5 Great Games To Play In Your Obedience Class

5 Great Games To Play In Your Obedience Class

Play In Your Obedience Class

Fun Games To Play In Obedience Class With Your Clients

Obedience class can become repetitive and boring pretty quickly for our students if we do not make it fun for them. Games are a great way to get both the dog and the owners invested in training without making it hard for them. Both dogs and owners will be getting great recalls and loose leash walking without even realizing it due to some fun games. Here are five games that are great to play in obedience class to get our students excited about learning.

1. How Do You Sit?

This game can be played two different ways depending on your end goal. If you want to work on the speed of the dog’s sits, then you can set a timer for two minutes and have your handlers ask their dogs to sit as many times as possible in the two minutes while reinforcing each sit. Don’t forget to count your sits! This works on heavily reinforcing the behavior and can get your owner’s excitement up.

Another way to play is working on stimulus control and context. How many different ways can your students ask their dogs to sit and their dogs comply? You give the position and the students give it a try. Some examples may be, facing away from the dog, sitting down, bending over, doing jumping jacks, clapping their hands over their heads, etc. This is a fun one and really lets you know how well their dogs are understanding the behavior.

2. Relay Walks

This is a good way to practice loose leash walking in a fast paced environment. You can either have the handlers relay around a small obstacle course (weaving between cones or around objects), or have them hold a golf ball on a spoon. They must move down and back without dropping the golf ball. If the ball is dropped, someone will retrieve it and they must wait until the golf ball is back on their spoon. Whichever team finishes first is the winner.

3. Leap Frogs Down

This game is played in the similar fashion of the game Leap Frog. Split your class into two teams and have them gather at a start line. Have a set finish line. The team member that is up first must down their dog and have the dog hold a stay. The next member does the same thing. Each member goes down the line with a down stay until the last member performs the down. Now the first team member moves to the end of the line and repeats the down stay. The rest of the team follows. The first team to cross the finish line wins. If a dog gets up during the game, the whole team must go back to the start line and start over.

4. Recall Races

Have two dogs hold a stay and have the owners walk a good distance away. Have both dogs recall to their owners. Gates may be used for novice dogs who may veer from course. As the dogs get good at this game, begin to introduce distractions along the way, whether it is someone sitting in a chair, a ball on the ground, or even a treat. Work from easy distractions to hard.

5. Musical Hoops

This game can be played with many different things as the ‘safe zone’ such as, hoops, mats, towels, or low platforms. We will use hoops for this example. Set up hoops in a straight row, one less than the amount of dogs you have in class. Have someone play music while the students and their dogs walk around the hoops in an organized fashion. Students can use clicker/treats to reinforce. When the music stops, students and dogs must make their way to the hoop and get their dogs to perform a behavior requested by the instructor. Whichever dog is left that doesn’t perform the behavior in a hoop is out of the game. Remove a hoop and repeat. Repeat this until you have one dog left, he is the winner!

All of these games can be made harder as your students progress in the class. Keeping the students invested in learning and challenging them will help your students retain what they learned and want to train with their dogs. These are only a few games that can be played in obedience class. What are some other games that you enjoy playing in your obedience classes?

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How To Become A Therapy Dog Trainer

How To Become A Therapy Dog Trainer

How To Become A Therapy Dog Trainer

Therapy dogs are a growing population and there is a huge need for trainers and training classes to lead all those new volunteers. These are seven tips to become a therapy dog trainer.


Therapy dog trainers should have experience working a therapy dog in therapy situations. If your dog is not suitable, borrow a dog. Registered teams do not need to be traditional dog-owner teams; it just needs to be a dog you have a relationship with and will work with you. While you can’t possibly offer your students a full spectrum of experiences, it is important to be able to offer them some. (Therapy dog visits are always new and changing – that’s why it is important for teams to be flexible and accommodating to new situations, environments, people, etc.)

Registering Organizations

Therapy dog trainers should be familiar with the prevalent/popular registering organizations in your area: their insurance policies, their testing requirements, policies and procedures, their equipment requirements, and what is expected and prohibited on visits. Ideally, be a part of at least one of them as a team, as a supporter, or as an evaluator. Being familiar with the organizations and their guidelines will help you know what is required (or prohibited) and will help you determine what and how to teach. (It is important that therapy dog teams are registered and insured with a reputable organization. Many facilities require it. If there is an incident and the team is not registered/insured, it falls to homeowners/rental policies and can be financially devastating.)

Think outside the box!

Therapy dog work is no longer limited to nursing homes and libraries. There are therapy dog teams in a wide variety of locations and situations – hospitals, rehab centers, physical therapy centers, dentist offices, psychologist/psychiatrists’ offices, social workers, schools at all levels and abilities, colleges, various work places, court rooms, depositions, lawyers’ offices, funeral homes, hospices, after school programs, etc. So while a dog and handler may not fit a “traditional” therapy dog mold, they may fit into one of the less traditional therapy dog opportunities available to teams.

