By Cherie Maitland, Trainer and Behavior Specialist at Our Furry Friends Training Centers and
with the Canine College Program
Why not have some fun with your dog while training!! At the same time you can teach good manners and help your
puppy or adult dog control some of their normal canine impulses like jumping up towards your face, using their teeth and
using their bodies as little battering rams against yours – ouch!!
In her Family-Friendly Dog Training book, Patricia McConnell writes ”Play can enhance your relationship, increase
your dog's willingness to do what you ask, teach emotional control, and in general make it a lot more fun . . .
Inappropriate play can teach bad habits and create dogs who are emotionally out of control.”
An important aspect to keep in mind as you are training and playing with your dog is that playing is the reward for good
behavior. Start play only after your dog sits, which teaches them that sitting is a great way to get good stuff!! Also, the
taking away of play is the consequence for bad behavior. If you are consistent, your dog will catch on!! For example, if
your dog jumps on you, tell them “Too bad” and turn your back and take away all attention for 10 – 20 seconds, or more
if necessary. If your dog hits you with their teeth during a game of fetch or tug of war, yell “Ouch!” and temporarily stop
the game.(For more info on playing Tug of War visit Tug & Train.)
Play strengthens your bond with your dog, while releasing some built up energy and pent-up frustration for both of you!!
Teaching your dog to control his excitement when necessary is a foundation to the training process. I like to start with
teaching what I call the “On/off switch.”
On/Off Switch: Start with a sit. Release your dog with a rousing “Okay!” or whatever word you use to tell your dog
that they can get up. Play, wrestle or play tug if you have taught them how to play that politely. (For tips on teaching a
safe tug of war game visit: www.DOG-B-GOOD.com/TugofWar.) Before your dog gets too aroused, stop your
movement and give the firm command “Sit!” Avert your eyes and ignore your dog until he sits. Release him again with a
rousing “Okay!” When he starts getting the hang of this, you can wait a little longer each time to check the “Off switch.” If
it’s too hard for your dog to stop playing, ask for the sit sooner.
Go Get It!! If your dog enjoys fetching, ask for a polite sit before you toss the toy! Any jumping up on you for the toy,
gets the stern “Too bad” or a loud “No!” and a turn of your back and temporary delay to the game. And you guessed it -
a polite sit starts up the game again!! Make sure you don’t turn fetch into a rousing game of "keep away,” that’s a game
for another time to teach on your terms, not your dogs.
Jump For Joy! Let’s put a purpose and focus for all that enthusiasm! Be careful about too much jumping for growing
dogs under a year. Take a hoola hoop and hold it an inch or two off the ground in front of your dog. With the other hand,
take a yummy morsel of food and put it on your hungry dog’s nose. As you slowly move it forward, lure your dog to get up
and take a step. Then toss the treat through the hoop and say “Hoop!” as your dog jumps. For timid or unsure dogs you
might need another person behind the hoop coaxing them through. Be careful about letting your dog sneak under or
around the hoop for the treat. Once they get the hang of it, raise the hoop and take a step or two away, so your dog gets
a running start. The final step is to add a sit before the beginning of the game.
And once again - the polite sit gets the fun, the attention, the toy or …. Create your own games together with your
dog. Have fun while training. Your dog will thank you for it!!
Please contact me for further information on this or on any other training and obedience issues. You can call me at
209-304-5139 or 530-622-PUPS.
E-mail to: AsktheTrainer@DOG-B-GOOD.com or by mail at PO Box 97, Pine Grove, CA 95665.