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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: MIND EXERCISES

Last night, Andy and I took Gypsy and FLD Mike on a short walk to a nearby park.  Both dogs dragged home to flop down on the cool kitchen tile, but this morning Mike is restless.  Sometimes it is hard being a 10-month-old un-neutered black lab.

At 7:30 am the temperature is already 78 degrees and rising with the humidity.  It is not going to be a good day to walk a big black dog any distance, so I initiate plan "B" to tire out FLD Mike (remember my adage, "a tired puppy is a good puppy?").  Plan "B" is what I dub "mind exercises."

FLD Mike follows me to the basement.  As I transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer, I say, Mike. Sit.  He sits in anticipation.  He's familiar with our little game.  Good sit, Mike.  Stay.

I leave Mike holding his sit in the laundry room and walk into the next room.  Mike.  Come.  He races in, stops in front of me, and looks up.  His tail wag wiggles his whole body.  I wait.  He walks around me to come into a "heel" position at my left side.  We've been working on this one.  Good come, Mike, I say and hand him a morsel of food.

Mike. Down.  He drops to the floor.  Mike. Stay, I command, and go back to finish my task at the washer.

Mike. Come.  This time he runs in and immediately places himself on my left side.  Good boy, Mike! I praise with more emphasis and pass another treat.

We repeat several commands this way, incorporating an AROUND so he can practice SIT from a different position.  After less than 10 minutes, FLD Mike follows me back upstairs and finds a cozy place under my desk to settle while I do some computer work.

Later, I take FLD Mike out to "park," put his working jacket on, and practice loose-leash-heeling on the way to our townhouse office to drop off a check.  I abruptly chance pace, pause, and run Mike through a few commands before turning RIGHT toward the office.  Once inside, FLD Mike's tail wags furiously and he squirms with excitement, but he holds a SIT while I chat a few minutes with Virginia, the lady who works there.

Spending just a few minutes several times a day like this will exercise your puppy's mind, and tire him or her out as if you had taken a long walk!

Here is a video of me working FLD Mike one morning when he was "restless."  Notice that he is still able to follow my commands, even though I whispered them!  (Also notice my patience at the end when I gave him the OK release.)



  • Obedience exercises in the house.
FLD Mike thinks our "mini-training-session" is a game.  Use treats and praise, gradually weaning away from the treats.  Practice SIT or DOWN STAYS, MAT, COME, NAME RECOGNITION, GIVE, TAKE, FIND IT--whatever  your puppy already knows!  Or, teach him or her something new.

  • Short walk (10 or 15 minutes) early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler.
Vary your pace, pause and practice SIT or DOWN from various positions.  Take advantage of natural distractions, or stage a "LEAVE IT."  Corral a neighbor to help you work on MEET-AND-GREETS.

  • For Future Leader Dogs:  walk indoors at a mall or store.
Concentrate on distractions, and practice all the commands your puppy knows.  Find stairs to work--remember to have your puppy SIT before ascending or descending each flight.

  • Indoor exercise.
For non-Future Leader Dogs, play fetch up and down the stairs.  Roll a ball or toy down the stairs and have your puppy chase it and return it to you.  For any puppy, play "hide-and-seek"  (NAME RECOGNITION).

If anyone else has ideas they would like to share, please send a post or email.  I'm sure I haven't thought of everything!  Thanks!

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