FE410: Stir Crazy - Games for Small Spaces & Indoors

Instructor: Donna Hill

Course Details

Does your dog drive you bananas on those indoor winter days? Do you have a small space that just doesn't seem big enough to occupy your dog? Then join us as we discuss some fun ways to burn off both mental and physical energy and learn skills you and your dog will need once you spring rolls around and you can practice your sport! 
While playing, you will both practice foundations skills and concepts you’ll need in dog sports the rest of the year: impulse control, directionals (left and right), recalls, send aways, adding distance, and generalizing the nose touch and push. Also front and rear crosses for agility and frestyle. Your dog will learn to do behaviors both when moving towards you and while moving away, and he will be introduced to some overall body awareness. Meanwhile, you will learn some shaping techniques, how to break the games into small achievable pieces, how to put them all together, and how to build complexity in the games. 
Gold students can foucs on one type of game or dabble in both and will post videos as they progress. Some homework quiestions focus on your own situation and dog's preferences and abilities.

I call them "cone games" and non-retrieving "ball games".

This class will be especially good for building confidence in fearful and sensitive dogs, and it's ideal for dogs too young to jump, those with joint issues, and older dogs who might struggle with pain. 
List of some of the Games:
3 Body Awareness Games
Around We Go!
A Cone and a Chair
Star Crossed
Parachute Recalls
This Way and That
9 ball games including
Ball Edge Game
Cheater! Cheater!
Dog Dominos
Clown College
Nose Strike!
Ping Pong
Check out the trailer!


Here is FDSA student Cat Morgans' video of what she accomplished with her two Schnauzers Pixie and Lola. 
This was her very first Fenzi class. Didn't they all do well?



There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.

Registration begins at 10:00 AM PST.

Enrollment limits: Gold: 10 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited. If you are interested in bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.

For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.


Lecture 1 Positive Reinforcement Training Tips for Games
Lecture 2 Chair, Box and Cone Games to Develop Body Awareness
Lecture 3 Stimulus Control (i.e. Impulse Control for Cues)

Game Foundation Skill: 
 Teaching Move Around an Object: Luring, Shaping, Adding Distance
Game Foundation Skill: Directionals: Many Different Ways to teach and generalize left and right
Game Foundation Skill: Nose Touch and Push

Lecture 6
 Chaining Behaviors
Cone Games Level 1:  A Cone and a Chair
Cone Games Level 2: Lop de Loop, Basic Game, Straight Around, Front and Rear Cross
Cone Games Level 3: The Parachute Game
Cone Games Level 4:  This Way and That, Coming Towards and Moving Away From You
Cone Games Level 5: Spiral
Cone Games Level 6: Mazes: Advanced Directional Skills
Ball Games Level 1: Pushing Balls of all sizes
Ball Games Level 2: Ball Edge Game, Ping Pong, Bouncing Ping Pong
Ball Games Level 3: Bowling, Nose Strike, Cheater! Cheater!
Lecture 7 Counter Conditioning, Desensitization and Operant Conditioning for Fearful Dogs
Lecture 8 Using Games in Therapy Settings
Lecture 9 Developing Creativity in Games

There are two types of games:

-Directional games with objects (cones, boxes, chairs or what have you) sending and calling the dog in a variety of patterns and through mazes
-Non-retrieving ball games: Nose pushing games -- pushing a small ball to knock over pins (bowling), volleyball-like game, etc. 
-Combination games for the really advanced dogs (nose pushing a ball through a maze)

Both game types can be used by therapy dogs visiting schools and care homes as a great way to engage the kids, adults, and seniors alike. Freestylers will want to try these as new ideas to add to their repertoire. Those playing agility need the directionals, distance, and front and rear crosses, as well as general handling skills learned while playing the games.  
The main skills a dog learns from these games are: 
  • moving around an object
  • working at a distance from handler
  • learning and using directional cues (left and right) and generalizing to different behaviors
  • cue discrimination 
  • chaining behaviors
  • shaping behaviors
  • body awareness (not knock the cones over)
  • learning to be sent away from handler while doing cues
  • learning to move towards the handler while doing cues
  • front cross (for agility and freestyle)
  • rear cross (for agility and freestyle)
  • generalizing cones/objects as a concept (that many different games may be played with them)
  • stimulus control over behaviors cued near the cones
  • distraction training (food and toys)
  • learning how to control environment (making noises)
  • impulse control 

