Chaining the Games

Using games that you and your puppy have learnt throughout the puppy school you have rehearsed and reinforced a lot of desirable behaviours. Please be aware that it may still take you and your puppy some additional weeks or months to master some of these individual games.

When your puppy has mastered some of the individual games it is possible to start to chain them together in a sequence and only reward at the end of the chain behaviours these games produce.

Start by playing games that result in compatible behaviours. Start with two games and if your puppy is responding well, then add a third one. For example:

  • Emergency recalls then “Close”
  • Emergency recall then “Sit”
  • Emergency recalls then “Say Hello”
  • “Sit” then “Say Hello” then “Close”
  • Emergency recall then “Wait” then Emergency recall
  • “Wait” then Emergency recall then “Sit” then “Say Hello” then “Close”

When it comes to chaining it is important to keep your puppy’s focus. Some good tips for maintaining focus are:

  • Do not chain too many games together to start with; build the length and the complexity of the entire chained sequence slowly
  • Reward at different stages of the chain. Ensure you reward for the games you know your puppy is struggling a little bit more with. Use two levels of reward, a low-level value halfway through and a high value at the end of the sequence. As an example, with Manouk I would reward with a treat midway and with a toy at the end.
  • Treat the whole sequence as a game
  • Do not forget to give a big reward at the end

The video demonstrates how some of the games you have learnt have been chained into a fun chained sequence with Manouk.

Let’s Wait and Recall

If you have mastered the “Wait” with a little bit of distance, you can now play of “Wait and Recall” game.

You puppy should now understand “Wait” and also “Heel” for your emergency recalls.

  1. Ask your puppy to wait.
  2. Move away.
  3. Release your puppy with your release command.
  4. Recall your puppy.

When starting to play this game with your puppy I recommend that you to still play a lot of the “Wait” game on its own without the recall, i.e. go back to your puppy, reward, release. If you do not you may very quickly find that you will lose the wait as your puppy will anticipate the recall.

You are now chaining “Wait” and “Heel”.

Search Party

During the section discussing toys I encouraged you not to throw a ball constantly for your puppy. A fun alternative game is to make the puppy search for hidden ball or a toy instead.

For this game you need to get your puppy focusing on a toy it really likes such as a tuggy or on this occasion a ball. You will also need either some treats or a second toy that you have hidden in a pocket.

Play the “Play and Swap” game with your puppy in a small, enclosed environment so that it really likes the toy or ball. Once it is focused on the toy or ball:

  1. Hide the toy but allow your puppy clearly to see where you are hiding it
  2. Let your puppy search for the toy, you can even give a “Find it” or “Search” command as it is searching. This should be a relatively easy task as the puppy watched where you hid it.
  3. When your puppy finds the toy use your clicker and then either get the second toy out of your pocket and use it to play the “Play and Swap” game or reward with a food treat.
  4. Play with your puppy; make finding the toy a big event.
  5. Gradually start increasing the distance and the difficulty of the search.

A useful tip if your puppy does not bring back the object is to keep your puppy on the lead or long lead.

This game is not only great entertainment but encourages your puppy to use their sense of smell. The game is suitable not only for puppies but for dogs of all ages and can be played in a wide range of locations. As examples you can play the game in virtually any room, along a forest track, or in a field in long grass.

You never know maybe someday you could teach your puppy to find your missing keys or your phone (I wished I had taught this to Manouk!).

Safe emergency recalls with toys

Some puppies and dogs get over excited when you recall them with a tuggy. They lunge at the offered toy, grab it, and consequently end up swinging in the air. This is quite common in high drive dogs such a Border Collies or Malinois.

This is something I do not consider as safe behaviour either for you or for you puppy.

The trick to avoid this swing is to let the toy go as soon as you puppy grabs it. If you have a puppy that is enthusiastic for tugging it probably means that your puppy wants to tug with you anyway so your puppy will turn back to you to play with you. If this is not the case, you might want a longer rope at the end of the tuggy so that when you let the tuggy go you can grab the end of the rope on the floor, preventing your puppy from running away with the toy

Let’s Wait with Send Away

We are going to combine three of the games you taught to your puppy over the first four weeks of this course.

The First objective is to test that your puppy has understood some of the previous games whilst working in the “Wait” command. This time you will be “Sending Away” your puppy to the mat and asking your puppy to wait there. This contrasts with you moving away from your puppy.

This is also often a missing link in many training plans to teach a puppy to “Wait”. Puppies are often not comfortable to be separated from us, yet we ask them to wait. This game is helping your puppy to be more confident when it is a little distance away from you as it is the puppy’s decision to move away.

For this game, you need to have achieved the following first:

  • Your puppy should be able to sit on command.
  • You puppy should be able to go to its mat on command from a small distance (even just half a meter) – remember start small, make it a success.
  • You have started to work on “Wait”.

Now you are going to send your puppy to his mat, to ask it to “Sit” then to “Wait” and then you are going to return to your puppy:

  1. Locate yourself at a distance from the mat. This distance should only be as far as you know your puppy will be comfortable to go to the mat or raised bed.
  2. Ask your puppy to go to its mat.
  3. Once your puppy is on its mat, ask your puppy to sit. Do not use its name as you have been working on teaching your puppy to come to you when called.
  4. Ask your puppy to “Wait”.
  5. Slowly go back to your puppy.
  6. Click and Reward.
  7. Give the release command to stop the game.

