Working from home? Or take your dog to the office? Want to improve your dog’s focus, engagement and connection? Here are some quick fun games you can incorporate into your dog’s day…
Tug games are a great way to have fun and improve your dog’s focus and connection with you. Choose an exciting toy (our advice is to keep certain toys away from your dog and only bring them out at certain times, to increase their value) and let’s play. Start by making a fuss about the toy, act super excited to have it, then ask your dog ‘what have I got!?’, and let your dog see the toy. Then encourage your dog to follow the toy by wiggling it on the ground. Encourage your dog to grab the toy and have fun!
- Consider the type of toy – long fleecy toys are soft on mouths and keep your hand away from your dog’s mouth!
- When playing tug games, move the toy gently from side to side and try to mimic a dog when you tug. Avoid spins, shakes, jerks or bouncing on the end of the toy. Doing so just adds an unnecessary risk of injury. The dog’s neck is built to have power from side to side, not up and down.
- Avoid holding the toy up high for dogs to jump up – especially young puppies
Work your dog’s 300 million olfactory receptors (compared to human’s 400!) and build calm focus by trying scent games with your dog.
Simply hide some treats around your house/office/yard and encourage them to ‘go find’ or ‘seek’. You may need to show your dog how the game is played first, but taking them near where the treats are and let them ‘pick up the scent’. Make a big fuss when they find the treats, then encourage them to come with you to find the other hidden ones. If you play the game a few times, you may find your dog starts to scent for treats just on your cue of ‘find it/seek’. Be careful with multiple dogs for this game, so you may need to do one dog at a time.
Want to improve your dog’s recall? Scatter recalls will do it.
How to play
Equipment: Dog, high value treats cut into tiny pieces, backyard or enclosed area
Step 1: Scatter about 6 small treats on the ground in front of your dog and encourage him to eat them.
Step 2: Take a step away from your dog, wait until he has finished eating the treats and begins to look up, call your dog in an enthusiastic voice, when he comes towards you, scatter some more treats on the ground in front of you.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 a few times
Step 4: Start taking more steps away from your dog and increase the distance.
This will also tire your dog out as they are using their nose a lot!
Hide & Seek
This game will also improve your dog’s recall, but super fun to play with multiple family members or office staff! Have someone hold your dog (if they are OK with that), otherwise if your dog has a good wait then cue a wait. Move into another room/behind a desk, door or somewhere in the yard. Either call your dog, or have the person holding them cue your dog to ‘find her/him/mum/dad’. Make a huge fuss when your dog ‘finds’ you! Gradually increase the difficulty and distance. This is such a great game to play inside on rainy days or in the air con if it’s too hot outside.
Ok, this last one is really getting your dog to jump through hoops. Targeting games not only give your dog a point of focus, but build a great association with hands and allows you to move your dog from point A to B.
How to play
Step 1: Choose a target – most people use an open flat hand. The target needs to be obvious to your dog.
Step 2: Place your target (open hand) just near your dog’s nose. When your dog touches the target, mark or click, then give a treat from your other hand
Step 3: Place the target in different spots and continue to mark/click then treat.
Step 4: Increase the distance your place your target (hand) from your dog’s nose by about 3-4cm increments.
Step 5: Practice using a target to move your dog around – for example; on and off their bed, in and out through a door.
For advanced targeting – try targeting your dog under a table or chair, through a plastic hoop or change the target to a post it note or plastic lid.
Give these games a go and have fun with your dog!