Doggy Brain Games (Part 2)!

We're back with Nicole from Philly Unleashed for Round 2 of Doggy Brain Games! Whether it's because of social distancing, or it's raining outside, or your dog is just older and can't run as much as they used to, here are some mental activities they can be just as stimulating as physical exercises.


Hi! I am back with Uluru, my loyal trusty companion, and we are going to give you another class today. Class today is going to be a little bit different than class last week. Last week, we worked on some tricks that could double as stretches.

Today, we're going to work some other fun things that are great for young dogs, senior dogs and anywhere in between. So let's jump right in!



Touch is a fantastic trick. Touch means the dog should touch their nose to your hand or a target. So, grab your target, it can be a yogurt lid, or Tupperware lid, or something like that. If you don't have that, it's okay. You can use your hand in a closed fist. So you're doing one or the other, either a target or a closed fist, both of them work, and I'm going to show you applications for why it's better to use the target sometimes, and better to use your closed fist sometimes.

So here's my target in my right hand. I've also got a bunch of little tiny treats in my left hand, and remember when you're working with dog training, we use lots, and lots, and lots of treats. When you use training treats, they should be teeny tiny little treats, even for the biggest dog.

My rule of thumb is about the size of your pinky fingernail, and have a lot of treats.


Motivating Your Dog

So think about how many treats you would use in say, a half-hour session, and then multiply it by five. That's how many you're actually going to use. So if your dog is really food motivated, you can sometimes even get away with using their kibble as treats. If you don't have this food motivated dog, you're going to have to go to the bagged treats, like the Pupperonis, or Beggin' Strips, or even cheese sticks, if you have a dog that's extra hard to motivate.

You can also motivate your dog with other motivators like balls, or tug toys, or petting, or praise. But motivators can be tricky too, right? Because it's got to be actually motivating for your dog, and it's got to be quick to deliver. So a lot of people say, "My dog is tennis ball motivated, can I use that?" And my answer is yes, and I do it for my other dog, he's very ball motivated. But you can't reinforce as quickly or as often as you can if you use food. So again, I just get into the habit of using food and eventually, down the road, we can wean off of food. But for today, we're going to use a lot of it.

So for the Touch Command, your dog is going to touch their nose to a target. Or remember, if you don't have that target today, it's okay to use your closed fist. Now let me show you how to teach this. When you teach touch, timing is important. You want to say the word, "Yes," or if you have a clicker, you can use a clicker. But if you don't have a clicker, you can say the word, "Yes." At the exact second your dog's nose hits that target. And then you're going to reinforce the dog with a treat every time you say "Yes". So it's going to be, yes, and treat, yes, and treat, yes, and treat.

Before you even get started with your dog, we're going to do a little exercise, I'm going to hold up this target, and I'm going to touch it with my hand. The second I touch it, at home, I want you to say, "Yes." Not before, and not after. So here we go. Here comes the first one. Did you say yes? Did you get it? Good. Well, I hope it's good. I didn't see you. It might've been bad, I'm not sure. :) But now you're going to use this, and you're going to put it down by your dog's nose, and you're going to get ready. And I'm going to explain to you what you're going to do before you even put it there, so don't get it down by your dog's nose yet.

You are going to place this about an inch away from your dog's nose. And they're dogs, so they're going to smell things, right? They're going to be like, "Oh, what's that?" and they're going to go investigate. That means you get a free one. If they investigate and touch it, you get a free yes and treat. Take the freebies, because they're not going to last for long. So you're going to put it down there as soon as the dog touches it, yes, and then give it a treat.

And then you're going to put it back, and he's probably going to go yes again, and you're going to give him a treat. So you may get two or three freebies before the dog gives you, I call it the WTH face, where the dog's nose looks at you and they kind of go like, "Huh? What am I supposed to do with this thing?" Then you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you try to be patient because eventually, the dog's going to go, "Is it this again?" and you're going to go, "Yes." So the second the dog touches it, that's when you reward.

Let's see if Uli will work it out. Yes. So there's her free one. Yes. There's another free one. Yes. There's another free one. Now there's the WTH face... Yes, there is. So she gave me a little WTH, right? She looked at me and was like, "What do you want?" and then she said, "Oh, maybe it's this pink thing. I've gotten reinforced for that a couple of times." Here, Uli! Want to try again?

So you guys are working this with me at home. Let's just get a bunch of touches. Yes. Free one. Yes. Free one. Yes. Free one. Yes. Maybe she actually knows it. Spoiler alert: she does actually know it. This dog knows a lot of things, but if your dog is just getting it, do a couple of these, and then put the target away for a minute, and then ask them to do a couple of things that they usually know. So sit ups, we know she knows from last week, or spins and twists, she knows from last week. And then bring out that target again, and again, hover about an inch from their nose. Yes. Good. Yes. Good. Yes. Nicely done, Uli.

