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How To Teach Play Training

If a dog's prayers were answered, bones would rain from the sky.
--Old Proverb

Play training can be a very benificial acpect in the course of your training program. It makes training fun for you and your dog. It adds interest and helps keep your dog engaged with you.

Play Training Tools:
Food bowl, tennis ball or other favorite toy, 30 foot long line

The game you play with the dog is use the food bowl by placing it about 20-30 feet away from you. Heel toward the food bowl slowly. If the dog moves ahead of you one or two steps, back up one or two steps and start over, or back up to the point where the dog was perfect. If the dog surges ahead to the end of the leash, then go back to the starting point and begin from there again. As long as the dog stays by your side in the heel position, you continue to move towards the food. The goal is to have the dog walk in a perfect heel position within 3-4 feet of the food bowl. Then release the dog to his food. The session is now over. Repeat this game each day until you are able to heel all the way to the food bowl and the dog remains by your side.

Once the dog has learned the heel position reliably, you add the sit behavior. Heel at least ten steps before you ask the dog to sit. Heel toward the food bowl, in a perfect heel position backing up as necessary if the dog makes a mistake, then ask for the sit behavior. When the dog sits quickly, release the dog to the food bowl and end the training session. If the dog sits slowly or crookedly, back up a few steps and start over. Continue to heel toward the food bowl and try the sit behavior again. If the dog refuses to do the sit behavior, go back to the starting point and begin again. Continue this series of commands until the dog performs a perfect heel and a straight sit upon command, then release to the food bowl and end the session.

Once the dog has perfected a quick sit upon command, add other behaviors. Follow the same steps for this series of commands:

As the dog advances in his training, you can begin to skip the sit command and go directly to the down or stand commands:

If your dog jumps against his kennel or barrier when he sees you coming, don’t give any verbal commands. Stop about 10 feet away from the kennel and wait for the dog’s feet to hit the ground. Once all four feet are back on the ground, take 1 step towards the kennel. If the dog’s feet remain on the ground, take another step. If the dog jumps on the kennel, take 1 step back and wait for the dog’s feet to hit the ground again. If the dog doesn’t jump to the ground, take another step back. The punishment is that you continue to move away until the dog stops jumping. His reward is getting out of his kennel by being calm and not jumping against the kennel.

If you are having a problem with a certain behavior, mix training that behavior with play. For example, the dog doesn’t like to be in the down position. During your training session, give the Down command. If he won’t do the down behavior, physically help him into the down position. As soon as the dog completes the behavior, release and play (throw a toy, chase, etc.) for 15-30 seconds. Then call the dog back to you, command the dog to down again. Repeat until he does it enthusiastically on his own, then release and play. Repeat at least 10-12 times until the dog seems to understand the reward for performing the down behavior is play. (Subnote: The dog should be on a 30 foot long line to ensure you can end the play session when calling the dog to you.)

Another game to play is have your dog in the sit position at your left side. Give the stay command and throw a tennis ball out and away from you. Leave your dog for recall, walk 4-6 feet away from your dog and call the dog to you. When the dog comes and sits straight in front of you, release the dog to his ball. Let the dog play for about 15-30 seconds, call the dog to you and repeat the exercise 6-10 times. (Subnote: The dog should be on a 30 foot long line to ensure you can end the play session when calling the dog to you.)