Reactive Dog? Play The Cone Game (With Video)

mitchellcone2I often get asked what games should I play with my dog if they maybe lack confidence, are anxious or fearful or reactive or just need some fun injected into their lives. Well, the answer to all of those is something I call the cone game. The cone game involves you training your dog to place their muzzle into the centre of a cone with some duration. The thing that really struck me when I started experimenting with this game is just how much fun dogs find it!

To play this game, all you need is a plastic cone or cup that your dog can fit their muzzle in and their dinner! You reward your dog for any kind of interaction with the cone and then progressively become more specific about placing their nose in the cone. Build up to them offering putting their muzzle in repeatedly and then add in duration. Here is a video of the game.

This game builds confidence, optimism and fun into your dog and you training. If your dog can be comfortable and enjoy placing their face in a cone (even to the extent of cutting off their vision), they have to be pretty confident! This game also builds body awareness and an ability to problem solve.

AND once your dog has this behaviour down, you can switch the cone for all kinds of things. This is where it gets really exciting; you can replace the cone for

  • a muzzle,
  • a vet elizabethan collar,
  • a head collar or head halter
  • or a harness.

Your dog can and will be comfortable with wearing any and all of these, and, as the game involves a simple cone, any past experiences with these objects won’t affect the game at all!

This allows you to turn potentially stressful and scary events into awesome ones and prepares your dog for if they should ever need emergency veterinary treatment. As a vet and trainer, I can’t stress enough how important this fun and extremely useful game is in preventing bad situations when pets are sick from becoming stressful for both down and owner.


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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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