So we are just going to go through a couple of rounds of this. We're going to try to get two to three touches, and then we're going to do something they know. So the target goes away. Sit. Give me your paw. Good girl. Two or three touches.  


Question: How do I keep my dog from looking at the treats instead of the target? How can I get my dog to focus on the target? 

Put the treats behind your back. Yep. If they're looking at the treats, not the lid, put the treats behind your back.


Question: How can I get my dog to focus on the target instead of my hand? 

For this, you can try putting the target on the ground and letting the dog feed directly from the target so the connection between the target and the treat is solidified. 


Question: Is touch just a trick, or is there a greater good in all of this?

And the answer is this is something that I teach to, I'm going to say 95% of my students, whether they are in for a puppy class, or whether they are doing high-level aggression or reactivity, or dog sports. And that's because there are so many different applications to it. With targeting, we use targets more for agility training to teach dogs to hit their marks. But with hand targets, yes, there's a couple of applications that I really love for normal dogs. Here are three examples:

1. Refocus: One is if they see something that they're going to react to. So let's say that your dog is reactive to skateboarders, or other dogs, and they're fixated on something. I'll use touch to break their focus away from the other dogs and focus back on me. So it's just that instant where I can be like, "Don't look at that. Instead, look at me, and get with me, and let's get past this dog."

2. Recall: Another application for touch is recall. So recall is come when called, and so many dogs when they come in, we teach them to come and they run in, and then we try to grab their collar, and they sort of juke around, or they run in and grab the treat, and run back out. I use touch as, "Come in here and touch, and you don't get the treat until we can physically connect with each other." So it just gives them a target to come in on, and they don't get the treat until we touch each other.

3. Greeting people: Touch is also great for greeting people. If you have a dog that jumps when they greet people, instead of jumping, if you give them an alternative behavior to do, that they can't possibly be doing and jumping at the same time, then they can't possibly jump. So if you have a dog who's a really excited greeter and they're jumping, you can just ask them to touch down here and low. If they do a nose target down here, their feet can't come off the ground. 

Leg Weaves

So what does a cat do? Uli, what does a cat do? Come on, oh. Come here, girl. I should've practiced this one before coming on. Yes. Here, weave. Good girl. Weave. Good. Weave. Good. So what does a cat do? It weaves through your legs.

I'm going to show you how to teach this one. We talked a little bit in the first class about luring, where you lure your dog over here, and then you bring your dog over here, good. And then you lure back. And this is a luring trick. So for this one, you're going to have your dog sitting in front of you. You're going to spread your legs, and again, this works really well if you're 5'7" and have a 40-pound cattle dog. Eric, good thing you're tall because your German Shepherd is a big guy. But if you're like Jennifer, who's well, a tiny little thing and has a big giant dog, you might end up riding your dog. We'll see. But we're going to try it anyway.

Legs spread apart, dog standing in front of you. Put a treat down, and lure your dog through your legs, up to the front. So pick a leg, any leg. And let's just practice luring.

So once again, luring through your leg. Once you've got them through your one leg a couple of times, then try the other leg. So left-hand lures left leg, right-hand lures right leg. This is a little hard because most of us are either right or left-handed. Not many of us are ambidextrous. But when you lure with your left hand, it's going to signify to the dog to go around to your left. Good. Ready? And I always tend to cock that knee on the side that I'm asking them to work on, it just gives them a little bit of space, and kind of opens the door to tell them, "Go on through."

You can get rid of that once your dog is more fluent at this trick, but once again, let's just practice luring to the right. Good. And then picking up, and luring to the left. If you have a dog that is a little bit shy at trying to go through your legs, and some dogs are, dropping treats between your feet and having the dog eat the treats from your feet. Some of them are going to bounce back, and force the dog to sort of go through your legs.

And if you really want to get fancy, this one's a bit tougher. So if your dog is already proficient at weaving, you can start walking. Weave, weave, weave. Try walking and weaving and you can really make that more and more fluid.


Question: What if my dog is too big to fit under my legs?

Well, I don't know, stand on a chair. :) But maybe that's not the trick for you. You got one more week with me, so if you think of a different trick that you want to teach, then by all means, shoot it over to me and I can work it in. Seriously, give me a challenge, and give this girl something to work on next week, and we can do that. So for the tall dogs, maybe I'll think of something for you guys next week.

Go to Place

Our last cue of the day is going to be go to place. So go to place, it means I'm going to assign somewhere as your place. Maybe it's your bed, maybe it's a bath mat that you unroll, maybe it's a towel, maybe it's an ottoman, but it's somewhere that you can go, you can lie down, and can stay until you're released. You may use place in a couple of different applications. For instance, if you have people coming in and your dog is an exuberant greeter. Having them maintain a stay on a place, it conflicts jumping. So just like we said with touch, where they can't possibly be jumping on people if they're also touching your hand down here, they can't possibly be jumping on people if they're lying on their bed and doing a down-stay. So place is really good for that.

