Joe Pup Relay
Each team consists of one dog and four handlers. Two teams compete at a time and the winning team goes through to the next round. Dogs race in individual lanes and run from person to person, performing a different obedience routine with each handler stationed at each of four stations. The exact nature of the routines to be performed at each station is only made known to competitors on the morning of the competition.
I designed the Joe Pup game in 1989 at the request of the owner of Blue Springs Dog Training Center in Colorado to help prepare nervous handlers for competition by teaching them to think quickly under pressure while performing extremely complicated and varied routines. In the original Joe Pup Relay, each handler (plus dog) raced one-at-a-time against the clock. The handler started at Home Plate and raced around a baseball diamond performing a different, recently-learned, complicated obedience routine at each base. The game was an instant success and so I adapted it for use in SIRIUS® puppy classes.
For pet owners, each base represented a virtual reality pet dog training scenario. Starting with their dog in a Sit-Stay on Home Plate, the owner had to run to First Base, which represented a veterinary clinic and the dog had to perform a Sit-Down-Sit-Stand-Down-Stand sequence to prepare him to Down-Stay in the waiting room, Sit on the scale and Stand for examination. Second base represented a Range Rover and the dog had to jump-up on a platform and remain in a Sit-Stay while the owner placed two grocery bags (with dog treats) beside the dog, circled the platform twice singing How Much is That Doggie in the Window (don’t ask me why) and then sit in a chair for ten seconds with their back to the dog. Third base represented the TV room couch and the owner had to lie down on the floor (couch) and then instruct their dog to lie down (so they could see the TV) for a count of five “Good dogs.” Then the owner had to run back to Home Plate, ask their dog to sit and tap him on the head.
In the early 90s we randomized the exercises at each base, by asking each owner in class to teach their dog a new trick or training sequence and to write the routine on a card. All the cards were put in a hat and each competitor would draw three cards for their round. Sometimes they would pick a routine that their dog didn’t know yet. Well, you’re racing against the clock and so… train that do g NOW! We found that this format gave owners lots of confidence and that rather than making excuses for what their dog didn’t know, they just trained their dog on the spot.
By playing Joe Pup in the K9 GAMES format with one dog and four handlers, now the dog’s owner has to learn the pet dog trainer’s role — how to teach other people to handle the dog that you have already trained. This of course prepares families for living with dogs. Dog owners learn how to teach other family members and friends to work with the dog that they have already trained.
To successfully compete in Joe Pup, all you need an ultra-socialized dog, who is perfectly willing to work with a variety of people plus three other people, who can improvise when the pressure’s on. To avoid confusion, only one person should instruct the dog at a time. It is especially important that the owner does not talk when other handlers are working with the dog, otherwise the dog will ignore the handler and run back to his owner.