Dog and Puppy Games
Taking care of your puppy is a big responsibility: clipping its nails, brushing its teeth, getting or not getting pet insurance, training your dog etc. Although the most rewarding part of taking care of your new puppy is bonding and playing with him. Many people think of training your dog as an arduous task, but training should be a time for fun and play. These games are great training methods, but remember:
- Keep voice pleasant
- Praise a lot
- Make it fun for your dog and you
These games are so fun, you and your dog may forget the games are part of his training.
Everyone has heard of the game fetch. Unfortunately, often times owners find fetch being synonymous with tug-of-war. This should not be the case. By adding training elements to a game of fetch, you teach the dog that he does not have to be dominant to enjoy the game, he will learn many of the basic commands more quickly, and you will have a game that will be a lifetime of fun for you and your pet.
There are four main commands you will be using when playing fetch. Because many of these will also be used in real world circumstances, it makes fetch one of the greatest training games. The commands include: "fetch," "come" or "this way," "stay" or "sit," and "drop it."
- The command "fetch" is self explanatory. You want to say this as you are throwing the ball. Regardless if you say it, most likely your dog will chase the ball. By stating "fetch," it tells your dog you are in the mood to play and you want to play by your rules not his. Once the dog understands the rules to the game, the other three commands will become obsolete.
- After you throw the object, call your dog back to you. The most common command is "come," although I choose to say "this way." You want to choose the command you will use when you are going for a walk and it is time for him to stop sniffing and follow you. When I say, "this way," I also pat my leg twice. Since my dog has been trained to a pat of the leg and the word command, I often can pat my leg during moments like when my family is asleep, and I want him to obey me, but I don't want to be loud enough to wake anyone.
- Once he comes back, preferably with the ball, it is important that he knows not to run off with it. So you want to teach one of two commands, "stay" or "sit." Basically, you are telling your dog, be patient, I will throw the ball again. For this reason, I chose to say "stay." "Sit" is a good choice, if your dog needs extra work on the "sit" command in a more playful setting.
- Regardless of the command you choose, it is a good idea to use a hand signal as well. "Stay" should be followed up with a stop sign with your hand. With "sit," point your finger at the ground. These hand gestures will be invaluable as your dog gets older and no longer can hear very well. Also, these gestures can more easily be used while you have visitors, since you don't always want to interrupt your friend talking by commanding your dog.
- The final command has been the single most important command I have ever taught my dog. It not only saved a neighbor's pet bird that he caught from being injured, but also saved many of my daughter's toys and things that could have injured him as well. This command is "drop it."
- The best way to teach a dog to drop something is to say "drop it," then firmly tap the bottom of their mouth after a two second pause. Most dogs will instantly drop whatever they are holding the moment you hit their chin. Some more stubborn dogs will not. Then say "drop it," again and tap harder without injuring your dog. They will soon understand, they are expected to drop what they have in their mouth immediately. Very rarely will your dog resist, once he knows this command, you will not have to tap them on the chin after that. My dogs both picked up on this very quickly.
- Playing fetch is one of the few moments to adequately teach the "drop it" command. By teaching this command, you will find that chasing your dog when he is carrying around your underwear is a thing of the past. Plus this is great way to protect him from chewing on things that could harm him like nail clippers or dangerous plants to dogs.
Of course, as with any game, you want to make sure you praise your puppy lots. Initially praise him after each command, but after a few days, it is a good idea to wait to praise him until after he has done all four. This will reinforce that when he plays fetch, he is expected to, fetch, come, stay, and drop it, each time whether you say each step or not. In the early stages, do not hesitate praising, just because you had to force him into the sit position or pat underneath his mouth to get him to drop his toy. They need to know that if they obey, you are pleased.
Follow-the-leader is another game that is fun for the dog and yet trains them basic commands used in everyday life. The basic commands you will want to use are, "come" or "this way" (I prefer "this way"), "stay," "sit," "lay." Then you can add many others like "roll over," once your dog understands the basic more useful commands. Unlike fetch, which should be used in addition to training, this game can be a primary training tool.
