GAMES WE PLAY . . .
"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of ther universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made." - Roger Caras
Our Belgian always loves to play, and we are always doing something, hence his nickname "Mr. Do." He is also a working dog, and must have work to do like herding, agility, obedience, or another activity to channel his drive. We practice our obedience, and our Terv has taken to keeping all of the buzzards out of our yard! Occasionally we strap on the backpack, pack a few water bottles, and go hiking! He loves it!
Here are some of the activities you can do with a Belgian Tervuren or a high drive dog:
AGILITY - Our Belgian Tervuren likes to jump, and Belgians are FAST, FAST, FAST!!! Here are some links to agility info, and links to making your own agility equipment for practicing at home!
FETCH - Fetch is always a good activity for dogs. It teaches a dog to retrieve and bring a toy back to you. We often play fetch in the backyard with a ball or another toy. Training a dog to fetch can be a little tricky, especially if you have a dog like mine, who likes to run away with the ball! Here are some links about teaching fetch:
FIND IT and other games - One of our Belgian Tervuren's favorite games is "Find it." From the time he has been a small puppy, we started giving his toys names; red, blue, weasel, fluffy, ball, squeaky and so on. Then we would hide a toy (such as Blue) in the yard, and tell him to find it. Do this early in the day before tracking around the yard, so it is easier to pick up the scent trail and find the toy. When he brings it back he is either rewarded with a treat, or we play his favorite game, tug. Here is an article about games you can play with your dog, that also includes "Find it."
FLIRT POLE - One of our Belgian Tervuren's biggest motivators has been a device called a "flirt pole." We made our own out of a bamboo pole, a rope and an old tug toy. The object is to trail the toy around so the dog can chase it. This satisfies the dog's natural desire to hunt and chase, gives the dog exercise in a small amount of space, as well as gives you a chance to reinforce commands such as "sit," "down," "wait," and "out."
We start by having the dog sit or down. Because he loves chasing the flirt pole so much, he usually complies with no problem. So we use it a lot as a training tool. The dog is allowed to chase the flirt pole, until he catches it. Then he is asked to "out" the toy, asked to sit or down, and then wait. After a few seconds, the flirt pole toy is dropped to the ground again, and the "go" command is given to allow the dog to chase the toy. This is repeated until the dog tires. If the dog does not follow the rules of the game, the pole is put away. Here is some more info about the "flirt pole."
HERDING - We would love to herd a few sheep with our Belgian Tervuren because he has such a natural drive for it. But we cannot have sheep. If you live within city limits like I do, maybe there are places in your area where there are sheep available for herding. Some of these places charge a fee for testing your dog to see if they have a natural herding instinct, and sometimes offer classes to perfect that herding drive.
Here are some links about herding:
If you don't have access to sheep, or a facility that offers herding classes, there is a sport that mimics herding, and can help fulfill a herding dogs' desire to herd. It's called treiball. Here is some info on Treiball:
TRACKING - Our dog loves to "find it," and his nose makes him a natural for tracking. Here are some links about the sport of tracking:
TUG - TUG can be an important training tool! We like to use a tug toy for training because it is a great motivator for our Belgian Tervuren. We have much better results using a tug toy when training, because our dog loves to play tug SO MUCH, and will do just about anything we ask! We do some "work," like various obedience commands, and then he gets to "tug" as a reward instead of using food. Here is a video that explains how to properly play tug and demonstrates how beneficial it can be in training!
As with any game, there are rules that should be applied when playing tug. Tug should always be initiated and stopped by you. When play is over, the tug toy is put out of reach of the dog. I always tell my dog that his tug toy is going to "take a break," and we put it out of his reach.
If the dog bites, even accidentally, all play stops, and the toy is put away. Biting is not allowed, even in play. (Biting CAN be a trained activity such as in Schutzhund or protection dog training, and I admit that during training using a tug, I have gotten bitten more times than I would like)
Teach the dog the "out" command, so that the dog releases the tug toy on command. If they do not, play should stop. If the dog does release it, you can start play again.
Here are some articles explaining in detail the rules of playing a successful game of tug:
TUG GAMES - http://bcsportdogs.com/TugGames.htm
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