Let's Play Together!
What could be better! You and all your family (… of course including your dog) having the time of your lives - feeling a fitter, healthier and happier family for it! By varying the routine, who plays with the dog and the games you play together, you also help your dog to learn. But we have a few favouirtes that will have you all looking forward to playtime, every time!
Hide and seek
An all-time favourite for you and all the family that your best friend will never tire of! Get someone to hide with a favourite toy or a treat. To start with you can make it easy, letting your dog watch where they hide. Encourage your dog to find the person, who can then hand over the toy or treat as a reward. After a while, you can make the game more difficult. Distract your dog while the other players hide, using different hiding places to keep him on his paws!
Find the treat
You can tell your dog to "stay" and show him a treat or biscuit, which you then clearly put under a cushion or behind a chair. Go back to your dog with the instruction to "seek". After a bit of practice, you can pretend to hide the object in a variety of places around the room – or the house!
Tracking is great fun for all the family, but it does take a bit of training. First of all, put your dog on a long lead or flexi-lead, using a fixed collar. Though never use a choke chain for this, or even to walk your dog, as they are old fashioned and potentially dangerous. Make your dog stay (or get a the kids to help) while you walk along backwards for about 20 meters showing a toy or treat, dragging your feet to maximise the scent trail and holding the reward near the floor to encourage the dog to search along at ground level. Leave the reward at the end of your scent trail and return along the same path. With the request "track", encourage your dog to sniff the ground where you walked until the reward is found. In time, you can all lay longer trails, and try walking in different directions and patterns to help him develop his skills.
Try this once you've successfully taught your dog to track. Next time you’re out, drop a toy without your dog seeing you, but continue walking for a few yards. Then stop and say "look back," encouraging him to retrace the route (most dogs will be able to follow your scent even if they didn't see exactly which way you went) until the toy is found. You can use a long lead at first to help you keep the dog on the right track. After a while, increase the distance and make the object a little more difficult to find. Don't throw it away from where you walked though, as he won't be able to use your scent to find it!
You can teach everyone to play fetch with your dog without even leaving the sofa! Offer him a toy, and as he mouths and sniffs it, say "fetch" and reward with praise or a treat.
Once he learns to touch the toy with his nose whenever you offer it and say "fetch" - offer it again with the request - but without the reward. This will be a bit puzzling, so say the request again straight away and your dog will be even keener to show you how clever he is!
Once you have reached this stage, drop the toy and say "fetch". When your dog starts to pick it up, you can begin to throw the toy slightly further away each time. Only reward your dog when he brings the toy back. Make sure you start and end these games with distinct signals, or your dog might start insisting you play just when you want to watch your favourite TV programme!