5 More Mind Games for Your Agility Dog
We have five more mind stimulating games for you to play with your dog during inclement weather or times you need to keep each other occupied and out of trouble from boredom. You can read the first five in our post 5 Mind Games for Your Agility Dog. Some of these ideas work when you are going to be away from home or you need some quiet time and the rest are somewhat advanced games that will take some training to get started.
There are several different products out there designed to slow your dog down during mealtime which can help alleviate boredom and protect against issues such as choke or stomach upset from eating too fast. There are special dog dishes, food dispensing balls and cubes and the ever popular Kong. While you may not be able to get a full meal into the Kong, it makes a great in between meal treat or diversion for getting out the door. They can also help keep your dog cool in the summer by freezing them. Another great self activated game is a ball launcher that a dog can learn to retreive the ball and place it back into the launcher and keep playing as long as they want.
A popular trick to clicker training is the game called, “New Trick.” This game may seem somewhat confusing in the beginning but as your dog figures out the game it will boost your dog’s creativity as it teaches them to think independently by learning to provide their own “idea” and being rewarded for doing so.
It is built on a relatively easy premise, ask for a new trick, click and treat when one is offered and ignore offers of the same trick. Once your dog fully understands the game it isn’t abnormal for game to last up to 40 minutes. So you say “new trick,” your dog sits, you click and treat. You then say “new trick,” and your dog lays down, click and treat. You say “new trick” and your dog remains down or sits again, you can ignore them or say “you already did that,” but no click and treat until they offer a new trick.
When starting out, as with all new games, start simple and reward any new behavior. Just don’t reward the same behavior twice. If your dog doesn’t have a lot to offer then you have the opportunity to teach them new tricks to fill their bag of tricks with.
This is a great game to teach your dog if they have several toys and it doesn’t take that long for them to learn. Don’t worry about squelching your dog’s creativity by having a tidy play area. My dog knows where his “toy box” is and finds the toy he wants and brings it over to play.
Your dog does need some cues in place before starting, like “drop it” and “cleaning up” or “put it away.” If you have not already, teaching “drop it” is easy enough if you have tasty treats or two toys your dog loves. Get him playing with his toy and offer him the treat or other toy. When he is consistent in releasing his toy, start adding the verbal cue. Next you will place a container under the dog and ask him to drop his toy into the container for his treat. Then add distance between the toy and the box. When your dog will take his toy to the box and drop it you can start adding different toys. Then spread the toys around the room so your dog has to travel to different toys and take them to the container.
You can add speed and determination to the game by only giving a jackpot reward when all loose toys are put away. Start with a few and add to the number of toys your dog has to put up before he gets his reward. Take it slow and remember that teaching the game and watching your dog figure it out is half the fun. And don’t be too anxious to jump in and help, give him space to figure it out. If he becomes frustrated or starts to give up, be sure to help him out and go back in the training to a point he can do confidently.
The Name Game
It may take longer to teach then the general cue to clean up, but it is fun to teach your dog their toy’s names and have them clean up by name. To start out you will want to take one toy, say the name and when your dog takes it, click and reward. Do this 20 to 30 times then introduce a totally different toy, but of similar value to your dog. Say the name of the toy you have been working with. If your dog picks it up, click and treat. If you dog goes for the incorrect toy simply take it back and place it back by the correct toy and ask again.
When your dog consistently choices the correct toy change the tester toy and start again. Keep changing the choices until your dog is solid in choosing the correct toy. Then you can move to identifying a second toy. When your dog has mastered two toys, put those two together and ask your dog to identify each one. In this manner add one toy at a time and see how many your dog can learn by name. Then you can ask your dog to put them away by name.
This is a tough game that takes time to learn, giving you and your dog something to work on for hours. It can take days or even weeks for your dog to comprehend the game as well as develop the skills he needs to perform this game with accuracy. Don’t drill your dog on it especially i the beginning. Keep is simple, easy and upbeat. Remember, this is a skill they have to learn and you want to play a game with it in the end so don’t create aversion to it by drilling. Wooden rings will work better and last longer especially if you have a dog with a hard mouth. The size of the game will depend on the size of your dog and the dexterity of his mouth
You may have to start from the very beginning by introducing the idea of taking the rings in their mouth. Click and treat any interaction with the ring and then build until your dog will hold it and bring it toward the stick. Click and treat the whole way. Interaction with the ring, holding the ring, bringing the ring toward the stacker, touching the stacker with the ring, maneuvering the ring to the top of the stacker, dropping the ring onto the stacker.
For a fun twist on the game you can mount the stacker on the wall so your dog has to slide the rings horizontally instead of dropping them vertically. Or, you can put the rings and the stacker in different rooms so your dog has to go from room to room to collect and stack the rings to get the reward.