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The Counting Game

This game has so many uses. Our favourite is when you use it to check if your dog is ready to engage with you.

How often do you find yourself using your dog’s name to try to get their attention and nothing happens? How many times do you think you are expecting your dog to respond instantly and instead they need a bit more time? This powerful and wonderfully magic game was designed by Chirag Patel and has many uses. This is just our take on it and how we have used it.

How do we play it?

When you use the word ‘One’ with a smooth sweeping arm movement as a visual engagement too (the visual makes it easier for your dog to recognise something is on offer even if it is a busy environment) and place one piece of food down on the ground with no attachment or expectation. If your dog is ready they will engage and join you to take the food. If they aren’t ready they will not, simple. So to start the game, say ‘One’ use a big visual sweeping arm movement, give your dog at the very least 10-15 seconds to respond if they don’t look to you, you can say ‘Two’ and put another piece of food down, again wait, they have the choice whether they are ready to engage and if needed you can say ‘Three’ and put the third piece of food down. If your dog still hasn’t engaged with you, you can pick all three pieces of food up, take some time to observe what has your dog's attention, and start again a little closer in distance and in their line of sight.

REMEMBER: NATO = No Attachment To Outcome

You are using a neutral word, not their name, to check if they can re-engage with you or use it to calmly connect with your dog. You will find it can be used when walking together, in open spaces where there are distractions and in the home. Instead of overusing their name or cues which can very easily be overused, counting and having no expectations can really open up the chance to observe your dog and see just what their world is like and how many things are really distracting.

Below is a video of our two dogs, in particular, Lupin our Working Cocker playing the game on the beach. For him, this is the best place, where he can run and run, when he hears ‘one’ he knows there is an offer of something for him and both him and Lula Mae our Working Labrador come to check in with me.

The Counting Game in Action - Lula Mae and Lupin on the Beach

Some people have found just saying ‘one’ is more than sufficient, we like saying ‘two’ and ‘three’ if it is needed as it gives the humans the opportunity to really sit back and observe what has their dog's attention rather than putting themselves under pressure again for their dog to respond, instead solidifying the no attachment to the outcome even more deeply, that there is no expectation for a response every single time ‘one’ is said.

We love using this game when we use the Confidence Course in our classes and one-to-ones. Instead of using your lead to pull your dogs if they have gone into other people’s front gardens or are having a good sniff at something and you’d like to move on, try using the counting game and see if you are able to reconnect with your dog and build that relationship even more with no pressure or tension added to a lead or a verbal cue just because it is attached or you have said something.

It can lead to a lovely recall, you can even use a whistle instead of a ‘one’ when your dog engages you can place something they adore down for them. I use ‘one’ in the morning when mine is out in the garden and their breakfast has been prepared. I use it when we are on a walk and I can see they aren’t as connected with me or are getting a little overwhelmed, I say ‘one’ and we can reconnect even in the busiest of places. It has become for us an ‘are you ready?’, if they are we can do more, if they aren’t we are patient and just wait. No pressure on anyone. This game was designed by Chirag Patel of Domesticated Manners and brought to us by Sarah Fisher of Animal Centered Education.

Update - Chirag showing it being used to assist in drop References: Domesticated Manners. Animal Centered Education with Sarah Fisher


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