Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tropical Games

Our special training class for reactive dogs just ended less than two weeks ago. Admitting our dog was reactive and focusing on training him was a bit of an emotional journey. We went a good year and a half in denial of Sparty's mounting aggression. Enrolling in a class and starting this blog helped us recognize our issues, define our goals, and document the huge leaps we've made together - but it's been draining too. After the countless hours of training walks and special trips to the dog park just to work on training, everyone was ready for a short vacation. Within days of finishing class, we packed up the pooches and even our kitty and drove down to visit family in South Florida.

My dad owns and lives on a tropical plant nursery with his who-knows-what-mix Ollie and his Pomeranian mix Sadie.

Spartacus lived here with us the first year we had him and it's his favorite place in the world thanks to all the running, swimming, and sunbathing he gets to enjoy. Delilah thinks it's pretty cool too.

We wanted our dogs to relish in plenty of fun and relaxation, but in keeping with our goals, there was lots of training to work on too. Enter hide and seek.

One of our goals is to develop a bombproof recall with our dogs. In an attempt to make recall a fun command, we started playing hide and seek in our house in the last few weeks. Our dogs can't get enough. We put them in a stay, and one of us monitors them while the other goes to hide and call them over. We use "come" but there are plenty of words and noises you can use for recall instead. Once released, Spartacus is very enthusiastic darting from room to room sniffing out the air with intense focus. When one of them finds us, we throw a party with praise and high value treats and of course the other dogs get rewarded too once they arrive. We thought Sparty and Delilah were seasoned enough with the indoor version to take it out into the nursery. We hid behind trees, tractors, trucks, the stuff nurseries are made of.

Ollie caught on quickly and added even more pep and enthusiasm to the game.

Spartacus seems to use his nose in this game more than the others, so we think he'd be a good candidate for nose work sports eventually.

We did have some issues making this a three player game. Ollie is the world's most happy go lucky dog, but she lacks in training and became a bit greedy with the treats we were dishing out, scaring off our dogs from their reward. Overall, though, the game seems to have a really positive effect on our recall with the dogs. They are coming immediately when called about 80% of the time now, compared to about 50% a few weeks ago. Their recall is 100% for at least an hour after a hide and seek session. We try to always use a spirited happy voice to call them, which also has made a big difference. The best part of the game is how fun it is for us humans too. We feel like little kids again, giggling with our hands clasped over our mouths as our dogs run right past our hiding spot.

What kind of training games do you play with your dogs?


  1. Wow, every dog should have such a great piece of property to run and play on! Good job working on their recall, what a perfect setting to try it out:D They look very happy!

    1. The property is awesome even though it's not fenced in - our dogs know the boundaries. But it just can't compete with the awesome off leash areas you get to enjoy in California from the looks of it!

  2. Oh, that looks like so much fun! What a great way to work on their recall, and such a fun place to do it in too.
    Our girls are pretty obsessed with playing fetch, but I've started carrying a bag of treats when we're out playing, and working on recall with the puppy, and training 'watch me" with the girls while we're outside.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. There are so many ways to make training fun, aren't there?