Practicing skills can be very tedious—remember that music teacher that made you play scales? C Major, F Major (with one sharp) and so on. Scales are like bad tasting medicine—make you better but blech!

Dog training can’t be like scales. Even if the humans will put up with it, dogs don’t thrive when their people have sour dispositions. Drill and skill with a bored human at their side is a recipe for ensuring the dog fails to perform.

Instead, I like to play games. As soon as my students have some basic skills, we begin playing games. We play relay races to make handlers practice their leash walking skills. Instead of “practicing attention” we spend five minutes in class pretending to be riding on a bus, keeping our dog’s attention to ensure he doesn’t bother other passengers. We cross our training arena without “getting our feet wet” by practicing stays and recalls from “lily pad to lily pad” (actually a couple of bathmats.)

Rely races in dog training class

Getting ready to pass the baton in a rely race.

Bringing a little imagination to our skills practice does two very important things: it keeps the humans upbeat and it creates situations that more closely mimic real life. Join me for some fun and games and see if your fur partner has a better time training.