by Catherine Zinsky
Remember when you were a child and you would count to '3' before sprinting off in hopes of outracing your peers? The wait and the count helped build your anxiety, your intensity. It encouraged you to take off with gusto. It also forced you to wait and not take off before the allowed time. Well, incorporating this drive and impulse control is exactly why I love to use the 1-2-3 game in my everyday training. It encourages my dog, makes him want to do whatever we're doing even more so--and it forces him to wait until released. It's a fantastic game that I use over and over, even integrating it with other games I use with my dogs. It's my favorite game, bar none. And it's so simple.
The game goes like this:
Set your dog up for whatever skill or exercise you wish to work on. Before giving a command, build intensity by slowly counting with a tantalizing voice first '1', then '2', then '3'. Pause in-between counts. Entice with your pace and your tone. After the count of 3, release your dog with the command for the skill you're working on--and watch your dog's enthusiasm grow!
It's important to remember that should your dog break BEFORE you give the release command, you start all over again! Do not resume from wherever your dog broke. START ALL OVER AGAIN FROM THE COUNT OF '1'.
(My Cattle Dog, Derby, used to get so frustrated with me at times when I played this game with her. If she would start before I gave a command and I let her know that she had cheated, she would bark and bark at me, letting me know that I had to get on with it! Loved that dog. And she dearly loved this game!)
And remember: this is a game. When playing this game the only correction my dog gets is when my dog breaks the stay before I send him, and then I only let him know that he's screwed up. I want him to know he's made a mistake, but that it's not the end of the world. No big deal. I want my dog to grow through success, not be beaten into submission. That's the true purpose of these games: to help a dog succeed and grow and enjoy the process!
This video explains how the game is played and also demonstrates a few of the ways in which I use the 1-2-3 game.