Hey, everyone! I hope you are doing well and staying healthy. Everyone is going a little bit stir-crazy, so I thought I would share a fun dog training game I do with my own dogs… and sometimes, yours!
Why? Because I get it. Sometimes training is boring. We go over the same basic manners over and over again! But what if we can make practicing a game?
Hide and Seek is an example of one fun game that I play with some very rambunctious dogs, especially when the weather is poor and we can’t do much outdoors. The benefits of this game are three-fold: you are expending your dog’s mental and physical energy, reminding them to “come” when called, and also teaching them to seek you out despite distractions or even if you are out of sight.
For this game, it will be best if your dog is already able to come when called.
They may need to be distracted to allow you to leave the room and “hide” or you can already be in different rooms.
From there, start easy. Call your dog to you from a nearby room. Treat and praise when they get to you. Repeat this several times until you’re confident they’ll come each time. Slowly start hiding further and further away. Sometimes I even “hide” behind a door so they are using their doggy senses to find me once they get to the room. Don’t scare them when they arrive, though! Continue treating and praising – throw a happy little party every time they find you! Build this up until they are willing to search the whole house to find you.
Sound good? Great! Let’s take it outdoors!
When your dog is looking the other way, you can hide behind a bush or shed in your backyard and then call your dog to you. What next? I think you’ve got it – treat and praise when they find you!
Remember to slowly increase the level of distraction – looking the other way is a lot different than chasing a squirrel up a tree. You and your treat probably won’t trump the squirrel the first time you play this game if your dog REALLY loves squirrels! So they need to learn to play hide and seek when they’re bored before they can learn to do it when they’re engaged with something else.
If you have a friend willing to join the fun, you can work up to do this beyond your own backyard, too! As you go out and start trying places with more and more distractions where off-leash is a no-go, it may be worth buying a long training leash.
Some dogs pick up on the game quickly and others need more encouragement or work on their recall/come. That’s OK! As your dog becomes more confident, you can raise the difficulty level and even include the entire family so your dog has fun with everyone and learns to reliably come to each of you!
So, what do you think? A little more fun than the standard practice for coming when called? Just like we humans need to practice our skills, dogs need reminders about using their manners. Some manners become habits in our everyday lives, but others never really get better… because most of us don’t need our dog to come to us from a distance very often. That’s OK! But this is great practice for that one time you really need when you get separated on a hike or they escape the backyard.