Tag Archives: dog games

Picture of a Boston Terrier in a box to illustrate trouble makers are great dogs

Trouble maker dogs are favorites

Trouble maker dogs are the ones you want. Most people tend to think that dog trainers’ dogs are model citizens. Polite, well-behaved, little robots with four legs. It’s a lie. Most of the dog trainers we know, including us, have naughty dogs. Trouble makers are our favorites. Both in our own dogs, and in our training classes.

The reason’s simple. Smart dogs cause way more trouble than stupid ones. They’re problem-solvers who create chaos trying to get what they want. They figure stuff out. That’s why they’re so much fun. 

All positive-reinforcement trainers know that once dogs understand how to learn, they can do it at rapid-fire pace. The hardest part, when you have a dog who loves playing training games, is coming up with new games/tricks to teach.

Challenge your trouble maker dog

There are lots of ways to measure dog intelligence. The breed most-often touted as brilliant is the Border Collie. There’s no question they’re highly trainable, motivated-to-work dogs. But measured with different criteria, like independent action, or problem solving, they’re not the top prospects.

It makes sense. Dog breeds were developed to do certain jobs. Some breeds excel at working closely with and being directed by people. Other breeds, like terriers, work independently since their job was to catch vermin. Most small dogs have at least a bit of terrier in them – that’s why they get a reputation (we think undeserved) for being stubborn. Playing training games with you has to be more interesting than whatever else is around.

Luckily, that’s not hard. Small dogs tend to catch on quickly, especially when ample treats are involved. There are few dogs who can resist the temptation of cheese!

So much fun

Picture of a Boston Terrier in a box to illustrate trouble makers are great dogs

This post is a big, fat commercial to try to get you to start playing training games with your dog. The first game we’re recommending is “Boxey!” and there’s no excuse for you not to try it with your dog. All you need to play is a box big enough for your dog to sit in, short enough for them to get in, and some treats. This game will clue you in on how creative your dog can be. 

It can also show you that your dog is dependent on you for instructions. The whole point of this game is to expand your dog’s horizons. If you think your dog is sometimes bored, this cures it. They get to try new stuff, have your complete attention, and get lots of treats. Playing training games with you is probably as close to dog paradise as you can get.

Don’t get discouraged

If your dog, like many, has been told what to do all its life, it may take a while for them to understand they can make decisions on their own. Granted, once they catch on, they’ll be even more trouble than they were before. They’ll also understand more of the rules of the house, make better decisions more of the time, and be more responsive to what you want them to do.

Dogs are capable of understanding hundreds of words. They just need us to teach them. If you’re skeptical, start small. Teach your dog “Off!”  Grow your dog’s vocabulary, and build a better partnership at the same time. 

Once you start with training games, you’ll enjoy your dog even more. If that’s possible. And you’ll come to appreciate your trouble maker dogs, too.

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Picture of a woman and brindle French Bulldog heeling to illustrate do something with your dog

Do something with your dog

January is National Train Your Dog month. To get out there and do something with your dog. The timing sucks because most New Year’s resolutions are things that you really don’t want to do but think you should. January is when all the diet, fitness, and organizing commercials hit you in the face. Dog training isn’t a “really should but don’t want to” thing. Because if it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Dog training is a joy, not a chore.

So, you ask, what should you do with your dog? The answer is: it depends on your personality and your interests. As well as your dog’s age, personality, and fitness level. If you love running and your dog does, too, maybe try Agility. If you love precision and your dog adores routine, Obedience may be your sport. Or if you’re somewhere in the middle and like a good walk with some “tricks” or fancy footwork, Rally is your game.

There really is an array of dog activities for everyone. If you want to see your dog using their natural abilities, you might want to look into Barn Hunt or Scent Work. If your dog loves running fast and chasing prey, how about Fast CAT? There’s also sports for dogs who love catching flying discs, fetching stuff, and herding stuff. There are even tricks competitions and, for people who love music and dance, there’s Freestyle. 

