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The Games People Play...
Winter Training Ideas

By: Cindy MacKeen

I recently received a request asking for the kind of indoor agility training that I do with my dogs while it’s all cold and that yucky white stuff is on the ground. I hadn’t given it much thought before, but now I realize that I do a lot of training indoors each and every day that help with my dogs performance in the agility and obedience rings. It’s not your traditional jumping over stuff, but small, short games that encourage both handler focus as well as away work. I just never thought to put a name to any of it before.

One of the things I do every day is make the boys wait before they get to eat their meals. I feed twice a day. They eat side by side in the kitchen. Their food is kept in a room downstairs in our basement. Quite often they will follow me there to make sure that I’m actually getting them some food. Before I dish it out, I will send them upstairs. As they reach the top stair, I say their names and tell them to either “sit”, “down” or “stand”.  They must stay in that position until I say their release word. We then move into the kitchen where they will automatically sit while I add some water to their kibble. I put their bowls down, and again they stay until I say their release word. Sometimes I will ask for either a down or a stand, just to mix it up a little! If they move out of the position that I’ve asked them to do, I simply gently and quietly put them back and repeat the command, saying, “Good…(sit, down, stand). The stays help for their start-line stays and sending them up the stairs away from me is good for them to focus on away work for both agility and the Utility level of obedience.

I play a lot of tug games as well. I don’t always let them win. And I always end the game on my terms. If I throw a toy, sometimes I make them wait before getting it. I tell them, “go” and send them to the toy. They will then bring it back to me to throw again. I hold out my hands for them to place the toy into. This will help with the dumbbell exercises in obedience. (I hope! LOL!)

I have taught Taz the “left” and “right” commands. Digger knows them as “away” and “out”. These commands come in really handy if, for example, during a Gamble the dog has to go over the A-frame and needs to go away from you to a tunnel under the A-frame. You’d simply call out, “Left, tunnel” and with a little luck, that’s exactly what the dog will do. I also send them around the coffee table in either direction using the left & right commands. I believe Janice and Wrigley expertly demonstrated this in a previous issue! 

I also do a lot of changes of direction with the dog on either side of me. This will come in handy when you need to do a front or rear cross. Start with the dog on your left and move forward a step or two. Turn your body in the opposite direction, turning into the dog. Then use your right hand to guide the dog. Use the same process with the dog starting on your right.

Games involving sending the dog into their crate or the box are fun as well. And I use a top from a Mason jar to teach the target. I have slowly increased the distance that the dog has to get to each of these and wait until I either release them from that distance or go to them to reward them.

Hide & seek around the house is a lot of fun, and it helps reinforce the recall….you know, what I hope for when Taz gets in his first agility trial!

I’m sure there is more little stuff that we do, and I’d love to know how other people train their Manchesters for Performance sports. Please write a note to Janice or myself!

Most of all, hug them, give them lots of praise and love them. They play these games mainly to please us.



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