Or if you have a dog that you take to cafes, and out to places where you need them to be good and stay in one place, I used to, when I lived in the city, I would roll up a bath mat, and I would unroll the bath mat under a table when I went to a cafe, and that was Uluru's place, and she would lay on there and stay. So the bath mat could go anywhere I went, and she knew anywhere the bath mat was, she needed to lay on there and stay. So place is good for a couple of different things. Or if you're on a conference call and just need your dog to get out of the room, or if you're eating dinner and need them to get out, place is good for that too.

So for place, I want you to find whatever your place is going to be, or just anything convenient right now, because you can always switch this. I'm going to use this fabulous bed that Big Barker sent to me and Uli, which we love. It's so comfy and she's been sleeping on it. We've had it for a week now, and she's been sleeping on it every night, and I can't get her off of it. So find that place, and then what you're going to do is you're going to have a handful of treats, and you're just going to kind of make it rain on the place. So every time the dog steps on the place, it produces treats. And then you're going to pull them off. Uli, here. And then you're going to toss another treat on there.

So you're just tossing treats, and again, just making it rain on the mat. And I'm going to come on this side, so you can see me a little bit better, because next, we're going to start to build some distance. So when she's not on the place, there aren't treats. She can look around, but the second, she steps on the mat, I start making it rain treats, just like this. This one's a super treat party, right? Because we want them to understand that when they are on the mat, they're getting lots, and lots, and lots of treats, but when they're not... Uli, off. Come on, off. The treats stop. Well, what do you think you have to do to get those treats? Yeah, that's right! You have to step on there to get those treats. So the second she steps on the mat, it's treats, and treats, and treats, and treats, and the second she steps off the mat, the treats stop. That's right. Good girl.

So she's starting to get it, right? She steps on the mat, and it's treats, and treats, and treats, and treats, and she steps off of the mat. She steps off of the mat, and there are no more treats. So you're practicing letting them step on the mat and giving them, I don't know, four or five, six treats all on the mat, not from your hand. Because again, we don't want them to think that it's you, we want them to think that it's the mat or the bed. Good. And then the second they step on the bed, here comes that treat jackpot again. All right? Here it goes, here it goes. More treats. And then every time you get a good repetition, you take one more step away from it and call them back.

So these exercises, although they're fun for me to be up here teaching you, it's also fun for me to work with Uli, because having a senior dog, what people don't think about is that yes, you have to keep them physically fit, but when you do brainwork, you're keeping them mentally fit. And if any of you are seniors, or have senior parents or anything like that, you know that keeping them mentally fit and engaged is really half the battle here. So this is a big one for her.

Question: Is there a verbal cue to go to place?

Yes, there is. And my rule with go to place is when you can think it, and the dog automatically does it, like when you can teleport the command from your brain to your dog's brain then you can name it. So I call this one go to place. I have clients that call it other things though. So I have clients that call it go to bed, I have clients that call it go lay down. My rules for naming things is you have to name them something unique to you and something that you remember, but other than that, you can call it whatever the heck you like. So in my house, this is go to place, but in your house, it might be go to bed, or it might be go to crate, or it might be go lay down, or it might be bananas. I don't know. It depends on what you want to call things.

But I use go to place, and so here comes that stay, right? Once the dog is going to place pretty reliably. Go to place. Down. You're going to add in a down, and then you're going to start to build a stay. And the rules are the same. If the dog gets up, all of the treats stop, but if the dog lays there and remains there, then you're going to come by, and you're going to keep giving treats. I release the dog from this with a release cue. Again, you're going to use what you're going to use. I use, take a break. So take a break is Uli's signal to get up and move about. It's, "You're free. You're done. All good. Take a break."

So now we're going to practice. Go to your place. Down. Stay. And we're going to walk around, and we're going to come back every once in a while, and we're going to give her a little treat. And remember, this course is an accelerated version of this, right? Uli didn't just learn this today, FYI. Uli's been doing this one for years. So if your dog is new to this and if they're just starting to get the hang of going to the mat, you don't have to push it here yet, but if your dog is really getting good at it, you can push the different steps, but learn how to break it down and make it good for your dog, and then work 10 to 15 minutes a day on this. Before you know it, you're going to have a great place.

To test it a bit, we're going to do a little knock. Who's here? But she didn't get up, so she gets a treat. So now we're just going to start proofing the stay a little bit. 

I hope you enjoyed today's class, if you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to Nicole at Philly Unleashed and don't forget to follow them on Facebook

And, be sure to join us on Facebook Live Wednesday, May 6th at 3 pm EDT for our FINAL Doggy Brain Games session! 


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Doggy Brain Games: Part 1

Doggy Brain Games: Part 3