You don’t even have to go anywhere, if you don’t want to. You can easily train at home and even enter virtual competitions. If you watch the videos of the Trick Dog competitors, you’ll probably think to yourself “That’s so fun! I bet we could do that!” You’d be absolutely right. Your dog can do that.

Attitude is everything

You have a dog because dogs are fun, affectionate, and smart companions. You love them and want them to have the biggest, happiest life. And we’ll tell you a secret – dogs who know “stuff” are more confident, happier, and better family members. They work with you as a teammate, and can take more responsibility for their actions. 

An additional side benefit is that making your dogs think and learn is more tiring for them than running miles or playing fetch. Remember how tired you got taking finals in school? Using their brains is not only fun, it’s also tiring. Your dog will definitely need a nap after a training session.

Picture of a woman and brindle French Bulldog heeling to illustrate do something with your dog

Our own training site, 2-Minute-Trainer.com, is called that because training sessions should be short, really short. Two minutes is extreme, five is more realistic. But for those few minutes, your focus is entirely on your dog. You get to escape from whatever else is going on in life. And your dog will thrive with your exclusive attention.

The first thing to do is change your mindset about the word “training.” Just the sound of it makes people think of sweating, repetitious drills, and other unpleasant things. It’s all about playing fun games with your dog that happens to have the side benefit of teaching them stuff. Don’t think “I have to go train now.” Think “I get to play games with my best friend now!”

Don’t be shy

Another very cool thing about playing training games at home. No one will ever know if you don’t do it “right,” feel awkward, or look stupid. Your dog is never going to tell anyone. And if you do take video (which you should), you never have to show it to anyone. You can watch it and see how darn adorable your team is.

If you go to a class, keep in mind that everyone there is in the same boat you are. If they’re not rank beginners now, it’s only because they started where you are and kept going. They kept at it because they saw what a difference it made in their dog. Everybody starts at the same point. The people who keep going are the ones who are seizing the chance to have a bigger, better life for themselves and their dogs.

You can get started today. Pick a game, any game. Try “Gimme Your Face” to start. You won’t need anything but and some treats

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Black Brussels Griffon dog play-bowing to illustrate Throw Your Dog Away

Throw your dog away & other games

Did you ever throw your dog away? No? Why not? Dogs love playing this game and you don’t need anything but you and your dog to play. And it gets your dog to run toward you. A “Come!” without training!

We have a feeling that people don’t know how to play with their dogs without “stuff.” We see it in our training classes, particularly puppy class, all the time. It’s probably because nobody’s advertising the fun you can have with your dog without toys, props, or equipment. As dogs are accepted as members of the family, they’re also targets of merchandising.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re just as likely to check out the latest innovations in dog toys as anybody. Probably more so, since we’re always looking for really unique, well-made items for our shop. But we also know that you don’t actually need anything to play with your dog.

Throw your dog away

The absolute, sure-fire, fun game almost every puppy and dog on the planet love is “Throw your dog away.” With your palm, you just gently shove your dog in the chest to move him/her back an inch or two. At first, most dogs seem a little surprised. But they quickly get into the game. Especially if you’re teasing them: “I don’t want you.” “Get away, silly beastie!” “What are you doing here? Didn’t I throw you away?”

Black Brussels Griffon dog play-bowing to illustrate Throw Your Dog Away

Almost 100 percent of dogs will crouch back on their haunches, then stick their butts in the air in a classic play-bow, and come bounding back to you for more. They love this game. And it’s fun to see the dogs, and their people, grinning as they learn the game and love playing it. Just this week we got to see the biggest grin on the face of both owner and dog and a year-old Standard Poodle got “thrown away” and learned his mom is actually fun!

