Legendary dog trainer Terry Ryan has a new book called Gamify Your Dog Training: Training Games for Group Instruction, and this is my fourth of the 12 Pet Books of Christmas.
This book is written for training professionals, but anyone can read it, of course. And, who wouldn’t like playing games with a dog?
There are three underlying points here:
- Training works best when it’s fun (for people and dogs).
- Fun happens when you gamify training (dogs and people like games).
- Fun for fun’s sake may be a disservice if there’s no point to the game.
Games in the book range from beginner to advanced. Most of the games build fluency for already known behaviors in novel environments. A clicker is used in conjunction with many games—without communication about the rules of the games, how would dogs know? Clickers provide a marker or directions for how the games are played.
Games enhance the bond and communication between handler and dog. And, for really serious adults with all sorts of pressures on our shoulders, playing games is probably a healthy idea for all of us (not to mention the dog).
For each game, Ryan explains what’s required regarding previous dog training and the benefits of the game.
For example, for the game “Red Rover, Red Rover, Call the Dog Over,” a dog needs to understand how to “stay” and come when called. The game promotes attention and motivation for the dog to rejoin the handler. Of the dozens of games included, “Decorate the Christmas,” is a seasonal idea that will teach your dog to help you decorate the tree. Ryan even explains it’s easy to teach dogs to turn on Christmas lights. (But, there’s no explanation about what to do when one bulb in a string of lights burns out and then they all burn out…no game can fix that.)