When you are out and about, exercising your dog’s  body, don’t forget about his mind.  Dogs love to learn new things, figure things out, crack jokes, discover ways to do things on their own.

When I pass an outdoor, open staircase, I go around behind it, put Sky’s duck on the highest step I can reach and tell her “Find it.”  The first time I did that, she had to figure out how to get to the duck, assessing the “puzzle” and seeing that she needed to go around to the front of the stairs and run up as high as the duck, snag it and return.  And so she did.

You can put your foot on a low barrier and ask your dog to jump over your leg.  Or go under it.  Help your dog get the idea quickly by tossing a ball over your leg or rolling it underneath.  This game can be done at home on rainy day,s like today, when you don’t want to stay out too long and it can be played with as many dogs as you have.  In fact, while playing, the dogs will have to learn to wait their turn, more good brain work.

Does your dog know a variety of commands?  Excellent.  Now add a hand signal to each, using voice and hand together until your dog will folllow the hand signal alone.  Don’t fret if you don’t know the hand signal for “speak,” let’s say.  As long as you are consistent, you can make one up.  I tap thumb and forefinger together which looks like a little barking mouth, at least to me.

Got the hand signals down pat?  Now whistle a tune for each command.  It won’t matter what tune says “sit,” as long as it’s always the same one.  Ours is the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth.  We get a lot of laughs that way, but I wouldn’t use one that long for an emergency command.

You can teach your dog to fall over “dead” when you point a finger at him and say “bang.”  You can teach him to bring a tissue when you sneeze.  You can have him make circles around you as you walk forward.  It doesn’t matter what you teach, it only matters that you teach.  A little brain work every day can go a long way toward having a smarter dog.

More ideas, you guessed it, in Dog Smart, The Art of Training Your Dog, available wherever ebook are sold.  And if you love it, please post a review wherever you bought it to help other dog lovers find it and enjoy it, too.  Much appreciated!