Bird Dog & Retriever News

October / November 2017 issue page 13


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Gamify Your Dog Training
By Terry Ryan

Prerequisites and benefits
The dogs should have some skill at maintaining duration for stationary behaviors. The game will allow the dogs to practice behaviors among lots of distractions. It also keeps large groups busy simultaneously.
Prepare a sack of about 10 old tennis balls. With permanent ink, write OUT on a couple, HOME on a couple, and on the rest, write 1, 2 or 3. Mark out a baseball diamond, with home plate, pitcher's mound and first, second and third bases. The bases can be almost any flat object that will not shift position and cause runners (who will not be running) to slip. The bases don't need to be very far apart. Positions Sit, Down and Sit can be written on the three bases. Divide the group into two teams.
Here are some ideas for behaviors to perform on the bases for the batting team and next to those are sample distractions that could be provided by the team in the field:
Sit on first base. Auditory distraction: Squeaky toy, crinkling of a bag of chips.
Down on second base. Visual distraction: Wave a flag, move a child's pull toy.
Sit on third base. Olfactory distraction: Food is offered from a large mixing spoon a short distance from the base. Spray a tiny puff of cologne a distance from the base.
This version of baseball is suitable for a small, indoor space. Half of the participants are up to bat and the other half in the field. Give each the name of a pro team in your area. You might even want to prepare team bandanas for the dogs! The first dog sits on home plate, on leash, at his partner's side. Without looking in the bag, the pitcher takes out a ball and gently throws it to the hitter (the human!) to catch. The dog must stay in a sit while the ball is being caught by his partner. If the person drops the ball, or the dog changes position, that's a STRIKE. Three strikes and that player is out. If they get a "hit" (catch the ball successfully while the dog stays), the owner tosses the ball back to the pitcher. Dog must stay. Once the pitcher has the ball again, the dog/ human couple must go to the base indicated on the ball (1, 2, 3, Home). The dog assumes the appropriate position on top of the base within three seconds of a single cue, or is out. He must remain on base in that position until the next batter hits. Then the game goes on. Only the dog at bat performs the exercise. Those already on bases, simply "run" the bases. At each base, a member of the other team is assigned to provide a distraction.
Game variations
No base distractions will make the game easier for both teams.
A coachable moment
Point out to the team in the field that their distractions are going to affect their own dogs. It's a great opportunity for them to train. Remind them to be alert and proactive to this challenge.
(Don't) Watch Your Step
Prerequisites and benefits
The dog should have experience walking on leash. This game reveals if more work is needed on the dog's attention to his partner and the fluency of walking on leash. Mostly it's an exercise for people to learn to communicate effectively with each other: As George Bernard Shaw noted, "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
Mark the boundaries of a playing area—12 x 24 feet will work. This activity takes a lot of space and is best done one couple at a time, so it is fairly time consuming. You'll need various objects to put on the floor. Use anything that's handy, for example cones, ropes, books, chairs, leashes, coats, purses, toys, boxes and bowls. Use a bandana or other suitable item as a blindfold.
The objects are scattered around on the floor. The articles must not be breakable or dangerous to the dogs or people. Select two couples to work together. One couple has to walk through the course without stepping on or bumping into anything. This is hard, because the person is blindfolded and the dog must follow along closely! She will be given directions by the other player on how to get through the course successfully.
Game variations
This exercise also works well with humans only. I often do it at instructor workshops!
A coachable moment
When folks know who they will be working with, a meeting can take place to plan how to give directions positively and effectively. Input from both is desired as they will take turns guiding each other. How big is a big step?


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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News November 2017
Do not reproduce or retransmit in any form, and we surf the web, we'll find you.
Maintained by Dennis Guldan e-mail
Bird Dog & Retriever News, PO Box 120089, New Brighton, MN 55112,
Phone 612-868-9169 Adv deadline 1st of the month prior to the issue.