Teaching your dog to come when called can be a somewhat tedious process. We have to cultivate a bond, generate spatial gravity, and teach the meaning of the word come through focused training exercises. Once you get through those pieces though you can use some cool games to shore it up and keep it strong. One of our favorites is Hide-and-Seek.
Also make sure to follow us on all the major social networks, and don’t forget to check that YouTube description for notes, links, and resources about stuff we talked about. Now one of the most important takeaways from learning about developmental games is how important play is. I mean the very first thing we do with any dog is our engagement game. It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s dynamic, it teaches communication and focus while appealing to things that really turn your dog on.
And so as we move along in our training everything is a precursor to play which contributes to motivation and commitment. Every time we go out we play. Then we have engagement. Then when we have engagement we ask for obedience which is going to be super easy at that point. This is part of the power of play. I mean, heck, volumes have been written about the importance of play in schools, in the workplace, in relationships…so why would it be any different between you and your dog? I think though people not only tend to undervalue play but also misunderstand what constitutes play.
If your dog thinks training is play we can cultivate a passion for it and we can make it super fun and rewarding for them. Good engagement also builds confidence. We want our dogs to thrive in a multitude of situations. We want to be able to take our dogs with us as we move around the world. Confidence and stability are really important to that. Another concept I’ve mentioned on this channel before is spatial gravity. Also Read- How to keep a dog from pooping in your yard?
We want to develop an attraction between you and your dog where they have a tendency to orbit around you and spiral inwards, a kind of centripetal motion. This is important to our work as well, so let’s dive in! Hide-and-seek is one of our favorite activities and it is a powerhouse game to play with your dog. Not only is it a lot of fun but it really refines some great skills, specifically stay, come, and engagement in general. Here’s how it works.
Your dog should have a good grasp of stay and come before you start. Make sure you’ve practiced both of these before you start. You’ll want some room to work. If you have a large house this works great; if you do not or you live in an apartment you’ll want some safe, fenced-in place to play in. If you’ve done any work with a platform it’s not a bad idea to start on that, and that will help your dog figure out the game faster. Put your dog into a stay and walk away out of sight. For the first few runs of this you want to make it super easy for them to find you so they get the gist of the game.
Don’t make it too difficult to find you or they’ll give up and the game will be counterproductive. I would say just stop wherever you went out of sight. Call your dog. When they find you, move into a prolonged and joyous reward event.
When I first moved to New York State in 2007 I moved into a massive 3,000 square foot Victorian house. When Dexter was a puppy we’d play hide-and-seek in that house and he was so good at it. I could put him in the family room and hide in the closet of an upstairs back bedroom and he would go and go until he found me.
You can have someone restrain your dog to build drive just like we do for restrained recall practice, as long as your dog is comfortable with the helper and with being restrained. Eventually though this game is best played when it’s one-on-one. Don’t ratchet up the difficulty too fast and that also means to watch out for distractions. If you have to play this outside somewhere there’s a greater chance that those competing motivators will pull your dog from their search.
Make your hide accordingly easy for them so they are continually successful. All right everyone, I want you to have some real fun with this. Remember you need to have already spent some time teaching come and stay so don’t get too excited and put the cart before the horse. Once you’re ready for this you guys are going to have a blast.