I’ve been working on lots of fun games to play with Swift to encourage her to try new things and to develop our bond and relationship. Puppies have so much to learn that it can seem daunting sometimes, but this fun little game incorporates several later areas of training without your pup even realising it.
The basic idea came from something I read about encouraging pups to run across unusual surfaces, such as cardboard, to get them used to different things beneath their feet. I developed the game from there, using my contact trainer which has a rubberised surface, my target and, of course, some tasty treats. I call the game Baby Targets as it is teaching your dog to run towards a target, but it could also be called the ‘odd surface’ game, or even the ‘drive game’ because it includes all these things.
All you need for this game is something for your pup to run across. It could be a contact training plank flat on the floor, or a piece of cardboard, or even a strip of artificial grass. Just something with an interesting texture or feel to it for your pup to explore. The target can be any small flat object that will survive regular training – such as a coaster, plastic lid, or square of perspex.
Get a tasty treat and show it to your puppy. Place it on the target and encourage your puppy to run to it. At first your pup may follow your hand, (as Swift does in the video) rather than go to the treat, but they quickly pick up the idea. You can repeat the game several times, but stop before your puppy gets tired. You want them to leave this game with enthusiasm to try it again.
Tips – it doesn’t matter if your puppy doesn’t run properly across the surface, or a foot comes off. This is not a contact training exercise.
Go at your pup’s pace, they probably won’t race forward to the treat at first until they get the idea.
Be very excited and encouraging, restraining your puppy lightly by the collar can help to get them keen to run.
What this Teaches
This is a three in one game (don’t you love a bargain?) Your puppy is learning three important skills while playing this really easy game.
Surface confidence – first your pup is learning to go over new surfaces with confidence. You can play this game with all sorts of textures to teach your puppy that they can run over something even when it feels odd under their feet.
Targeting – you are teaching your pup to run to a target. At this stage there is no command and we are not concerned if they touch with paws or nose, this is just about getting them used to heading to a target.
Drive – this game is also teaches a pup to drive forward away from you, developing independence in a very fun and simple way.
And most importantly, this is fun for your pup! And learning that is fun is always the best!