M&E Training Exercise: Room Relay

I am always thinking of new ways to incorporate fun training games into the average day, no matter how busy we are. A fun game I have come up with is what I call a “room relay.” I pick about three commands I use in one particular room. These really vary based on what your home routine is, on what you’d like to work on, and what you’d like to accomplish. To do the game, I ask Miles to do three chosen tasks a few times in a random order. He is expected to do each task until I release him from it, at which point I give him a little treat. In the beginning, if he breaks from a task without being released by me, I just slow down, and ask him once more to do the task until he is waiting patiently for my release word.

Our Example Tutorial

The below video shows us in my bedroom, where three common commands for Miles are “up you go” to hop onto my bed (not everyone’s cup of tea), “in you go” to go into his crate, and “mat” to go to his bed and hold a relaxed down. ***please note that the below video is not the best example of us doing this game, because when I shot it Miles was really confused as to why I was staring at the video camera, and not at him!

Keep the Game Short, and
Increase Difficulty Slowly

Depending on how we are progressing, the next time we do the game, I might direct Miles while standing further away. I do it often enough, that sometimes it is really easy, sometimes the difficulty is slightly increased. If we are doing really well, sometimes I mix it up and just give him the verbal commands. As I always recommend with training exercises, never increase difficulty until at least the next training session, and increase difficultly in very small increments. And also as usual, I like to keep games very short.

Learning Benefits

In my experience there are multiple benefits of this game:

1. Your dog will learn that different verbal/physical commands are associated with specific objects and actions. This is a fundamental skill that often is surprisingly overlooked, leaving commands to assumption and routine. When we do agility, for example, and I need Miles to do a sequence of obstacles from a distance, I need him to know that “tunnel! … jump! … tunnel!” actually means what I think it means, not “[go do stuff!] human-blabber!… blah!…. blah!”

2. Your dog will learn to wait for you to release him from a task, and best of all, will learn that doing so is fun and worth his focus, hard work, and attention.

3. This game lets your dog know that daily commands are not always connected to predictable routines, especially when a command can be boring sometimes. I want Miles to know that going into his crate doesn’t always mean that I will shut the door and then leave for a long meeting. Sometimes, it is a fun quick game, sometimes it means a chew toy, sometimes it means time for a nap. Some routines are great to have firmly set — for example, when I open the door to my car, I’d prefer that after I give our car command, Miles immediately leap in — and quickly. But for the majority of commands, it helps to vary the outcome to relax expectations (for example, if every time you went to the dentist for a tooth cleaning and they proceeded to a root canal, you’d be wary too!).

4. This game is really fun for your dog since it involves happy verbal praise and little treats in quick succession. And it is great for the human member of the team, because it is really, really easy to fit into even the craziest day.

Closing Notes

For me this game has been helpful for daily tasks, but also for more advanced agility training. Our “room relay” is a fun way of helping keep Miles in a mindset where listening to me is important, exciting, and rewarding. I hope you enjoy practicing this game with your canine companion!

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