I’m a huge believer in the work=play=work school of dog training. Which is why Silas thinks heeling is the wackiest game on the planet and pops from his down to his sit like a funny little rabbit.
Lately we’ve been doing one that works shockingly well. This is our recall game.
Silas burns most of his excess energy in these hot, park-less days by running around like a crazy upstairs with my husband. I try not to watch, honestly, because I’m pretty sure a lot of my personal dog-behavior rules get thrown completely out the window. Instead, I sit downstairs and listen. When it sounds like things are at their absolute craziest, I call Silas downstairs, give him a treat, and send him back upstairs.
There are three benefits. First, I interrupt playtime before it gets really out of hand. Secondly, I get to double-reward Silas for coming when he’s called. He knows that he can leave the thing that he really wants to do, get a treat, and the recall doesn’t end the fun. Third, this one of the most distracting situations I can possibly create to test his recall inside the house. The fact that he listens to me and leaves his favorite game is a big deal.
We do a version of the same thing at the park when we’re all out together with Silas on his long line. There, it’s kind of a triple fun, because he sprints back to me as fast as his little legs will carry him (running=fun), gets a toy or a treat (toy=fun), and then gets to run away again (running=fun).
It has an interesting side effect, too. Just now I tested it by calling him away from a squirrel outside. None of my neighbors are home during the day, so when he came to me, I gave him a cookie and sent him back to bark at the squirrel. Except, it wasn’t quite as fun. I called him back again, gave him another cookie, and sent him back a second time. Meh. After that, he trotted back into the house quite happy with himself. I was mostly using it as an opportunity to test his recall in a charged moment (my other criteria were very low–I was only four feet away, I wasn’t expecting the level of speed I usually do, and aside from the squirrel out patio is very boring), but it also completely diffused the situation.