You are now doing what we call “chaining behaviours”.  You are adding a chain of three behaviours that your puppy has learnt independently before rewarding your puppy.  It is magic, you are now starting to ask your puppy for more complex tasks, and it is still all part of a game. Well-done!

If you puppy is good at this game, you can

  • slowly increase the distance between you and the mat
  • slowly increase how long you make you puppy wait before going back to your puppy

Lead Walking – the inside turn

When you are walking your puppy on the lead against your left leg in the “Close” position, it is easy to turn clockwise as you are the centre of rotation and your puppy is turning around you. It’s much more difficult if you were to turn anticlockwise as you puppy ends up becoming the centre of the rotation.

To teach the anticlockwise turn when your puppy is the centre of the rotation:

  1. Start by doing some loose lead walking
  2. Ask your puppy to sit by your side
  3. As soon as your puppy is sitting, present a treat in front your puppy’s nose whilst turning around it toward the next direction you want to take.
  4. As soon as you are in position just invite your puppy to walk “Close”.

The overall manoeuvre should be slick; you should not be spending too much time with your puppy sitting.

Middle from an angle

If your puppy enjoys coming to you and is comfortable in the “Middle” position, it’s time to start to make the entry more difficult to challenge your puppy a little bit.

Make the entries to the “Middle” position a little bit more challenging every time by increasing the angle of where you are throwing the reward treat.

  1. Be patient; do not increase the angle too much too quickly. Start by throwing the luring food at 5 and 7 o’clock positions relative to where you are standing.
  2. Gradually increase the angles towards the 10 and 2 o’clock positions.
  3. Soon you will be able to face your puppy and your puppy will understand it has to go behind you to be able to get into the Middle position.
  4. Do not forget to give your release word when you want your puppy to leave the position.

Push and Reward anywhere

With time when your puppy has a strong value for the pot that you have been using for “Push”, you will find that you no longer need to reinforce the behaviour in the pot. You will be able to reward anywhere. Be careful to make the transition to rewarding anywhere slowly. Occasionally still reward in the pot so your puppy still finds value in doing the behaviour, but now start rewarding anywhere around the pot.

  1. Ask your puppy to push the pot.
  2. Throw the reward in any direction but not too far from the pot. Your puppy will go and take the treat.
  3. Ask your puppy to push the pot again. It should now return and push the bottom of the pot with its nose.
  4. Occasionally reward in the pot or your puppy will not see the value of pushing the pot anymore.
  5. Be patient. With time you will no longer need to reward in the pot.

Note: your puppy should not hesitate to go and push the pot.

Emergency recalls with distractions

If you puppy is really responding to the restrained recalls without distraction we covered previously, it is now time to start to introduce some distractions. Start small, build the difficulty with time.

If your puppy is food orientated you will need a small food bowl (or a Kong or a clam), and some high and medium value treats. If you are training on your own, you will also require something to put over the bowl so you puppy cannot get to it.

  • Place some medium value treats into the bowl (or Kong/clam). Do not make any fuss about the bowl, but let your puppy watch what you are doing
  • Position the bowl, under its cover if necessary, mid-way from where you will start your puppy’s recall from and where you think you will be at the end of the recall. It should be placed slightly to the side of the line your puppy will be taking, so that it only sees the bowl within its peripheral vision
  • Develop the desire to chase you before starting to recall by making your puppy smell the high value food
  • Start the restrained recall game

If your puppy is toy orientated, you will need to start with a toy of high value and a second lower value toy

  • Leave the low value toy on the floor, do not make any fuss about it, but let your puppy see what you are doing.
  • The toy should be positioned mid-way from where you will start your puppy’s recall and where you think you will be near the end of the recall, slightly on the side of the  line your puppy will be taking puppy so your puppy only sees it with his peripheral vision, but it is not too obvious.
  • Develop the desire to chase you before starting to recall your puppy by showing the toy.
  • Start the restrained recall game.

If your puppy is really focussed on you, it should come directly to you. This is exactly the behaviour we want. Make a fuss, play, and reward your puppy with the high value treat or toy.

If your puppy goes to the food bowl or low value treat instead then try continuing to run and calling your puppy to “Heel”. If this does not work, return to your puppy, and allow it to smell the tastier treat or see the high value toy you have (even play the swap game with the toys). As soon as your puppy shows some interest or desire, start running again. If your puppy now chooses to come to you, make a big fuss play with and reward your puppy with the high value treats or toy.

If the game is too easy for your puppy, start to make it harder. This can be done by:

  • Having some food / toys positioned each side of the line your puppy will take to get to you.
  • Increasing the number of food bowls or toys (you can mix both by the way)
  • Positioning one or more distractions directly on what you think will be the path your puppy will take.
  • Introducing a moving distraction. There will obviously need to be two people to do this. The distraction item could simply be a piece of rope that is being shaken.

Let’s wait with Distractions

This game is a continuation of last week’s exercise.

This week you should try to increase the distance between you and the mat or raised bed and test your puppy’s understanding of what you are asking it to do.

The first test is to see how far can you move away without your puppy leaving the mat?

The challenges for this week are done whilst you are at your furthest away from your puppy:

  • Can you move your feet around?
  • Can you move your arms up and down?
  • Can you turn through 360 degrees?
  • And finally, can you move away from your puppy whilst turning your back to it and not maintaining eye contact?

The aim is to achieve all of these without your puppy moving before you return and reward on the mat.