“I wanna tell you sumpin’. . . you got a little mustard on yer face!”

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!