Belgian Games

Suggestions for brain work, tricks and exercises to do with your dog.

(By M. Tornikoski + other folks on the BELG-L mailing list; some of the ideas originate from the book 'Min bästa vän' by Marie Hansson-Hallgren.
Original version created in 1994, last update: 2001-02-21.
I welcome additions to this collection -- please send email to Merja.Tornikoski@Hut.Fi).

As we all know, Belgian Sheepdogs are active dogs who need lots of exercise, both physical and mental. Most Belgian owners are engaged in various activities with their dogs -- herding, obedience, tracking, SAR, agility (and lure coursing :-) -- but this is a collection of things that you can do with your dog when you don't have the time for 'serious' training, or when your dog already seems to have mastered the 'more serious' things and you just want to have fun with him, or especially if your dog seems bored with all the things that he already knows and spends his spare time barking, chewing etc.

I have divided the exercises into five categories:

  1. Useful Tricks
  2. Silly Pet Tricks or Tricks Just for Fun
  3. Problem Solving
  4. Nose Work
  5. Balance Work

Remember that the tricks are mainly meant to give your dog some meaningful activity -- this means two things:

  1. Don't bore your dog with these tricks, only do them as long as you both are having fun, and when he has mastered one thing, think of something new instead of just repeating the old routines;
  2. Some of them may require lots of time to learn. Don't worry, that's exactly why they are so useful -- in order to master the trick your dog needs to concentrate very much and use his brain! Progress in small steps if needed, and don't forget to reward your dog when he makes progress!
Note added in September 1995 : I have received several requests for some description of methods of succesful training, i.e. how to teach a dog to do these tricks, as opposed to what to teach. This list was initially meant to be a collection of suggestions for new tricks for bored dogs and handlers, but now I have also written a short description of general training methods that I use. It can be read at my not-very-complete dog training page.

Useful Tricks

Have you already put an obedience title on your dog and can't think of any new useful tricks to teach him? Here are some suggestions!

Tricks for Fun

These are not meant to be useful (some of them may be, sometime), but just fun for you and your dog, or maybe for some neighbourhood kids if you want to show them how smart your dog is. I'm pretty sure all dog owners have some special 'silly tricks' that they do with their dogs but maybe never show anyone.

Problem Solving

Nose Work (Scenting)

Dogs love using their noses, and nose work requires lots of concentration --> these exercises are great for hyperactive dogs.

Some people fear that actual tracking is too difficult or time consuming, so here are some less elaborate ways of doing basically the same thing!

Balance Work

Everything that is done in Agility could be listed under this category, but because very few people have the agility equipment at home, this list consists of tricks that can be done without very complicated equipment.
To Merja's Belgian Sheepdog page.

To Merja's own home page .