Favorite Training Games: The Up-Down Game
As a professional trainer who often works with fearful and reactive dogs, I am a big fan of training games that are simple in concept but oh so versatile and helpful when it comes to changing behavior. The Up-Down pattern game from Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed series is one of my favorites in this category!
The beauty is in the simplicity with this game. All it requires to start is a handful of small treats (I like to keep mine in my pocket or in a treat pouch), a clicker or a marker word like “yes”, and your dog, of course.
The game goes likes this:
1. Place a treat on the floor right in front of your dog.
2. After they eat the treat, wait for them to look back up towards you. They don’t need to make eye contact with you, we’re just looking for the moment they pick their head up and orient towards you.
3. Capture the moment they look towards you by clicking your clicker or saying “yes”.
4. Immediately place another treat on the ground.
5. Repeat from Step 2.
That’s it! Here is a video example of what the Up-Down game looks like:
I love this game because it is:
- Simple for us humans to remember
- An easy pattern for dogs to learn
- Versatile for a wide range of environments and situations
I use this game in a lot of different ways, including:
- Teaching dogs that paying attention to their humans will pay off. This is a helpful foundation skill for everything from loose leash walking to teaching our dogs to come when called.
- Teaching dogs and their guardians the basics of marking and rewarding a specific behavior, which we then use in other training activities.
- Helping nervous and reactive dogs process scary things from within the safety of a familiar pattern. Having a predictably positive pattern to practice can be a great way of helping dogs feel more comfortable even when strange or slightly scary things are happening around them.
- Evaluating a dog’s comfort in different situations.
- If I start the Up-Down game and they are able to play, great! Next I can see if there are other games or skills they are up for practicing.
- If I start the Up-Down game and they opt-out or are having trouble staying in the game, that’s okay too! That’s just valuable information for me that I need to give them a break, change the environment, or work on other ways of helping them feel comfortable first.
This game can be played with you standing, sitting on a chair or couch, or even sitting on the floor if that’s most comfortable for you. If your dog is already a pro at this game, you can “level up” by practicing in a different environment, like a new room in your house where you don’t usually train, out in the yard, or while out for a walk. The options are endless!
Try out this game at home and let me know what you think!
Are you looking for more comprehensive and customized training help? We cover games like this and a lot more in our virtual group classes, or you can check out our 1:1 training and behavior programs for in-depth personalized training help and support!