Using Competition to Train Dogs


I recently worked with a client who has three dogs. We’d trained each dog separately, and then decided to practice group recalls as well as group sit-stays. While all the dogs did great on the recalls, one of them, a little French bulldog, decided that the “stay” part of sit-stay didn’t quite apply to her. She didn’t get up and leave, but each time, she did a petite butt scoot forward. Although I gave her a soft verbal reprimand and used my body to move her back into place, the thing that really fixed the scooting was something else entirely. Mean trainer that I am, I used the other dogs against her. Whenever she scooted up, after the verbal reprimand and repositioning, I made a big show of praising and rewarding the other two dogs. It took exactly two repetitions for her to remain in place.


Whenever more than one dog is involved, assuming they are roughly equal in physical ability and body type, I use a similar strategy for recalls. Let’s say there are two dogs. Assuming they have both been trained on the skill, I will give the cue and, if one dog lags behind, make a show of rewarding the one who gets there first. I will look at the lagger and say, “Oops, too bad!” before rewarding the other dog with effusive praise and a treat. The lagger inevitably does the equivalent of a human jaw drop. He just can’t believe he’s not getting rewarded, too! But you can bet that on the next repetition, that dog reaches me in record time.


I’ve successfully used the playing one dog off against each other strategy for recalls, stays, and other things for many years, always making sure to use it only when the dogs have a full understanding of what was being asked and had adequate practice. Have you ever used this type of technique, and if so, how? If not, try it with your dogs and let me know how it goes! ______________________________________________________ You can find my books and seminars (DVD/streaming) at www.nicolewilde.com, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

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