Published in the BCSA Borderlines Magazine
Weather is not always ideal for outdoors training. In fact, it is sometimes downright harsh and inconvenient! When cruel weather hits, or circumstances make it difficult to risk going outside for training, don’t despair! There are training activities that you can enjoy with your dog right in the comfort of your warm dry home.
Does your dog want to do something?
Bugging you to train?
Here are a few suggestions to keep you and your dog from going stir-crazy when the weather traps you both indoors.
1. NoseWork – Scent work with hidden treats
The new sport of NoseWork is quickly catching on. Dogs just love it as it uses their natural ability to find scents with their acute sense of smell. Teaching your dog to discover odors using only his nose is a great game for his body and mind.
To start, set up a few (4-5) boxes or containers (I use plastic containers with holes punched into the bottom). No peeking! With your dog in a different room, place a few treats in one container. Then place all the containers upside-down and about 1 foot apart from each other.
Next, go get your dog. Enter the “scent room” and holding your dog back away from the containers, speak excitedly to your dog and let him go while encouraging him to smell the containers. As he as he pauses at the one with the treats, enthusiastically praise him on his discovery. Open the container and let him eat the treats. Soon, your dog will know what’s expected during this game. Keep adding more containers, space them at farther apart or add different objects other than treats such as your dog’s favorite toy or bone, to increase the challenge as your dog’s scent work improves.
2. Agility – Rev Settle – focus and foundations
Doing agility with your dog is great fun. Anyone that does the sport will attest to how quickly the basic foundations can be lost. Being trapped inside is a great time to refresh and revisit basic foundation skills as well as build focus and drive on the stationary skills your dog needs to be successful when showing. My favorite game for startline stays, table or 2o2o are the Ready Set GO! Games.
This is actually a combination of various games and placement of reinforcement. When training for agility, make use of them when leaving your dog for the first obstacle, during a stay on the table or a stop on contacts. So, what can we do to improve and keep our dog’s stays? Reinforce, reward, and test your dog for good behaviors during practice.
I have four ways to reward and work on start line stays. Always start close to your dog thus it is great to work on inside.
1. Throw back – The “throw back” is simply throwing back a toy or visible treat to my dog. This can be done at anytime and any distance from your dog. I do accompany the throw back with a “get it” release.
2. Go Back – The “go back” is where I go back and reinforce my dog by either feeding him treats (not letting my dog move until verbally released) or releasing for a game of tug. DO be careful your dog doesn’t release as you are pulling out your toy or treat!
3. Send Back – The “send back” is to a toy that I pre-placed behind my dog. To start teaching this game, I stop and turn towards my dog as i am leaving him and simply tell him to “get it”. This is a common way of releasing a dog to a toy or treat.
4. Release forward – “Releasing forward” to the obstacles can quickly become a reward of the highest value. I take special care to reward the stay a lot to balance the value of both staying and driving forward.
Click on the link or image and it will take you to affiliate Amazon.
Two of the best ways to hone your dog’s skills and refresh his foundations are with fun active games.
The sit/get/sit/down game is very easy to play. Start with your dog in an active state. IE moving and engaged with you. You can be playing a game of tug or letting your dog chase a cookie that you are moving around in your hand. Ask your dog to sit. The second his rear hits the ground, break into another game. Revv your dog again and go back into an engaging game. Quickly have your dog down. The second he is down, break into another game. Your goal is to create the desire for your dog to sit or drop fast.
Doodling is another fun activity you can do inside on a cold or rainy day. Doodling consists of your dog in heel position and moving with you when you move. I use it to sharpen up pivots, fronts, finishes and so on. It is important to remember to break off often and engage with play and interaction.
4. Household chores – Teaching him to clean up
Clean-up can be a lot of fun when your dog knows how to put things away! This game is easy. Scatter a few toys on the floor. Staying close to your dog, encourage him to pick up a toy and bring it to you. Reward every time a toy is delivered. Find each one and put it away in a basket to earn a reward. Start adding different objects to the floor like your dog’s food bowl for him to bring to you. After he has learned the bowl trick he can bring you his bowl after meals. Another alternative is teaching your dog to put toys in a basket. Once your dog is bringing the toys back, teach him to drop it in a basket. Start as you did before and add a basket big enough for your dog to easily come to you and drop the toy. Once he is coming to you and dropping the toy add a command such as “Clean-up”.
Any of the games and training mentioned will be a fun challenge for both you and your dog. Keep all your sessions fun by rewarding and playing often. Use the bad weather as a great time to polish and improve your training.