Category Archives: Games

It’s another LIFE Q

This evening I was taking tea on the front porch with Zeke when a gaggle of neighborhood kids started milling around the front sidewalk. Then the family that lives across the street came home and unloaded their toddlers and gear. I offered Zeke a favourite toy to tug; a wretched and smelly old soccer ball that he adores.

No, thanks, he said, I’d rather watch. I could see him winding up a bit so I knew I had to work through that little “Don’t wanna, don’t hafta” moment a bit farther away from the distraction. Just inside the front door, I got down on the floor and slapped the toy on the floor (something I learned from SG, when she worked Swagger through those moments as a tiny puppy) Darned if he didn’t TUG with real enthusiasm!

We slowly worked our way back out onto the porch, still tugging. Then, for a change I tossed the ball for him. Now he’s relaxing out there, watching the view. (It’s quieter though)
A HUGE life Q for us. And it’s something I am very, very grateful for, today.


Catching on…

Sadly, Recallers 3.0 has drawn to a close and I’m missing the ‘every day is game day’ structure already. Every weekday morning I would eagerly check the latest game, reading the instructions and watching a video of Susan or a student demonstrating it.
Friday was our last coaching call, cementing my committment to dog training in ‘do land.’
I will continue to have access to the web site and all the games and discussions for a couple of months more, so I’ve decided to just start over. Not all the games were easily understood and some were difficult to do at the time. I played the ones that worked well, so now I’ll go back and pick up a few more. Also, the focus of my learning was on Zeke, so the second time through I’ll work more of the games with my Schip. She’s getting more operant all the time. Well, upon rereading that, I should admit she was always ‘operant’; it’s just that she was shaping me more than I was shaping her.

And upon rereading THAT, I will admit that BOTH my dogs are masterful at shaping me.

But I’m catching on. I think.

Tire games

Today was our final day for practicing Recallers games at Cedarbrook Stables. We had a few great moments, especially with Crate games. I threw a tire jump into the mix, putting it between the crate and me and calling him to me. He had a few distracted moments, where the smells of the arena drew him away, but for the most part he tugged and played with enthusiasm.

Our next step will be dropping into Ann’s rally class, where we’ll work the Recallers games in a different arena, with more dogs and people as distractions.

Go Wilson!

Today, we played off our city lot and inside the agility training room at DogSmart in Vancouver. I’m applying the ‘keep him busy’ strategy, so right out of the car we played Crate Games and then I did some quick running back and forth with him, calling him this way and that and trying to fit a ‘go pee’ in there somewhere too.

Once inside, he was calmer than last week but not as interested in my tugging games as I’d have liked. He was more interested in the agility equipment. We started off with a few crate games as usual, and then I tried a tug game, but he was unmoved even though I persisted, running about and generally acting goofy. So I crated him again and flipped through the file cards I’ve made of Recallers games. I selected simpler ones with high food rewards and brought him out again. He worked well.

As I was seated on the pause table, playing nose touch a person came into the room. He alerted and woofed and I took off running to the end of the room. He was on leash of course, so there was no risk of him making a bad choice!
A few minutes later they returned but his reaction was more muted and we were able to continue playing nose touches.

We ended on a high note, with him enthusiastically tugging Wilson the basketball. Wilson is his highest value toy; $.99 at the local SA.

Hey…maybe Wilson will give us a sponsorship! D’ja think?

Becoming the ‘cookie’

Yesterday, Zeke and I rented Dog Smart’s agility room. At first he was nervous, sniffing the equipment with cautious interest. All those DOG SMELLS! I played some easy games with him; Collar Grabs, Call onces and then crated him. After a few minutes rest, I played Crate games with him. He visibly relaxed as we played, working within a familiar structure.

I brought out the tattered playground ball that drives him mad with desire. Would it retain its allure in this new and scary environment?

Darn right! I was so excited to tug with him, to hear him squeal, growl, and tug like a crazy thing. It was nice to have more room to dance about without running into the furniture.

Just as we were about to leave, he showed interest in a thick brown disc on the ground. He started to nudge and grab it. I picked up the plastic chocolate chip cookie and tossed it frisbee style. He leaped and grabbed it with his mouth and paws. At first he couldn’t get a grip on it, but he got better the more we played with it.

He stayed close and dropped it at my feet. Offering a cookie to his ‘cookie’!

Tugging 401

I, like many dog owners, am always looking for the magic toy that will make Zeke tug with passion. I have plunked down my credit card for all manner of sexy tug toys; fuzzy animals, flappy armed squeakies, rubber chickens, the list goes on. The packaging usually promises a toy that is both irresistible and indestructible. These toys last about a week before they lie in tatters. I’ve had the best results with sheepskin (the real stuff, naturally), but they are a bit hard to find.

