New fun indoor/outdoor dog activity!
Around is a great game for when you are limited in space but want to give your pup a great mental and physical work out.
The end goal is that you can point to an object that your dog will run to, run around it, and come back to you. Once your dog learns this game the possibilities of combinations are endless.
The best part about this game is that the process of teaching how to play is fun, and working on it will build your communication skills. Also, once your dog understands it you can really get creative with how you incorporate it into your space.
To begin, start with a household object that is at least as tall as your dog's shoulders.
If you have a hallway, that’s a great place to teach this behavior because it limits the amount of options your dog has while learning. You can use food or toys to teach this behavior, as long as it’s something your dog loves.
Start by using the food or toy to guide your dog around the object. Once they turn the corner of the object you can mark that moment with a marker word or click (for more info on marker words watch this video). Then either feed or give them the toy. If you don’t have a marker word yet you can just feed when they turn past the item.
Eventually we are going to teach our dogs to do this going in both directions, but I recommend starting with one side first and really polishing it, then starting again with the other side.
We will use our bodies to help them know which way they should loop. When you are approaching the object make sure you lead with the foot and hand that are in the direction you want your dog to go.
For example, if you want your dog to go around from left to right, you would step with your left foot and use your left arm to gesture.
Once your dog is able to go around the object with the food or toy, you can move on to the steps below. Do these one by one to really spoon feed the behavior to your dog.
Each of these steps could take one or more training sessions. Some dogs will learn faster and you will be able to skip some of these steps or go through all of them in one session, others will need it to be taught piece by piece and may need to repeat one step for a couple of sessions.
If your dog is ever confused, try going back a step or two to really make it clear to them what you are asking for:
Guide them with just your hand around the object instead of holding the food or toy to lure them. Reward with the food or toy from the other hand once they make it around.
Toss the food just a little bit in front of them as they turn the corner so they get used to the action of running away from the object with a little speed.
Slowly start to decrease the amount you are using your hand to guide. We start by wrapping all the way around the object, then only go half of the way, then just indicate by going in the direction of the object. If your dog pauses, give them time to think about what they need to do to complete the behavior before adding any more help.
We are going to start really close to the object and then as your dog learns we can build distance. If your dog gets confused you may be going too far too fast.
When you get to the point that you can step and point toward the object and your dog constantly runs around it and comes back to you for a reward, then you can give it a name.
You can call this skill whatever you want “go” “around” etc. Say the word, pause, and then ask for the behavior. Doing this over and over will help your dog pair the two and eventually you will only need to say the word.
I recommend naming going in different directions differently. As an example “go” would be to go from left to right, and “around” would be from right to left.
Now for the fun part! You can use multiple objects and mix in different behaviors to make endless combinations.
By changing it up your dog will have to pay attention to what you say or ask for, which makes their brain work and their body react.
Here is an example:
You can stand in the middle of three chairs and:
Send your dog around one left to right
Then back to you for a reward
Then around a different chair right to left
Then when they get back to you ask for a down, then a sit, then a down,
Then back around the third chair left to right again
You can mix in any other behaviors your dog knows and make any pattern.
I hope you have fun working on this behavior with your dog. As you make progress, please share a video with us, we love celebrating your success and as always if you have any questions please reach out.