Dog Training's Quick Fix: The Peek-a-Boo Solution

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Meet Tictoc, the Tibetan Terrier. His favorite morning activity is bark-at-Mommy at-the-breakfast table. Yelling, shoving or locking him in the crate have only given him the nickname “Our little rapper!”. Tictoc has a lot in common with the neighbor’s three-year-old toddler, William, who shouts “NO TECH” whenever his Mommy pauses playtime to answer a text.

Across the street lives Bumper the border collie-mix who’s notorious for using her stealthy underarm nose-jab to send yet another coffee cup flying. Bumper lives with Sadie, her favorite diaper-clad human who tops the morning coffee upheaval with her spoon-fling off the highchair maneuver!   

What do these kids have in common? They all want attention—negative or positive, it doesn’t matter. React to it, and you’ll be guaranteed a repeat performance. Parents of any species can relate: unconditional love isn’t always easy. 

What if we could instantly get rid of all these aggravating, attention-getting behaviors and find a solution that doesn't raise your blood pressure?

You’d be up for that, right?

I’ve discovered something my clients are raving about, and it seems to be working with my kids too.  The move—what I call the Peekaboo solution—is a fun spin on a recent scientific discovery that found dogs, like kids, not only learn fastest through simple cause and effect routines, they instinctively watch our face for support and direction. 


Though I’m often touted and introduced as the best selling author of many dog books, including my most recent book Modern Dog Parenting, as well as a blogger, media spokesperson and dog expertI am first, foremost and most proudly a mom. In my multi-species household, I care for everything from kids and dogs, to cats, rats, rabbits and a frog. Finding fun solutions that help both my clients and myself encourage good behavior quickly and calmly is a top priority. When I discover a new and fun approach—well that’s something I want to share!  


Kids love peek-a-boo, and dogs do too. Start playing it just for fun with a handful of your dog’s favorite snacks! Take a treat, cover your eyes and say Peek-a-boo! Hold your hands over your eyes and wait -yes wait- until your dog sits or lays down. The first few times this may take a few minutes: some dogs will bark, others jump, nip or walk away. Keep your face covered for as long as it takes for your dog to settle down, then drop them instantly, praise your dog and give them a reward. To speed the learning up play this with a portion of their meal or favorite toy. Try to avoid saying sit or down: just let them come to their own conclusion. See how fast they learn to play!

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Now it’s time to implement it with all those annoying attention getting routines. I’ll let you work & play around with your two-legged children in your own way, but if your fur-kid is getting your goat by barking at you, nipping at your heels, nosing, pawing or stealing your napkin, try playing peek-a-boo instead of chasing, yelling, isolating or hitting him.

1)  Teach your dog peek-a-boo as outlined above. Once he’s got it down cold, phase off treat rewards by mixing in happy talk, toy, tug or chase games in place of food!

2)  Next, pick one attention-getting behavior that frustrates you; just one to start.

3)  Ask yourself, in this instance: What should my dog to do instead?  Some options might be to sit, grab their toy, or chew a bone.

4)  Teach them a word to indicate these happy routines, making toys and easily accessible.  Say “Basket”, “Bone” or “Toy” as you take your dog to his collection and point out the object.

5)  The next time your dog is acting up, play peekaboo! Freeze wherever you are and cover your eyes. Don’t move or say a word. If your dog gets worse (something the pros call an extinguish burst), ignore him 100%, even if you need to walk out of the room for a couple of minutes.

6)  Of course, you can peek through the crevices of your fingers but don’t put your hands down until your dog settles down.

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7)  When your dog stops, direct him to the option you chose in step #3.

Remember, as you play that, what your dog wants more than anything is face time. And isn't that the highest compliment anyone could ever give you. Try to have fun with it: cherry-pick the routines you can live with and dote on you baby each time she offers one up. Trust me; this works. The key is to make it fun!

Sarah Hodgson