This is a new concept in training your dog. Most traditional methods of dog training focus on teaching specific ‘behaviours’, typically sit, down, stay etc. In Game-Based training, we focus on teaching your dog concepts, which when learned, are applicable to all areas of your dogs’ life. These concepts are: • Flexibility – to help your dog face situations in different ways. Having a choice of ways to respond in situations and life in general. • Focus – the ability to pay attention. • Thinking in Arousal – to be able to ‘keep his head’ when things get exciting or scary. • Optimism – so that new things equates to good things. This builds confidence. • Calmness – to allow your dog to ‘wind-down’ and relax. A calm dog is also able to ‘switch up and down’ to meet the requirements of the situation. • Generalisation – the ability to transfer learning from one situation to other situations. • Grit – the ability to ‘stick-in’ when things get hard. This results in a dog who doesn’t give-up when he doesn’t get it right the first time. • Tolerance of Frustration – this allows a dog to be able to deal with unpredictability in life and to have self-control. • Thinkers and Doers – this relates to the way dogs make choices. Thinkers tend to exhibit more caution in their decision-making. They tend to stand back and may be more hesitant. Doers on the other hand are likely to be more impulsive and jump into decision making without much thought. They are more likely to be hasty. Knowing the natural ‘style’ of your dog means that you can adapt your training to suit, and to get more balance in the dog’s decision-making process if they are at either extreme. Why teach concepts as opposed to behaviours? Everything a dog learns changes it’s brain in some way. When we teach a behaviour, this is what a dog learns. When we teach different concepts, we have more scope to change our dog’s brain. The concepts a dog learns help to shape their ‘personality’, or how they respond to life. What do I mean by this? When we teach a specific behaviour, it has no ‘relationship’ or commonality to any other behaviour. So, for example, your dog could learn a ‘sit’ but that bears no relationship to a ‘down’ in your dog’s brain. We may be able to build a big repertoire of behaviours in our dogs, but they are learned as separate, discrete behaviours that aren’t really in any way connected unless we teach a behaviour chain. This means that teaching a ‘sit’ doesn’t really help your dog when it comes to him learning a ‘stand’ or a ‘down’ or a ‘stay’. And all that a behaviour chain means is that your dog has learned a ‘sequence’ of isolated behaviours that ‘happen one after the other’. Learning a behaviour creates a neural pathway in your dog’s brain. The more we train this behaviour the stronger this pathway becomes. The stronger it becomes the easier it is to access and the more likely it is to be chosen. Practice makes perfect! Teaching behaviours means that there are lots of neural pathways developing in the dog’s brain. This is a good thing! However, these are all separate pathways with little connections between them, which is not so good. This is illustrated when we are teaching a new behaviour that the dog hasn’t quite got yet. If he’s a bit confused, he’ll start by giving you the behaviour that is most solid, say, a ‘sit’. Then when that doesn’t work, he’ll start throwing his repertoire of behaviours at you – all unconnected, but what he’s doing is trying the different neural behaviour pathways in his brain to see which one fits with what you want. Unfortunately, when you’re teaching a new behaviour, none of these previously learned behaviours are likely to be what you want! When we teach concepts, what happens is that, as your dog starts to learn the different concepts and the commonalities between them, connections occur. For example, when we are working on Tolerance for Frustration part of this is having to be calmer. To learn focus and attention, your dog must experience calmness. So, there is some sort of commonality between the concepts which means that connections are made in the brain that ‘link up’ the concepts in a network rather than just the separate pathways that happen when we teach behaviours. When we have a ‘network’ our choices are greater which enhances flexibility, so this initial linking between a few concepts opens the possibility of more choice, and more choice means more connections, and this expands the network. So, Games-Based training grows your dog’s brain in a way that develops networks of connections that allows him to make choices that are more likely to be appropriate, rather than just engaging in behaviours that are limited to choosing a particular, separate pathway. Game-Based training results in ‘a dog who is ready for life’.