not being comfortable having their nails trimmed. I teach my students what to pay attention to, how to set the dog up for success and how to do fun, simple exercises that may help prevent the behavior from developing. Another essential part of the process is that I help prepare people emotionally and theoretically that the adolescence stage is coming and with it particular behaviors. Adolescence begins when the dog reaches puberty and ends with social maturity. Different for all dogs, size matters, roughly talking 6 months through to about 3 years.

Growing Up Is Hard

pull quote reads: Top 3 reasons to train a puppy... the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog.It is normal that your adolescent dog jumps, bites, and seems to have lost some of the behaviors you had previously thought were well established. There are lots of changes going on during this stage of development. Some you can measure, Such as adult teeth, others are not visible, hormones and brain development to name two. There are fear periods that the dog goes through as well, one or more coinciding with the adolescent stage of development. All of this combined can make for a trying time for your pup and for you.

Adolescent Lab stealing a cookie from the kitchen counter top

4 Tips To Help You Navigate Adolescence With Your Pup

Structure. Even though bathroom training might seem perfected don’t rush ahead of yourself and give your puppy too much freedom too soon. Structure in the form of crates and gates remains a helpful strategy for the adolescent dog.

Light Hearted Approach. Avoid showdowns. Keep training moving forward with a playful, fun tempo. Concentrate on moves your dog enjoys. Targeting behaviors – such as ‘go to your mat’, targeting your hand with their nose or using a paw to target different objects, eye contact, tug and short recalls on leash are all good bets.

Work-to-eat-toys and lots of games. Enriching opportunities for your dog to get his ‘dogginess on’ should be a priority. Experiment with dog puzzles, snuffle mats, hide and seek games and food-stuffed toys.

Calming massage and gentle handling. Calm voice, calm environment. While your dog is stretched out and relaxed try gently running your hand from nose to tail. There are lots of examples of dog massage you can explore on the Internet. Interacting with your dog this way will promote calm, comfort and bonding.

The top three reasons to train your puppy… the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog. This piece is dedicated to all the dogs that got the short end of the stick.

 

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

less talk more action - play tug with your puppy!

A fun part of getting to know a new puppy is discovering his preferences. If we pay attention we can learn what kind of treats he loves and which toys and games are his favorites.

In my experience there are few pups that don’t enjoy a great game of tug.

Unfortunately this game has a bad reputation. I’m saying it… Playing tug is not going to teach your puppy bad habits and make him aggressive! On the contrary! When you teach the game with some simple rules and plenty of structure your puppy learns impulse control, great manners and he gets his puppy ya-ya’s out.

The rules are simple, the puppy needs to learn to;

1.     Take the toy only when given the verbal cue to ‘take it’.

2.     Give the toy when asked to ‘give’.

3.     Sit immediately following the give.

In the beginning stage of teaching a puppy how to play tug, work to perfect the give and sit portion of the game. Lots of ‘take it’ with a short stint of tug followed by a trade for a tasty treat and luring the ‘sit’. Be sure when you make the trade, that you use something enticing enough to get the puppy to give up the toy. This might take some experimenting with different treats. Put it right up to his nose so he can smell it, say give, he will let go of the toy, then lure the sit and let him have the treat. Repeat.

Short film clip: How to play Tug with your puppy

Tug Tips

The ‘sit’ following the ‘give’ is an important component of teaching ‘tug’. If you are consistent it will quickly turn into an‘automatic safety-sit’. A sitting dog is not jumping up to grab a toy. He is politely waiting for the cue to ‘take it’.

Practice lots of ‘leave it, take it’ separately.

Play low, keep the toy low and let the puppy do the pulling on the toy. Avoid lifting the puppy up with the toy.

Use a long soft toy that puts some distance between your hand and the pup’s mouth.

If the puppy isn’t letting go of the toy, the trade treat isn’t enticing enough. Switch to something more ‘high value’ to the puppy.

Less talk, more play. Practice makes perfect. Ready, set, go!

The “Push-Pull” of Tug

“Tug” was originally printed in the first press run of the Ultimate Puppy Toolkit. For “Throw-Back” Thursdays, here are the original retro photos and the still current “How-To” for this most excellent of games. “Tug” is a wonderful way to relieve puppy tension and excess energy. It also has two great benefits for you – it will leave your pup tuckered out and happy and it is a good way to practice “Drop-It” and “Take it, Leave it”. Be sure to get the knack of “Drop-it” and “Take it, Leave it” before you try Tug.

