I love playing with my dog. Luna gets totally into it, and doesn’t get distracted by texts, TV shows or the phone (although the squirrel running along the fence is another story/blog entry!).
But I find I can squeeze in some really great training — during playtime. Like “tug-of- war”, for example. We have a very special, very large rope toy that only comes out for our games of “tug”. And when does that happen? Usually after a short clicker training session, when I’m working on a new behaviour with her, we’ll break with, “Wanna play tug?” and have fun battle of wills holding onto that rope. During our “tug” session we also practice “off”, “go to your mat”, “touch”, etc. And the faster she responds to my cues, the faster we get back to the business of tugging!
She’s also a fetching machine. So to space out my throws, I’ll ask for “drop” — of which there are two responses at the moment (I know, I know…even a professional trainer’s 2-year old dog is a work in progress ). Luna will either: 1) look at me then start bouncing around, teasing me, and looking extremely cute in the hope that I will chase her; or 2) drop the ball. And what do I do? Well, since I’m currently reading “Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson” I will no longer cave to the cute and crazy “please chase me” antics, and I will walk away from her, then ask her to “drop” again. My other response when she actually drops the ball is to either give her a “click” then say “I’m gonna get you!” and chase her (ending that game with “All done.”), or I will pick up the ball and ask for one or more known cues like: “around”, “weave”, “down”, “sit”, etc., then “click” and throw her ball.
So next time you think you might be “spoiling” your dog with some play, make it a “2- for1” deal with a fun session of play AND train.
N.B. Please only play tug-of-war with your puppy/dog AFTER they have a reliable “drop/off” cue. That’s something I can help you with.
At Smart Paws, we use positive reinforcement training techniques to teach you and your dog the skills needed for a happy, co-operative life together.