Prerequisites and Equipment

Eager closed-mouth nose touch on the palm of your hand -- ideally on other objects held in hand and away from handler such as a nose touch to a door. 
It will speed your progress if your dog can already be sent around an object at least 3 feet away from you on verbal cue and/or hand or arm signal.
Basic recall at 20 feet (in the house or yard)
It helps if your dog can 'wait' and 'back up' but not mandatory




-at least 16 (ideally up to 25) freestanding objects 8 inches or taller (traffic or kids soccer cones, boxes, chairs, plant pots, buckets, plastic milk jugs, etc.) ideally all similar size and shape, but can mix and match as needed.
-deck of playing cards
-carpeted flooring, large floor mat or rubber-backed mats for slick floors to prevent slipping during running corners
-large thick towel
-large plastic child's toy car
-two smallish boxes, pots or bowls the same size (size depends on your throwing accuracy -- the poorer your aim, the larger the container)

-cardboard box, tunnel or child's play house large enough for your dog to comfortably run through 
-green painter's tape
-medium ball (6-12 inch diameter for medium dog, smaller for small dog, bigger for big dog). Check garage sales and second hand stores. A beach ball is too light (unes you have a fearful dog then we use this to start with). A small basketball is ideal for a medium-sized dog. 
-at least 6 objects that are too large for your dog to chew that can be knocked over (kids plastic bowling pins, plastic piggy banks, small vertical boxes, plastic plant pots, 2 quart pop bottles, freestanding dog toys like Kongs etc)
-for fearful dogs:-a variety of different objects that can be knocked over, from light ones to noisy ones
-different floor surfaces (from carpet to wood) and a sheet of metal
-clicker (optional) -can use verbal marker too
-many soft small training treats per training sessions suitable for indoor (low level) distractions (real meat or cheese, or for highly food-motivated dogs Cheerios.)

-toys (tug, balls, soft toys to toss)
-treat pouch

Course Testimonials


I enrolled in the stir crazy course, It was so much fun and very comfortable to attend a class in the comfort of my home. I looked forward to each lesson. Jill B            

This is my 4th Donna Hill class. Obviously I am a fan. Through her classes I am learning how to train, how to break down behaviors in small pieces and how to make it fun. Our 3-year-old Aussie has some reactivity and arousal issues. Working on the behaviors in Donna’s classes, she has learned to focus and perhaps has learned that training is more fun than barking. I believe the games we have worked on in this Stir Crazy class have made her much more connected to us. She watches us closely and often tries to initiate play or training. She actually gets tired from the mental exercise and clearly loves it. She has learned to go backwards up the stairs (Targeting class), has learned the difference between left and right, and runs cone exercises with enthusiasm. And all the exercises and training methods can apply to more formal obedience or other sports. Donna has wonderful lecture materials. She has worked hard to make her many videos easy to follow. Her responses are quick and detailed. I certainly plan to take more classes from Donna in the future. Sandy H            

If you have an older dog that is no longer able to get and be athletic, but you want to continue working with her by teaching new behaviors, this is a great class. If you have a new or young dog with whom you want to develop a working relationship, this is a great class. If you are house-bound because of miserable weather -- hot, cold, wet, whatever -- and need to give your dog training time indoors, this is a great class. If you want to begin developing a working relationship with your dog without the pressure of competition expectations, this is a great class. You'll find a decent variety of games, and clear instructions. (Signed) Marcia B.             

Thanks Donna for a great course. Looking forward to more courses with you.         

In the Stir Crazy class we had fun learning new skills and using old skills in new ways. It is exactly what we needed. This was a super class! Thank you Donna for a great 6 weeks! Tracy R.               

Donna Hill is one of the best instructors ever!!! She provides great recommendations, helpful suggestions when folks have problems, her analysis is detailed and clear. I love Donna Hill's courses!            

Donna Hill (along with Lucy and Jessie) provide exceptional lecture and video materials - they are always clear, easy to follow, and have all the detail needed to get from nothing to a final polished behavior.             

We had such fun playing all of Donna's games - this is a great course - the dogs and I have loved every minute of it.