Zeke has a weakness for deflated soccer balls. We used to kick them around the back yard and he would leap upon them, growling and tearing them up. But now that I’m supposed to be building tug drive, kicking is out of the question.

Yesterday I found a punctured playground ball on a school ground which inspired MADNESS. He tugged with it fiercely, squealing like an over-aroused pre-teen at a Justin Beiber concert while I held on for dear life. I pushed a rope through it, giving me a better handle but his ferocity meant that the rope was soon dangling from my hand and shreds of rubber dangled from his jaws.

His tugging focus was so strong that he ignored several distractions that usually would have sent him barking madly towards them. That’s powerful stuff. I’ll head out to the second hand stores tomorrow and see if I can round up a few more.

Bite me 2.0

Well, nothing like an arousing game for a hyperarousable pup. A game where I hold a toy, then reach down to push him backwards while I run like heck forward. His eyes take on the “I’m possessed by a demon” look. After a couple of sessions, he started to drop his muzzle to grab at my sleeve when I reached down to his chest. I was so busy trying to get my part of the game right; deliver the reward accurately and run without tripping over the rug that it took a while to notice he was snatching pieces of my arm.

By slowing down, reducing the size of my movements and not running as far, I was able to reduce his excitement level to where he stopped the biting. When I saw even a small a muzzle movement towards my arm I didn’t reward, just reset back to play. It’s a fantastic way to help him learn self control and help me learn to read and manipulate his arousal levels better.

Push me!

Alright this is starting to get out of hand… first biting and now pushing?
C’mon mom, we’re just playing!

I’ve continued to play the ‘hide and seek’ game and Zeke’s getting the game and has stopped biting. Whew. That’s a relief!

I’m really liking the pushback game…a little oppositional reflex number.
Today I had Zeke out at a little park when I spotted a lady with a porty approaching. He hadn’t seen or scented her yet, but he locks on pretty quick when he does and he was physically pointed in their direction. I knew it was only a matter of seconds. We were in a new environment and I’d already noticed he wasn’t taking tasty treats; there was just too much to smell, see and pee on. To attempt a name call was inviting failure.

Just in time, I remembered the push back game and he raced me to the car!

Bite me!

I can’t stop myself! No, wait, that’s Zeke. But I can’t stop myself from writing about the games we’re playing in Recallers 3.0. I’ll try to avoid breaking the “Code” I promise.

Many of these games have been invented and played by dog owners and trainers forever and they can’t be claimed as the property of any one person, but Garrett’s activities, as they are designed and structured within her own unique curriculum, is definitely to be respected. I’ll do my best not to give out any trade secrets you really should be paying for. And I sincerely recommend taking any of Susan Garrett’s courses and buying her books.


I was playing a ‘hide and seek’ game with Zeke that worked! Once. The second time he leaped up to my face and started biting my hair. (Hey, she warned us this game might not be for everyone) I turned away, stood still and wisely decided to pass on further play. He settled quickly. (The biting was inhibited, for those readers fearing for my safety, but still not something I wanted to reinforce) My immediate thought was to just pass on that game; there are lots of other games to do instead.

Later that evening though, I decided to give it another try. This time, it took three times playing it before he got so wound up and the leaping up and biting behaviour returned. It was also much less strong.

That got me to thinking that perhaps the leaping and biting was more of an expression of his confusion, rather than a sign of poor self control (or bad temperament if you want to think really old school).
I’ve certainly seen that kind of behaviour in over-arounsed dogs in agility rings before. Maybe it’s more ‘Hey, help me out here, I don’t get it” than “I’m undisciplined, crazy or BAD!”. As he understands the ‘rules’ of this new game, his biting behaviour should diminish. Let’s see.

Oh, drat

A chill has fallen over my enthusiasm for writing about Susan Garrett’s Recallers course, since I’ve read her ‘Code of Conduct’.

“Un-Authorized use of E-Course Material (including personal blogging) will not be tolerated.” …it is disrespectful both to Susan Garrett and to the other students who have paid their full registration fee to write details or provide video diaries of what you are learning on the 5 Minute Formula course.

…we take a zero tolerance to anyone detailing any of the exercises from this program in any public forum. This extends to any time during or after the duration of this e-course.

In describing any of the games, I have not been intentionally disrespectful, quite the opposite, but I will cease writing about my experiences with the course. I think that’s regrettable.