The Games

Pattern Games by Leslie McDevitt

Pattern Games are a predictable pattern your dog can rely on when something in their environment has changed and either frightened them or made them excited.  These games can be found on DVD at Twazer Dog's website and are an excellent addition to any library for dog owners.  Pattern Games are designed to build confidence and focus in your dog.


A trigger is something that frightens or excites your dog.  It can be a blowing leaf, a person, another dog or anything that makes your dog fearful or react by barking.

The Games

Up/Down Game

The Up/Down game is designed to get the dog focused on the handler so that the trigger that just appeared in their environment is not as frightening or exciting as it could be.  The game is played by placing a treat directly on the ground between the owner and the dog while the dog is facing the owner.  When the dog takes the treat and starts to lift it's chin the owner should either click (if using a clicker) or say "yes" or "yip" (if using a marker word) and place the next treat in the same place.  The faster this game is played the more focused the dog becomes.  Over time the owner should click or mark the chin coming up higher until the dog is looking up at them.  Once the dog is looking up at them they should then click or mark the dog looking up.

Once the dog has visibly relaxed the owner can transition into another game such as Look At That (LAT) or 1-2-3 Treat to help the dog build confidence with the trigger.  This game is best played if there is more than one trigger, a trigger appeared without warning and the dog needs to be quickly calmed or to introduce a dog to a new area or trigger when the dog is clearly stressed and worried.

Look At That (LAT)

LAT is played by having the dog look at the trigger and then either clicking or marking the second the dog sees the trigger.  This game must be played when the dog is able to take a treat and stay calm enough to think.  If the dog cannot do that the dog must be given more space and then the game can be played.  At first the dog may not be able to look away from the trigger, just give a treat to the dog anyway and continue to click or mark the dog looking at the trigger.  If the dog, after two or three treats cannot stop staring, move the dog further away from the trigger and try again.  The game should become a dance between the dog and the trigger; the dog looks at the trigger, there is a click or mark for looking, the dog looks back to the owner for their treat and after getting the treat looks back to the trigger.  If this is happening you are at the right distance and the dog can learn and process the trigger.

If the dog twitches an ear, makes only eye movements or very tiny head movements without looking at the trigger, congratulations you have changed your dog's emotional response to the trigger and the dog is no longer worried about it.  Praise your dog and end the game.

Jumping the Click

Your dog may look at the trigger and back to you so fast you can't click or mark the look.  This is excellent, your dog is feeling better about the trigger and is jumping the click by looking back before it.  Click or mark the dog for looking back now instead of looking at the trigger.  You are now telling the dog, "yes it is there, but you can check in with me to see if you are safe."  This is the stage where you can click two to five times more and either walk away from the trigger with your dog or take a wide arch around your trigger and keep distance between your dog and the trigger itself.

1-2-3 Treat

1-2-3 Treat is played by having a set pattern of steps before your dog gets a treat to help your dog process the trigger while moving.  The rhythm should be 1 step 2 step and treat on the 3rd step.  You can, if you desire, count out loud so your dog starts to anticipate the treat after you say 2.  If your dog is not doing well with 1-2-3 Treat you can do 1-2 Treat or even 1 Treat to help your dog past a sticky point in your walks.  This game is designed to help the dog continue despite a frightening or exciting thing has come into their environment.  As your dog improves you can extend the steps between treats and slowly fade the treats that way.  Do not rush your dog - if your dog has a setback it is because you accidentally went to fast.