You will begin with your dog on his leash. The object is to make sure he never tugs or pulls on the leash and follows you. You can do this as you walk around your yard or even inside your house. Begin by patting your leg as you use a follow me command, like "this way." This signals to him that it is time for him to pay attention to you not the world around him. As you are walking, he should walk with you. If he pulls on the leash, remind him by patting your leg and calling him. If he pulls hard, it may be a good idea to get a choke collar, they do not harm him, but make him uncomfortable enough to be trainable.
Soon he will learn when you walk, he walks; when you stop, he stops. If he stops without a fight, praise him and continue walking. Once he realizes that when you stop, he needs to stop, you can begin with the commands. Do not start with the other commands until this has been mastered.
After walking for a moment, stop and say a command with an appropriate hand signal. I usually put my hand up like a stop sign for "stay," point to the ground for "sit," bend over slightly with hand like a backwards stop sign pointing at the ground for "lay." Once he feels you stopping, he should listen and look at you, then obey these commands.
To teach the "sit" command, you need to place pressure on his rump as you pull up on his leash slightly. This should be quite easy to learn, especially if you use lots of praise. Some people choose to use treats, but I have to admit I don't, yet my dog is well-trained. Dog treats may cause them to learn more quickly, but praising them can be sufficient.
When you use the "lay" command, you want to tug the leash down as you put pressure on their rump. This will teach them what you expect. Getting them to lay is actually more beneficial in the long run than to sit, despite most people's insistence on using the "sit" command.
The reason I say this is because laying down is more comfortable than sitting down for your dog; therefore, it is more useful if you want your dog to stay in one position for long periods of time, like when you answer the door. He may begin to squirm if you have him stay in the "sit" position too long, especially when they are a young puppy or an older dog that has joint issues.
For the "stay" command, you should be able to drop the leash, walk away, then say "release," and he should know to come to you. This takes lots of practice, and you may need to reposition him in his original spot many times before he learns to stay.
Make sure when you first are teaching your dog these commands to lay the praise on thick, even if you had to force them in the position. The only way they will learn what you expect is by praising them when the job is done. They will soon search for the praise by doing it more quickly and quickly. Soon you will not have to guide their body.
Follow-the-leader makes a great game; soon you will be able to have your dog follow you anywhere off-leash. This also gives them opportunities to do many commands while receiving individual attention. They will love the extra attention, all while having fun!
Hide and Seek
This is a very fun game for you, your company, and your dog. With this game, you will need to use his favorite toy. It's important to name its toy, so he knows what it's called. For instance, my dog loves his squirrel. So we often will say, "Here's your squirrel," when we give it to him. He now knows what "squirrel" is.
When beginning the game you want to first say, "Where's your (squirrel)?" and point to it, so he knows you want him to get it. Once he grabs it, praise him and make a huge deal about him finding it. As he learns what you expect, then it is fun to hide their toy much like you would hide for a four-year-old; somewhere not too obvious but where they can find it by looking around the room. As the dog gets better at this game you can hide it better and better spots. Soon he'll be able to find it just by his sense of smell.
This game can also be used as a training tool by teaching the dog to go into another room while you hide it. I use the terms "inside," "outside," "upstairs," and "downstairs." These are important commands, as it will make leaving your house much easier. Another command to use is "stay," which you would use once he has gone to the appropriate spot before the game begins. Once he is allowed to come out, then say "release" or "this way," so he knows he may break the "stay" command.
Another command you can teach through this game is the "drop it" command. You want him to willingly give up their toy so you can hide it again. You do not want to play a game of tug-of-war, because then it's a game of wills, not training. Soon the dog will love playing hide-and-seek, and you may find him bringing you his toy when he wants you to hide it.
Playing games with your dog is extremely important. They will not only bring you and your dog closer together but also teach them that you are more than just a roommate. Many games can actually teach your dog real-life commands that will make owning your dog much easier. Also, by playing many of these games with your dog, it will make him calmer and more contented because he has an outlet for his energy.
Although playing typical games are important, having the right toys that will help your dog is important. Kongs are a great toy to use to keep your dog active for hours. They will chew and lick on it trying to get the treat inside. If you run out of treats, even placing peanut butter inside will keep your dog preoccupied for a long time. This is ideal for chewers like my dog.
Skeezix with Big Rawhide Bone
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz