Featuring Jen Larson, KPA-CTP
Concept by Courtney Emken

Pattern games are an excellent tool for teaching new behaviors, addressing reactivity, and bonding with your dog. We are going to teach you how to play some of these games and how they can help you and your dog understand each other better. First up is “1, 2, 3, TREAT!”


Hi, I’m Jen and I’m the manager of the training department here at DogBoy’s and I’m here today to talk to you about something called pattern games. And let me introduce my assistant, this is Copper. She’s a Vizsla. She’s been working with us since she was just a little puppy, she’s been coming to all of our training classes and she comes to our day school program, so she’s a really good helper. The pattern games, we can use those for a couple different things. We often use them with reactive dogs, so dogs who bark or lunge or pull towards other dogs on-leash, or they might have other types of triggers, like men in hats or people with skateboards. So just things that they encounter in their environment that they feel uncomfortable with or excited by and they react to in kind of a way that we don’t want them to. So with pattern games, we can start working them in kind of this rhythmic pattern of behavior until they feel comfortable. So pattern games are all about teaching the dog what to expect, having clear expectations, and working them until they’re really feeling comfortable in this pattern and then you can introduce some triggers into the environment at a nice working distance and the dog feels okay about that because they’re busy working their pattern. So they might see something in the environment has changed, but my pattern has not changed, I still feel safe and then we can start to do some work to make them feel better about their trigger. So this is our first pattern game. It’s a really simple game, it’s called “1, 2, 3, Treat!” and this is something that you can easily do at home. So all I’m gonna be doing with Copper is I’m gonna be taking three steps and I’m gonna count out loud, one, two, three, and then after three I’m gonna say treat, and then I’m gonna ask her for a behavior. So the first behavior I’m gonna ask her for is sit, but you can do this with any behavior, so it could be touch, down, could be a spin, whatever you wanna use. The whole point of this game is to just get her working into a rhythmic pattern of behavior so it becomes predictable for her, she knows what to expect next, and then if she were a reactive dog, we can maybe introduce a trigger of reactivity into the environment and so she’d be working in this pattern, feeling safe, and not reacting as much to her trigger and then we could do some conditioning with the trigger. This is also just a great game for any sort of building focus and attention or just improving leash behavior. So a really simple game, I’m gonna get her over here. Whoop. I’m gonna get her into a sit. Good. I’m gonna take three steps. One, two, three, treat. Sit. Good. One, two, three, treat. Sit. Good. So she’s already starting to predict the sit here, so I’m no longer gonna ask her for a sit, I’m just gonna say treat and then I’m gonna mark and reward her default sit for me. One, two, three, treat. Good. One, two, three, treat. Now a little distracted, so I’m just gonna bring her back. Good. One, two, three, treat. Very good. So that’s the game and you would just keep working that for a couple minutes until the dog really got into that pattern and started doing it really well and then you could use it to introduce new things, or just to work on foundation skills. So if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about pattern games, I really recommend this book called “Control Unleashed” by Leslie McDevitt and she works primarily with reactive dogs, and so you can learn lots of different fun pattern games and a little bit more about reactivity too.