Mighty middle is a really useful game that you can play with your dog to help with recall, proximity to you, confidence and focus in distracting environments.
Have some of your dog’s daily food ready, if you use raw food you can use a squeezable food tube. Alternatively you can use a toy, it is a good idea to have some much loved toys saved just for training. Begin this game indoors at home, in a quiet environment.
Stand with your legs apart with your dog in front of you. Use a piece of food to lure them around your leg behind you, into position facing forward between your legs. This is the middle position. Feed in that position.
Throw a piece of food away from you to the front. As your dog returns to you, lure them around your leg behind you and back in to middle. Feed in that position. To build value, feed more than just the piece of food you used for the lure.
Repeat step three a few times, remember to play the game in both directions.
As your dog starts to go between your legs, add the cue word. It can be anything you like but ‘Middle’ works well and football fans often like the cue to be nutmeg!
When your dog starts to get the hang of it, use your cue word once they are returning towards you and see if they can return straight to middle without the lure. When they do, CELEBRATE! Reward well and let your dog know how great they are.
Why Play Middle?
It’s a really useful cue to have when out and about, for those dogs who may need a safe space to go in scary situations and for building confidence in new environments. It is also valuable for helping recall as once the dog learns it’s fun and rewarding, it can be used in several situations for safety and to ask your dog to check in with you. Middle can also be helpful in distracting environments, when you need your dog to focus on you and not something else that may get them in to trouble. As well as all these reasons, it’s also great fun! Dogs love it and it’s something children can do with them too.
Once you have established the basics it is a good idea to build duration in the middle position. Then when you’ve mastered middle at home indoors, have a go outside in a familiar outside environment with no distractions. From there you can practice indoors and outdoors with distant distractions, then closer distractions. The ultimate test is having a go outside with those real life challenges that present themselves, such as squirrels, running children or cats!
For those looking to really build on this behaviour, add in some extra cues by asking for a sit or a down after you’ve got middle. You can also try middle on the move- walk forwards slowly with your dog moving with you between your legs.
Thank You For Reading
Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved pets. SHOP HERE
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