Today I’m sharing a game for keeping and building drive that I’ve played with every dog I’ve ever owned since the beginning of time. I call it “The Mustard Game”, and it makes good use of the power of anticipation in our dog training.
Of course, there’s science behind anticipation and dopamine if you are scholarly minded and want to research, but as we caught an impromptu round of me playing The Mustard Game with Tater on film recently, I wanted to share the game with everyone to demonstrate how it’s played to help you and your dogs.
Why Play The Mustard Game?
Building and keeping drive in your dog is an ongoing project, and it’s a fun game to help create great enthusiasm in just about any dog. It’s playful and lighthearted and should make you and your dog laugh!
The Mustard Game delays reinforcement for a dog while working on a previously reinforced behaviour in a FUN way, and can be used for two scenarios.
1. Where you send your dog to drive away to something like his crate, a table, a set of weave poles, a distance send, whatever … and he is not as driven as you would like. You want to call him back to do it again, but in a way that is not demotivating for your dog. Why would you want to start again? Because we should always be looking to reinforce “average or better” during our shaping.
2. Where you are teaching your dog to drive away to ‘something’, and after several reinforcements your dog anticipates being sent and tries to leave you and go on his own. It’s natural to be thrilled with your dog’s enthusiasm for the new game and to just follow the dog to reward him for his efforts. A better idea is to playfully call the dog back, not allowing him to carry on toward his target. This is hard for people, especially since they are so pleased that their dog is showing some enthusiasm for work. The Mustard Game is going to help you with this scenario and build even more drive!
How To Play The Mustard Game
Remember that we play The Mustard Game when working on a behaviour that has been reinforced previously. Playing is easy!
All you need to do is call your dog back in a goofy voice saying something like “. . . wait, wait, wait, com’ere, I wanna tell you sumpin’. . . you got a little mustard on yer face!”
The dog comes back and thinks you are “nuts”. He doesn’t understand a word of your banter, and it really doesn’t matter. All you are doing is building more anticipation in your dog, making him want what is out there more, getting him even more “crazed” about driving towards whatever you have been working on!
Sometimes I talk about the Flintstones when I play The Mustard Game, as you can see in this very short clip with Tater in the video below which is from our Flatwork classroom in Handling360 Connect. Swagger is supervising the training session.
If you have been following along with my blog, you will also notice that I use the positive trigger of an intake of breath.
So there you have it, The Mustard Game. It’s playful and fun, and the joyful anticipation of the game helps create drive and focus. Give it a try, most dogs just love this game! You could talk about mustard, or the Flintstones, or anything at all!
What words would be fun for your dog and can you think of somewhere you would use this game? Let me know in the comments. Sending to the crate when playing Crate Games is something that immediately might come to mind. I know that just about any dog sport you can think of is covered in our community, and also that you can play The Mustard Game game for around home training too.
Today I am grateful for our dogs who make us laugh!
I use this for go-outs in obedience. Or to build drive to articles or dumbbell or gloves. It makes them happier upon the return as well.
My 7 month old GSD gets all excited going to his crate for dinner. I tell him I need you in and he walks 3 steps and returns to me to make sure I am still coming and sometimes jumps up and I don’t want him to come up under his dish and help me spill tiny puppy food. So I will try the wait wait game with an empty dish to start between meals. My thinking if I can recall him at dinner time I can recall from anywhere and maybe he will eventually run completely there without stopping.
Brilliant love this, thanks for sharing this one with us all Susan.
Rightyoh then, whatever
Can’t wait to try this on my young dog for driving to the dumbbell and go outs for obedience! The enthusiasm is what he is lacking, but he loves playing these types of games. Thanks
This would be a really funny game to have a collage of 5-second clips of different handlers playing this game with different dogs, if only to prove how crazy dog people can be, LoL!
Go Tater! Look at that wrap !!
I do this with my husband.
Not sure I get it
Susan has completely changed the way I work with my dog! I have Conformation and an Obedience experience and Susan’s are so much FUN!!!! I have a 13 month old Sheltie. She’s very bright and loves to learn anyway, but I have never been exposed to purposeful play breaks, fun training sandwiches or silliness instead of correction. I am so blessed that a friend put me onto Susan!!! Thank you so much for taking my appreciation for my furry friend to the next level!
Hi ! I’m not sure I understand the game… Is it to talk to my dog in a funny voice so she stays focus on me and she doesn’t get distracted or se a distraction ?
Thank you 🙂
This is so interesting because my husband automatically has been doing this with our dog. I could see the results and I was impressed and tried to emulate what he was doing. He (my husband) who has never gotten “involved” with me in dog training, but loves to play with our dog, just naturally did this. Now that I know what it is called (ha ha) and how to play, I will practice it more myself. My previous attempts to emulate my husband didn’t really work for me. And I love MUSTARD!
Just love to watch Susan she is so must fun I talk to my dog like that and the people I train with think I nuts
JUST LOVE THIS LOVE TO WATCH SUSAN SHE IS SO MUST FUN
We love it. Always say — commer ya gots da mustard on da chin and laugh. They are so enthusiastic
I have a Boxer called Hannah very exuberant tried the mustard game she loves it swears she laughs at me
LOVE it! I hadn’t thought to use this for things like Agility… flat work….
I walk Shelter dogs and sometimes have to get a dog reactive dog to move with me away from a potential situation. For years I’ve started singing ♫♪ Walk this way!♪♫ while doing a Monty Python silly walk away from the area. The dogs are always engaged when the other end of their leash becomes weird and the willingly come along, thus avoiding the potential issue.
THANK YOU for the A-Ha moment!!
I think this game would be a great addition to Recallers in some way.
This is one of my favourite games. It made me and my dog much more relaxed and enthusiastic about skills we were struggling with. The improvement in drive and change in attitude in both of us has stuck with me through the years. Thank you so much for writing a blog on it and including the video with Tater.
I have a border collie who is fast amazing and loves his toy when he training session begins , but after a while he loses interest in his toy and tends to very flat when training , can you give me any advice 🤔
Hi Yvonne, here are two blog posts by Susan to help with planning your training sessions.
The Secret Sauce For Enthusiasm … Balance Breaks!
Got D.A.S.H. (Desire, Accuracy, Speed and Habitat)?
Yippee come back here….Let’s drink beer…yippee yippee yippee what’s out there? A big treasure chest full of treats….Yippee Yippee Party everywhere!!!
That is so fun, Benita!
I think I just did this by accident. My dog loved it. Now I’ll try it with more purpose!
Let us know how you go, Jeris!
just watched this video and my snoozed out dog jumped up and rushed to the computer to see what the heck was going on!
Our dogs love to see what fun might be in store when they hear Susan too!