Mighty Middle Game: Safety, Confidence, Control!

Protecting our dogs from the world and the world from our dogs can sometimes feel like a full-time operation. Not with middle! It’s the portable safe place that you can take anywhere and it’s the mainstay of our Leash Off, Game On off-leash reliability games that we show in our free DVD: https://game.absolute-dogs.com/leashoffgameon

The benefits of middle are huge:

- It acts as a portable boundary so that your dog can stay focused and confident no matter the exciting or scary environment

- It is a calming exercise

- It gets your dog into a safe place QUICK

- It allows you to position dogs that don’t like being handled for vet exams, in dog sports, for claw clipping, you name it!

Here’s how to play Mighty Middle!

Step 1:  We like to shape this trick, which means rewarding successive approximations of the final behavior - or rewarding things your dog does that are closer and closer to the final behavior in mind!

Step 2:  To do this, we mark and reward turns and steps towards behind us to start with, rewarding by placing the treat or toy behind us and eventually between legs.

Step 3: Do this until your dog is consistently heading around your leg and then between your legs. At this point, placement of the reward should always be in the final position - between your legs.

Step 4: Build duration into maintaining position between your legs by providing a rapid rate of reinforcement in this position. Then work on reducing the rate of reinforcement while your dog stays in one place.

Step 5: Now we can work on the final behavior we want - a sit! You can:

1)Shape the sit by marking and rewarding weight shifts backwards until your dog sits.

2)Cue a sit, repeat a few times and then wait your dog out for him/her to offer it.

3) Cue a hand target with your hand above your dog’s head such that he/she sits when targeting.

TOP TIPS! If you want a high energy, tucked sit, then using a hand target is a really good way to get this! Tucked sits are more accurate to maintain the final position and you can shape these also, or, if your dog has a specific cue for a tucked sit, then use method two with that cue!

Step 6:  Build duration into maintaining the sit position between your legs by manipulating rate of reinforcement again. Here is where you can add your release cue too!

Step 7:  Work on proofing the sit for you moving away now by rewarding for sit maintenance as you change position!

Step 8:  When you are happy with the final behavior, introduce your cue (“middle”, “centre”, “position”) just before your dog performs the full behavior and rewards lots!!!!

We run through this with a practical demonstration in the FREE Leash Off, Game On DVD you can grab a copy of here (if there are any left): https://game.absolute-dogs.com/leashoffgameon

In the meantime, get playing Mighty Middle!


Go have fun!


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Positively Expert: absoluteDogs

Tom is a veterinarian, clinical behaviourist and companion and sports dog trainer, providing a unique perspective on all things dog.


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