Playing tug

Another great game with minimal stuff is tug. A few years ago there were all kinds of experts telling people not to play tug with their dogs. It went along with making sure you go through a door first, or not letting dogs on furniture. All nonsense, to us. Tug is a great game. When we hear people say “my dog won’t tug,” we show them how. Slowly drag your tug object back and forth in front of your dog’s paws. If your dog is just staring at it, make sure you drag it across their paws. Be annoying and engage your dog’s prey drive. It’s the same thing puppies do to get older dogs to play with them – be annoying. 

We particularly like tug because it’s a workout for your dog’s core and legs, and they can’t play it alone. Simon tries – stepping on the tug toy and reaching back as far as his neck will go. But it doesn’t work too well – he’d rather play with his mom.

Boop your dog

Another silly little game we play with our dogs is “nose button.” It doesn’t really have a name, but it’s fun and engaging and makes us and our dogs happy. When we touch (boop) our dog’s noses, they lick. So we call it the nose button game. When they don’t lick, we make a whole production out of their button being busted. And push it some more to “fix” it.

The point of all of this is to have more fun with your dog. Henry Ward Beecher’s quote “The dog is the god of frolic.” We have no idea who he was, or what he was famous for, but he was right about this. You got a dog for fun and companionship. Have more fun with your dog!

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Just for fun – sniffing out new dog games

With few places to go, we’re getting creative with new dog games to play inside. Our morning play session with our dogs is one of the highlights of every day. It ensures that every single day starts with something to smile about.

Getting creative

The challenge, for us, is to keep it fresh and fun. Teaching our dogs a new dog game is Hope’s favorite part. Figuring out each “step” in the process, and how to communicate it to the dog. Then, once we try it with the dog, we learn how to change things up, based on that individual dog’s response.

This week Fran was introducing Booker to the bowling game. Torque’s been playing this one for a while. Hope sets up the toy bowling pins and sends her French Bulldog Torque off – “Go Strike!” to knock them down. Torque bashes into each one with his big head and dashes back to Hope for his reward. We think it’s adorable.

Booker is a Boston Terrier. He doesn’t have a “big giant head” and certainly doesn’t use the one he does have to bash into things. Instead, like a Boston, he uses his paws. 

We’d never seen that before in the bowling game. Thinking about it, Fran decided that, since Booker was more comfortable using his paw, slapping the pin would be Booker’s version of the game. His rules can be different from Torque’s. The game depends on the dog.

Sniffing for fun

Torque’s newest game is sniffing scents. His love for Hope’s essential oils actually gave her the idea. That, and reading about many friends competing in “Nose Work” dog sports. In Nose Work, dogs are brought into an area where certain scents are hidden, and the dog has to signal where they are.

In our basement game of sniffing, Hope puts a couple drops of essential oil (we’re using clove at the moment) on a cotton pad and Fran hides it while Torque and Hope are turned away. When it’s in place, Hope tells Torque to “find it” and he dashes around, sniffing everywhere. It’s a pretty new game for them, but Torque just loves it and seems to be catching on quickly. Except when he grabs the cotton pad and tries to eat it. Mostly he signals by pawing at it.

But we’re not sure this game would be a good idea for Booker. When Booker is feeling unsure, he “checks out” and goes sniffing. He disengages from Fran and loses focus and fun. For Booker, sniffing is a stress behavior. We’re not sure if making it part of a game would stress him even more, or normalize sniffing. 

New dog games adapt

When we’re developing a new game for our dogs, we try the set-up and see what our dogs do with it. All games change based on how that individual dog reacts and “plays” the game. Dogs who are used to learning new things, and know they’re allowed to try stuff, can be very creative in their reactions. 

We may have a picture in our minds of how a new dog game will go. It’s a rare occasion when it goes as planned. That’s part of the fun.

New dog games develop over time. And it’s so much fun to have a selection to choose from. Every day we can choose a beloved “oldie” to dust off and play, or a new favorite, or play a “work in progress” game. 

Just a few minutes a day can grow your dog’s brain, your bond with your dog, and start the day with a huge smile. It doesn’t take much room, much time, or much effort. What a huge payoff!

What games do you play with your dog?