Born Free Master Elements: Part 1 Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind

With school back in session, we thought now would be a great time to introduce Born Free Master Elements — a three-part series where we share our favorite ways to exercise the minds of our naturally intelligent, free-spirited canine companions.

Obedience: The Basics

Obedience training is a great place to start. But before you enroll your dog in obedience classes or create a training regime of your own, take a look at what beginning obedience training entails.

First, ask yourself if you’re training a puppy or a dog. Next, what is your dog’s breed? With those two things in mind, consider breaking down basic training into the following categories:

  • House and crate training
  • Leash training
  • Socialization

For more information on these training categories, check out TheSprucePets article on how to train your dog.


A dog’s ability to stay in one place is the basis for graduating to more complicated tricks and behaviors. The basis for staying, however, is knowing how to sit still. When you start training, be sure to choose an environment that’s relatively free of distractions. You’ll also want to have several small, healthy treats to use as rewards for when your dog follows your commands. This seemingly simple behavior of Sit actually has a few steps. We recommend this illustrated “How to” article on teaching a dog to sit.

Introducing new toys

When you bring a new toy home, your dog will likely investigate it by sniffing, licking and possibly—but hopefully not—scent-marking it. Some dogs prefer a little quality time alone before giving a new toy their seal of approval. Eventually, though, you’ll know if the toy is “two paws up” or “two paws down.”

Practice playtime — and end of playtime. Reward your dog with engagement and praise when they are choosing the right items to play with, at the right times and with the right level of rowdiness. Teach your dog to end playtime as well — putting a toy away, going inside and settling down.

Clicker training

Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement using a consistent, reproducible signal — a clicker — that indicates to a dog that it’s about to get a reward.

Whether you use a clicker, a mouth-click, or some other reproducible sound, the technique is the same—as soon as your dog performs a certain preferred behavior, make the clicking sound and give her a treat. After you do this several times, she’ll understand that doing the preferred behavior makes the click happen and the food appear. Eventually, you won’t need to use a clicker in order to get your dog to do something desirable. Did you like this article? Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of Born Free Master Elements.