Tug: The Benefits

Tug is a wonderful tension reliever for dogs, to them, when they play this game, they are ripping and tearing at their prey, a natural instinct. Some of us would rather not think about this aspect of a dog’s character, but the reality is, they are dogs and this is normal for them. We can not ignore this most basic need in a dog’s behavior.

  • The desire to Tug will not go away. Instead, if left unaddressed, it is likely that the dog will find another less acceptable outlet for this behavior.
  • Playing Tug will help reduce the chances of your dog grabbing at your clothing and ripping and shredding things that are off limits.
  • You can easily play this game in the house on rainy days.
  • This game gives you an indication of the amount of control that you have over your puppy. You should be able to go from a wild and vigorous game of Tug to complete control, which would be the dog dropping the tug toy and sitting. If you can’t, there are elements of the relationship between you and your dog which need examining.
  • When played properly this game relieves stress in your dog. It’s very therapeutic.

Tug: the Rules

Tug is not a game we recommend a child play with the puppy.

If at any point during the game of tug the puppy does not follow the rules, the game is over. Put the toy away and ignore the puppy. This is crucial.

If you see the puppy start to wane at any point in the sequence, take the time to polish up his skills. For example his sit starts to get sloppy or his drop it gets slower, isolate the problem and work on that stage of the game until it is smooth again.

Jumping up to grab the toy, pulling at your skin or clothing, or clawing at your hands are all grounds to stop the game immediately.

Be sure you have mastered the “drop it” cue.

Here’s How to play Tug

Therapeutic game to play with puppy

Excite the puppy to take the toy in his mouth, some puppies will do this readily, others will take a little more coaxing. If the puppy is not interested, put the toy on the ground and pull it along the floor and wiggle it, talk in an excited voice, saying things like “ya wanna get it!?”. If the puppy is still not interested, read the section “How to Get an Uninterested Puppy Playing With Toys” on ultimatepuppy.com).

 

help develop a health behavior in your puppy

Once the puppy has taken the toy in his mouth and has pulled on it for just a second of two, ask him to Drop it. At this stage we are just teaching the Drop so don’t expect that he knows what you are talking about, you need to teach him what the words mean.

 

As a 9 week old puppy holds a tug toy in his mouth a young woman lowers a piece if food to the pups nose

As you ask for the Drop it, put a tiny piece of food against the puppy’s nose. As he hears the cue, he scents the food and should let go of the tug toy. After he has let go, lure him into a sit as you ask him to sit. Once he is sitting, praise and reward him with the treat.

 

A young woman kneels while a puppy sits in front of her while receiving a treat

We teach the puppy to sit after we ask for the “drop it” to prevent him from jumping up to grab the tug toy. This is a very important step, do not omit it.
Next you introduce the cue Take it. This happens once the puppy has dropped the toy and done his sit. You start the game again by offering the toy back. The sequence goes like this; Take it – Tug – Drop it – Sit – Take it. Rinse and repeat!
You should proceed this way until you see that the puppy is readily dropping the toy when you ask. Start to fade out the treat to the nose but continue to reward the Sit with a treat for a few days and then more randomly, and then not at all.
Once the puppy is completely reliable with the drop it, you are ready to play a more vigorous and extended game of Tug.

New Puppy Rules – Play

newpuppyrules_play

We have taken puppy raising concepts and broken them down into a few key points to help make them easy to remember and to practice. With each new set of rules you will find a link included to take you to ultimatepuppy.com, where you can get a comprehensive explanation and/or lesson on the concept.

 

newpuppyrules_play

 

Click on this link to learn how to play Tug safely with your puppy: Tug

Click on the link to learn how: Games

 

Puppy Myth Buster #2

Puppy-Myth-Busters_02

Games

Playing Tug-of -War with your puppy will teach him to bite.

True or False?

Answer: False

Guess what? All dogs bite. Dogs are predators and inherently they need to tug, pull and chew. It is our responsibility to provide them with these outlets in a safe, controlled manner. Tug, played with structure and rules is therapeutic for your dog.

Check out this great online resource care of the San Francisco SPCA to learn more about the value of playing Tug-of-War and how you can safely teach it to your puppy.

Go to Myth Buster #3