A Team Effort

It is important that therapy dog handlers understand that doing therapy dog work is a TEAM effort – both the human and the dog need training and preparation to be their most effective and successful. Challenging the handlers in your classes is important – handlers should be able to appropriately handle different situations in different environments as well as being the best possible handler and advocate for their dogs while visiting.

Be creative in your teaching!

Use lots of different props and equipment. Challenge both the humans and the dogs. Expect and require full participation from teams. Go on field trips. Utilize the information and curriculum available for both the Canine Good Citizen and the Canine Life and Social Skills evaluations. Invite lots of different people to come and help in your therapy dog class. Therapy dog teams cannot be over-prepared.


Foundation behaviors are important in therapy dog work. A solid foundation will set teams up for success as well as giving them something to fall back on when a strange, unique, or unexpected situation arises while doing therapy dog work. Heavily reinforce the foundation. Incorporate exercises and games into your curriculum that incorporate foundation behaviors – focus/attention, touch, sit, down, stand, stay, polite leash walking, handling, greetings, and mat work. Distance is not important in a therapy dog class as most registrations require the handler always have their dog on a leash and the leash in the handler’s hand. But duration and distractions are very important!


Ongoing support and training is important for therapy dog teams. Offering teams regular access to a trainer and opportunities to continue and maintain their training is reassuring and encourages teams to continue to train and mature as a team.

Being a therapy dog team is very rewarding; being their instructor/trainer is priceless. Teaching therapy dog teams may take a bit more preparation, but the positive results will far outweigh the investment of time and energy. What is your favorite out-of-the-box teaching tool?

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Top 7 High Value Training Treats

Top 7 High Value Training Treats

Top 7 High Value Training Treats

7 Amazing High Value Training Treats Almost All Dogs Love

As a modern dog trainer, you know the importance of figuring out each individual dog’s likes/dislikes when it comes to training treats.  However, there are some foods/treats that are almost always considered high value in the minds (or mouths?) of dogs.  Just be mindful that as so many of these high value food items are not specifically for dogs, they may be extremely high in fat or sodium, or just have questionable ingredients (see #1!), so save them for training complex behaviors or locations that will require super high value rewards.

Kraft Easy Cheese, AKA “Squeeze Cheese”

Perhaps the penultimate high value treat.  Was ever a human food more perfectly designed for dog training than squeeze cheese?  That lovely metal can with a nozzle at the end is perfect for relatively mess-free treating.  And you cannot get a more ideal treating method for muzzle training because the nozzle fits so well through the muzzle.  It comes in several flavors, though anything other than American or Cheddar can be difficult to find.  There is an elusive bacon flavor that is rumored to be THE ONE.

Peanut Butter

Old reliable.  There are very few dogs that don’t go crazy for peanut butter.  Whether you give them a quick swipe with their tongue directly out of the jaw, or dip a spoon or finger in to let them lick it, peanut butter is going to keep even the most distracted of dogs working with your clients.  It is also handy smeared on the refrigerator or another vertical surface to occupy a dog while getting a nail trim, or of course stuffed and frozen in Kongs or other stuffable toys.

Baby Food

Baby food is soft and stinky, pretty much ideal for dog training.  Also, seeing as how it is designed to keep human infants alive and healthy, it often contains less questionable ingredients than something like Easy Cheese or hot dogs.  Baby food also now comes in squeezable pouches for easy mess-free treating.

Hot Dogs

Kind of like peanut butter, hot dogs are a classic super high value training treat.  Whenever possible, get the nitrate/nitrite-free ones so they are at least slightly less unhealthy.  And remember, one hot dog can garner over a hundred treats if cut well.

Freeze-Dried Bison

Freeze-dried or dehydrated meat/organs is considered “doggy crack” by those in the know.  Though it’s not overly stinky, it still can get the attention of most any dog in your vicinity.  One drawback is that the pieces are often kind of large, requiring a little work to break them into more appropriate treat-sized pieces.  The effort is worth it for such a mess-free, healthy, high value treat.

French Fries

Fresh, warm, salty, greasy french fries.  Nectar of the gods (dogs?).  Incredibly unhealthy, so definitely only use these in extreme moderation.  However, the lovely thing is they are soft so they are very easily torn into very small pieces so you can get a lot of training mileage out of just a handful of fries.

Fruitables Skinny Minis

These are relatively newer on the market but dogs seem to go nuts for them.  They smell really good, they’re small, they’re soft, not messy, and very inexpensive.  Almost the ideal high value training treat.

What are some other treats your clients’ dogs consider high value? 

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dog Trainers

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dog Trainers

things you didn't know about dog trainers

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about dog trainers:

1. Dog trainers love dogs – sometimes their humans not so much.

2. Dog trainers don’t like being asked at parties what to do about your dog eating his own poop (or insert any dog training dilemma “here”) any more than a doctor likes being asked about that suspicious bump.

3. Dog trainers see the good, the bad, and the ugly – and wake up to do it all again every day.

4. Dog trainers’ dogs are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination – we have the same struggles as every dog owner – please don’t expect perfection from our beloved dogs.

