Outdoor games to play with your dog
Dobermans are very high energy dogs. And also very intelligent. They love interacting with their owners and play games. Below is the list of a few outdoor games to play with your dog. This will help you have a great and productive time together during off-leash hikes.
Before going on a hike – I always make sure my dog has time to do his “business”, so I don’t have to carry a smelly doggy bag on the hike. I let my dog out on the parking lot and give him a few minutes to get over his excitement, sniff the area, mark the territory, and think about his “big business”. I always follow this routine. By the time my dogs are about a year old – they know to do “big business” before we go on the trail.
I usually go on one- or two-hour hikes and divide my hiking time in 3 sections. About 1/3 of the time at the beginning of the hike I let my dog run free and explore. Most of the time my dog spend in the controlled environment. So having free run helps him “clear” mind and enjoy being a dog. The second 1/3 in the middle of the hike I spend interacting with my dog as described below. The last 1/3 of the time is for cooling down, catching a breath and getting back to the car.
This game teaches a dog to be patient, which is very much needed for energetic European Dobermans.
Have your dog sit. Ensure he won’t break the command. Toss the toy away (make sure the dog maintains sitting position). Release the dog to look for the toy.
When I teach this game – I hold my dog by the collar when I toss the ball. Eventually, he learns to stay in place, but sometimes would get up or lie down. I use a leash to help with this transition (and remove the leash before releasing the dog). Also, make sure to always pause after you toss the ball and before releasing the dog. Vary the duration of the pause as your dog advances in this game. The dog should learn to wait for your command instead of automatically releasing himself after the ball.
This is a much safer “chase the ball” exercise than having a dog chase after the ball that is in motion. Dogs often get back or neck injuries when they race against flying ball, trying to “dive” for it to catch it. With this exercise – a dog approaches a ball with much less speed, which has less impact on their necks and backs.
This game teaches attention. The dog supposes to look up at you for a command. This is a very useful exercise especially for those who train dogs in IPO/Schutzhund which demands high attention from the dog to the handler. When my dog was a puppy – I used my IPO commands to play this game. When he learned the commands for IPO, I’ve added a duplicate set of commands for this game.
If your dog is not familiar with the “attention” command you should teach this exercise in much calmer situation and use treats instead of toys. For example. While at home – sit in front of your dog with treats in your hand. Make sure the treats are not exposed – have your hand closed. Engage your dog by clicking your tongue or saying dog’s name – anything that will make him look at you (in the eyes) instead of sniffing your hand with treats. The second he looks up at your face – mark it with your marker word (i.e. “look”) and open your hand for him to get the treat. Repeat several times. So the dog looks at your hand, then looks up in your face, and gets rewarded from your hand. This teaches them to look up for a command. Usually dobermans understand this exercise very quickly and use it for communication when they want something from your – they stare in your face.
Later, when you translate this exercise to the game with a ball, your marker word “look” will help the dog understand what you want.
This game teaches your dog to work with you even if the reward (the ball) is not on you. This is a great exercise to ensure your dog is obedient and not just following the toy. It requires advanced obedience – the dog should know the “out” command, and should be able to heel or walk by your side off leash on command. This is a great exercise for IPO training when you need to transition your dog from having a reward on you to having your dog working for you. Also, it reinforces rewarding your dog behind you, which is also needed in IPO training. Especially for dogs who are forging.
In the video you can see several steps how I build up this game.
This game teaches patience, working from the distance, and a good practice for the “long bite” exercise for IPO protection. For this game the dog should know how to sit or down and stay in the position while you (handler) are walking away. If you play this game with a growing puppy – make sure to hold the toy low enough for him to grab it WITHOUT jumping. If your dog is fully grown – you can hold the toy higher, encouraging the dog to target and jump.
If you train your Doberman for IPO – this is a great exercise for targeting and for learning to jump up for the bite. Long bite is a very complex and the most dangerous part of IPO protection. And many Dobermans naturally struggle with proper targeting and committing to the bite. This exercise is a fun and safe way to practice this. It is better to use a bite pillow or a tug if you intend to practice the long bite.
As your dog becomes more skillful in IPO long bite you can make this exercise even more complex:
– first – practice changing sides where you hold the bite pillow (left hand or right hand).
– second – practice releasing the dog and only then putting the target out for the dog to grab.
These more advanced techniques will teach your dog to target and to commit to the jump even if the target is not there.
Going around the objects. This proved to be a very useful command in every day life as well as IPO training. Thanks to this command – I can ask my dog to go to the back door of the house, or to untangle himself on the leash around the tree. This is how I trained my dog to love running the blinds for IPO protection. Many handlers force their dogs to run blinds. Dogs hate it and often tend to disobey this command during IPO competitions. My dogs always loved running the blinds. I believe it is because I teach them this fun game long before we need it for IPO training.
Game 6 or game over.
European dobermans are know to be pushy and to pester their owners for attention and more play. I teach my dogs to learn to let go and go mind their own business when told so. If your dog is very dependent on you (like my dogs) this is a good exercise to help them learn to give you space and to stop pestering you. If your dog has very independent mindset (the opposite) and tend to wonder off rather than play with you – then you should engage your dog in games more often during the hike and do very little of this last exercise.
The way I teach this to my dog is I stop playing. I hide the toy (put it in my pocket or backpack) and ignore my dog. I use very calm, indifferent voice to let my dog know that I’m done playing.
The last part of the hike is to cool down, so by the time we are back to the car I can safely give him some water. I give water in small portions, but several times with a few minute intervals between each drink. If the dog is “too hot” after running – I put him on the leash and walk him off nearby the car. I don’t give more water on hot days. I use ice and a cold mat to help my dog cool down. It is much safer than let him drink a lot of water that can cause a stomach torsion or a bloat (a common condition for large chested dogs like European dobermans).