At Doggy Business, LLC one of the most rewarding parts of running a play group is to be able to watch a group of dogs having fun, and then call them away from the play to work on training games. It takes a lot of time and work to get the dogs to the point where they will respond to a cue to come away from play. The first step, and the first thing we do with all new dogs on their first day of play group, is to teach the dog the “Name Game.” It’s a fun way to teach the dogs to pay attention to us when we ask them to.
To start, we say the dog’s name one time, when they are not too distracted (usually when they’re not actively playing with another dog). The instant the dog begins to turn towards us, we say “yes” and give them a treat. If the dog is ignoring us, we get closer to them and try to say their name when they are not distracted.
We repeat this frequently throughout the play group and once the dog is responding consistently (at least 90% of the time) to their name with a head turn, we’ll raise our criteria. So, if we say the dog’s name at this point, we’ll reward them when they turn their head and also give us eye contact.
Once the dog is consistently looking at us during the Name Game then we can ask them for more complicated behaviors, such as following a food lure away from play for a few steps, and then sitting. At that point, you’ve started the ground work for teaching the dog a solid recall away from distractions.
The key to making the Name Game work is to practice often in a low-distraction environment and reward generously.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page to see more examples from play groups and our five-week Recall Clinic that starts January 3!