Hide and Seek is a popular childrens game. Did you know that dogs can also enjoy this game and humans, through playing this game with their dogs, can enjoy the benefits of increased reliability for a critical, life saving behavior?
Recall is one of the most important behaviors for a dog to learn. If your dog can come when called reliably and can down or halt at a distance is a relatively safe dog. Hide and seek is a game you can play inside with your dog on a rainy day to provide him with physical exercise, mental exercise, and increased reliability for recall response. Eventually, you will also want to play this game with your dog outside as well.
Im currently working on building Cubas recall, so weve been working on this a lot lately. First, you need to condition a recall signal this should be done well in advance of your hide and seek sessions.
CONDITIONING YOUR SIGNAL
I like to use a whistle for a recall for the same reason I like a clicker as a marker. A whistle is a) unemotional, b) sounds the same no matter who uses it, c) is a unique signal which only means one thing and is not heard in any other context. I also like that the sound carries well at a distance. My recall signal is two short whistle blasts followed by one long whistle blast. Here are the steps I used to condition the whistle as a recall signal with both of my dogs.
- Blow whistle right next to dogs. Immediately provide VERY high value reinforcement, feed continuously for at least fifteen seconds. (I like to have my hands on the dog when I do this because at some point, I may need to get my hands on my dogs after a recall to keep them safe.) Repeat 2 3 times per session, 1 4 times per day.
- Place Cuba in sit position. Take one step away from Cuba, blow whistle, reinforce in front position for at least fifteen seconds. Repeat 1 10 times per session, 2 3 times per day.
- Increase number of steps away from Cuba. Gradually increase distance until I am able to call him from the opposite side of the room. Repeat 1 10 times per session, 2 3 times per day.
- In the same room as Cuba, place him in a sit, walk across the room, hide in a closet with the door mostly closed. Whistle, reinforce for at least fifteen seconds when he finds me.
- Decrease number of steps away from Cuba, but begin calling him from an adjoining room. If Cuba is in the living room, I may walk into the foyer to call him, standing in the doorway. At this point, he can still see me, but I am in another room. Repeat 1 10 times per session, 2 3 times per day.
- Begin calling him from adjoining room, out of sight from the dog. In my house, I can step behind a partial wall so that I am in the foyer while Cuba is in the living room but I will not be visible to Cuba until he enters the foyer.
- Begin calling him from rooms which are not adjoining.
- Begin calling him from rooms which are adjoining, hiding behind closet doors, shower curtains, under the bed, etc.
- Begin hiding throughout the house asking him to find me on other floors, etc.
At this point, when Cuba will find me anywhere in the house, I enlist the help of my husband. We practice calling Cuba from across the room, then from adjoining rooms, then throughout the house.
Finally, we take turns hiding. While Jim is reinforcing the dogs, I will go hide. When Jim has completed the reinforcement process, its my turn to call them. At this point, the dogs are running pretty quickly throughout the house (secure any delicates/breakables/valuables) and are able to find us both fairly quickly, so we are often quite challenged in finding hiding places which are not too simple for them!
Once your dog will rush to your signal anywhere in the house, you can begin taking the game to other locations inside new buildings or practicing outside. Make sure, if you are practicing outside, that your dog is safe. If you have any doubt whatsoever that your dog will come to you, make sure you are practicing in a safe, enclosed area or that your dog is on a long line where he can be quickly restrained and managed for safety if necessary.