Project Puppy: the all-important Gotcha! game

Gotcha! Game: fun and important for safety

Just one visit to a local dog park should be enough to convince anyone that keep away games are loads of fun for most dogs. Watching them play a canine version of Catch Me If You Can! can be highly entertaining. On the other hand, watching a dog play a similar game of keep away with their people is cause for serious concern. This type of dog is at grave risk for their own safety if the gate to a dog run is left open, if they accidentally get out the front door, or off leash on the street.

Being accepting of being gotten hold of is imperative for a dog’s safety, especially in an emergency. Unfortunately, many dogs avoid being grabbed by their collar due to learning that it indicates and end of play (for example at the dog run) or due to a fear of punishment (for example, by being grabbed by the collar prior to being dragged the site of some misdeed and then punished).

Teach your puppy to not only accept, but also happily anticipate having their collar grabbed by playing the Gotcha! Game.

·Start with your puppy on leash indoors at meal times.

·Gently take a hold of your pup’s collar for one second, say Gotcha! and give him a piece of his food.

·Gradually increase to slightly firmer grabs of the collar. The goal is to build up your dog’s tolerance to the type of grab you might do in an emergency.

·Practice this exercise at least 25 times a day. Each grab and reward takes just a few seconds, so this does not require a great time commitment.

·Frequently interrupt play and other activities to do a collar grab so that this skill (i.e. accepting collar grabs) is transferred to more lifelike situations.