Posted Date: July 5, 2016
Training "games" are a fun way of teaching dogs specific skills and behaviors that can enhance their performance.
Using play and games to train your dog has many benefits. First of all, your dog will enjoy training since he or she is having fun with you! Simple as many games seem, they can teach your dog behaviors that you will find useful in regular "everyday" manners and during agility performance.
One such game is known by many dog trainers as "Go Wild and Freeze" which was first created by trainer September Morn. Over the years trainers have added several variations to the game, and you can definitely be creative based on your relationship and knowledge of your dog and his or her personality. Go Wild and Freeze is useful for reinforcing basic behaviors, such as sit and down, amid high distractions, but even more so, it is excellent for improving impulse control, particularly around high energy and rambunctious dogs who have a hard time with start line stays or paying attention to you. It also builds a dog's interest in toys which can be used as a reinforcer instead of food in future training.
The rules of the game are easy:
1. Find a toy that your dog really loves, and only use this toy to play the game. If you are not playing, put the toy away somewhere that the dog cannot get it.
2. Take the toy out of hiding and tease the dog with it. If you are feeling particularly dramatic, you can act as if the toy is the greatest thing ever and increase your dog's desire for the toy.
3. Find an area with a good amount of space so you can move freely. You can play indoors in a small space but it makes it a bit trickier to not trip or hit a wall if you get very energetic during the game!
4. Begin acting "wild" - jump around, make noises, call to your dog, swing the toy around and tug with your dog if he or she enjoys tugging. You want the dog to be excited as he or she can be and extremely focused on you and the toy. Move backwards and side to side as well and don't stand in one place (You'll find this game can be a great cardio outlet for you as well!) Do this routine for about a minute.
5. Suddenly stop and pull the toy away and put it somewhere the dog can't get it, such as behind your back, or hold it over your head, or if your dog is very big, up on a shelf so the dog doesn't jump on you to get it.
6. Ask the dog for a behavior. It doesn't really matter what behavior - it could be sit, down, or even a trick - the idea is that your dog learns to do something asked of them in the immediate moment and despite distractions.
7. Once the dog does the behavior you've requested, immediately go back to your wild routine in #4 and repeat. You are reinforcing the dog using the toy and play for the behavior you asked for in #6.
8. As you and your dog become good at the game, you can ask for more impulse-related behaviors, such as sit, down or stand stay for increasing increments of time.
9. When you are done, give the dog a cue such as "All done!" or 'Finished!' and put the toy away. If the dog jumps around or follows you to get you to start play again, ignore the behavior and continue about your day. You can play this game several times a day with the dog but try to keep the duration short, such as five minutes at a time.
Enjoy Go Wild and Freeze and have fun with your dog!
Photo credit: I need advice via photopin (license)