As we, a country of home-bound dog POGs, do our patriotic duty while trying to stay sane, I offer an easy game for you to play with your dog that will occupy you for just a few minutes at first, but it may well become an addiction that will consume long stretches of your days. …She said from personal experience.

It’s called the 5-Minute Spy, which gives you an idea of how long it lasts at first. I introduced it in my second book, I’ve Never Had a Dog Like This! as part of my five-step plan to help POGs better understand their “problem” dogs and ultimately rid themselves of those “unfixable” issues they keep running into.

Though it’s included in a “problem-solving” book, this little game is a mighty tool for any POG. All of us would be thrilled to know more about the inner workings of our precious pooches, yes? The more we know, the better we can communicate. The better we communicate, the less we misunderstand, get frustrated by, and react inappropriately to, each other. (I’m talking dogs and POGs here, folks.)

One of the best ways to learn about anything is to first simply observe — quietly watch what is happening, look for patterns, causes/effects — and see what conclusions you can draw from what you see. Spend some time quietly observing your dog as she goes about her day, and you might be astonished by what you discover. Even if you think you know your dog, there is almost always something more to learn that can strengthen your bond. I am still observing my own dog, Tawny (as of this writing, around 18 years old), and learning new things about her. What a great prize I keep winning — new information about my wonderful girl! And what a great prize she keeps winning — she expends much less energy trying to tell me what she wants and needs. (Helpful at any age; especially helpful when you are a super-senior dog!)

Want to give the 5-Minute Spy a try? This excerpt from my book breaks it down for you. Enjoy!

5-minute spy

When your dog is up and about (i.e. not laying around/sleeping), devote five minutes to surreptitiously observing his actions. Pretend you are Jane Goodall watching the chimps at Gombe. (Look it up.) Peek out of the corner of your eye — no staring! No talking! Do not engage with her in any way. Just watch.

Notice: How her body language changes as she goes from one activity to the next. Watch for subtle changes in eyes, ears, mouth, tail, posture. Listen for breathing changes as he sniffs or looks at different things, and what he does after sniffing/looking. These things can be used by you to start predicting her behavior as your observational skills develop.

Also notice: How many wonderful, appropriate things he is doing during these five minutes that he probably never gets credit for. In other words, realize that your dog Behaves very well a lot of — if not most of — the time, but you may not notice or tell her you like that because you are so focused on “correcting bad Behavior.”

See how much you can learn in five minutes? How fun is that?


Note: If you feel unsure about reading body language, my book also includes a short and sweet primer of what to look for and how to interpret it. See for more.