5. Dog trainers are human. We have our strengths and weaknesses, our passions and our “eh” moments.

6. Dog trainers have working hours, and non-working hours, just like any other profession.

7. That emergency training problem you have that was months, or maybe years developing? It is not going to be “fixed” on a Sunday evening at 9:00 p.m. for Monday morning.

8. When you don’t have money for dog training and want your dog trainer to give you a discount or a free session, we don’t pay our rent, our bills, or buy groceries. For many dog trainers, this is their livelihood, not just a “hobby.”

9. Do as your dog trainer says, not as s/he does.

10. When what you’re doing isn’t working, try doing what your dog trainer suggested.

Being a dog trainer takes a certain kind of person. They must love dogs, enjoy working with people, be self-motivated, and compassionate. We salute all dog trainers who pursue education and modern practices to improve their service to their community.

3 Important Things To Include In Your First Email To A Client

3 Important Things To Include In Your First Email To A Client

3 Important Things To Include In

Smart Emails Leave A Lasting Impression

When connecting with a new potential client, it’s important to leave the best impression possible. Your first email to a client may be the only chance you get to deliver your message. Start off with a relevant subject line and don’t fluff your email with random information. Have a go-to template for first interactions so it will save you time in the long run. Fill out the necessary must-haves and plug-in specific information that’s relevant to the client.  It has been said that “first impressions last a lifetime.” Below is a list of the three necessary must-haves:

1. Contact Information

This may seem like a no brainer, but if you don’t have a signature line in your email with all of your current information, the client won’t know how to contact you. Include the name of your business and the locations you cover. You should also include links to your social media profiles so they can join you there as well!

2. Prices

List prices for the services that they are inquiring about. Asking questions about their lifestyle over the phone can help you get a feel for what they can afford, then follow-up with a friendly and professional email with the services you recommend.

3.  Clear & Concise Message

Don’t overwhelm the reader with lots of mumbo-jumbo. Most clients don’t know what all the letters behind your name stand for and most don’t care. They do care that you are educated and know what you are doing. If the business side of your company is sloppy, clients may think it will reflect on your work ethic or training skills.

Emails that are concise, polite, and intelligent will help your business stand out from the crowd. Someone may not know your brand, but if you send them a well-written message, they’ll prefer you to someone who took less care. It should be stated that emails with personality build engagement more successfully than cold, robotic ones. This is a service business after all!

How do you structure your emails to potential clients?

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5 Steps To Teach A Reliable Recall

5 Steps To Teach A Reliable Recall

5 Steps To Teach A Recall

When asking a client what their goals are for the end of a session, coming when called is almost always on the list. It only makes sense, because it is a life saving behavior – behavior being the key word. A lot of owners have a misconception that dogs understand the word “Come” and expect them to appear when the magic word is used. However, “Come”, just like sit or walking on a leash needs to be taught. Here are 5 step to teaching a reliable recall.

1. Charge the Word

If you use a clicker or marker word, you need to give meaning to the noise by pairing food or rewards with the noise. People often introduce the word “come” without it having any meaning to the dog. We want to charge the word with a very tasty, very high value treat. With the dog on a 6 ft leash, say the word “Come”, start to back up, and click or use your marker word when the dog moves with you and give them their reward. It is important to do this exercise for a solid week so that our dogs are developing a muscle memory response when they hear that word.

2. Never Punish A Recall

Never punish the dog for returning. Take it as a learning experience as to why the dog didn’t come back. Was the distraction too great? The key to getting a reliable recall is to always keep it positive and enjoyable from the dog’s perspective.

3. Make It A Game

If coming when called can be as exciting as a game of fetch or teaching a favorite trick, dogs would be far more reliable. Playing a game of round robin where the dog runs as fast as he can between two or more people to get his tasty recall reward can be a lot of fun and a great way to create a reliable recall. A game of chase where the dog chases you is also a great way to work on recall.

4. Increase Distractions Gradually

Once the word has been charged, it is time to gradually build distractions. Begin indoors and then outdoors while keeping the dog on a light long line. This provides the dog with some freedom while preventing them from running away. “Come” should not be used unless the client is willing to place $100 on the fact that the dog will come. If they aren’t willing to wager that then the distraction is likely too great and therefore the word should not be used.

5. Be Unpredictable

Don’t always call the dog when he is doing something that we find is less than desirable or something fun (like playing with other dogs or chasing a squirrel). Call the dog when he is doing nothing at all, too. The more often recall is practiced when it is easy, the quicker the dog will build muscle memory. Muscle memory will make it so that when distractions are tough the dog will quickly leave whatever is exciting and come back to you without thinking at all. When the dog comes to you be unpredictable in your generosity. Sometimes its only one tasty morsel of steak or sometimes its 10. This helps to prevent the dine and dash effect. This helps to create a dog that will hang out for a moment when he comes back.

Taking the time to build a reliable recall will allow the dog to have more freedom off leash in the future. This is one life-saving behavior where I encourage students to reward for life and always practice so that it never gets rusty.

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