“Go get your ball!” “Fetch your bone!” “Bring your toy here!” How often do we hear ourselves calling these things to our darling dogs? On the daily, am I right? How often pupper gets it right though is another story all together. However, training your dog to know the difference between their ball and their teddy bear, for example, isn’t as impossible as it sounds. It all comes down to a question of how to teach your dog new words. In fact it’s a really wonderful DIY Thinking Dog Game to provide mental stimulation.
This is something we’ve done with our first fur-baby here at Pawsh since she was a wee pup. Here are our tips to help teach your dog to know their toy names.
STEP 1: LESS IS BEST
The first step in this training exercise is to admit that we all have bought our dogs way too many toys over the years. Agreed? And that’s okay, but there’s no way the average little woof will be able to learn all of their toy names. It’s too mind boggling! So we recommend choosing 3-5 unique and distinctive toys to teach the names of to your dog.
Consider items such as a ball, a two very different plush toys, a chew or bone and a squeaker toy. Make sure the items are very different in shape, colour and texture to help your dog distinguish between them. Ultimately this is a exercise in how to teach your dog new words which will be assigned to each respective toy so the more different they are, the better!
STEP 2: EXPERIENCE EACH TOY ONE AT A TIME
By experience each toy, we mean make sure to interact with your dog with the toy in question that you want them to learn. For example, let’s focus on the tennis ball. Take the ball and play with it with your dog in close proximity (no fetch, as that means throwing it far away, confusing the matter at hand).
Instead bat the ball between your hands so they can chase it or play a gentle game of catch. This gives your dog a guided opportunity to focus on the item in play, which will be essential for how to teach your dog new words, specifically when it comes to the word for this item.
STEP 3: REPEAT EACH ITEM’S NAME CLEARLY
Throughout this play, be sure to use the word ‘ball’ over and over again. Don’t chatter a lot at your dog during this process, simply say ‘ball’ every time Fido gets the ball and them promptly reward with a treat. (This process will need to be done repeatedly to help the word sink into your dog’s vocabulary.)
STEP 4: PROGRESS TO ‘SEEK’ EACH TOY
Elevate the type of play with the toy in question. For example, if we’re still playing with the tennis ball, move from teasing your dog with the ball to hiding it under your arm pit or under your legs and excitedly asking, “Where’s your ball?” (this is ultimately the verbal command that will be attached to this trick).
Your dog should be into the game enough to search excitedly for the mysteriously disappeared item. When they find it, say again ‘ball!’ and reward them with a treat and lots of praise!
STEP 5: REPEAT REGULARLY
Continue this game for each toy in question — although not all in the same training time or even the same day. It will take some time for your dog to learn each individual item, but giving lots of patience, attention and time they will soon be able to pick their toys out of a line up when you ask them, “Where’s your _______?”
A HANDY SKILL
Being able to instruct your dog to go and ‘find’ specific items is a wonderful skill for them to have. With Rory here at Pawsh we frequently ask her to ‘go find your ball’ or to ‘go find bear’ as a little game or honestly to keep her out from underfoot when we’re busy with something or other. Give it a try today! And for more fun dog games, try these at home activities too!