Game Building

Ivan Balabanov has a “line building” diagram that really helped me understand the way to develop game play. It has forever changed the way I see the process. I will try to take the basic concept and show you how I interpreted it.

Building a game, is like laying an electrical cable!

Building the game is making a circuit. Gotta have enough cable to get from the battery to the light. And gotta have enough juice to light the bulb. In this analogy, Juice is drive for the game. If they don’t put energy into the game….. It won’t work. If the dog isn’t super into the game, you can’t use it for the really deep work. Gotta have enough “juice” to make the game “light up”.

The other part of this analogy, is….. distance= time. In all training, you need your dog’s attention for some period of time. In some trials. It’s only like 8 minutes. In some…. It’s like 30! In life….. May only be a minute or two that you need captivate your dog….. But…. you have got to do the work to lay the cable.

And THAT is the analogy!

But….. How?!?!?!

Goal number 1:

Build the line! Make the actual circuit.


The drive of the dog is the battery. The engagement of the dog with you is the current in the line. The game itself is the line. The beauty of the game is the light!

Be able to captivate your dog’s interest in the game. Captivate them UNBROKEN for 15 minutes!

If they won’t play, it’s like not having enough juice to light the bulb. If they will play for 3 minutes…. It’s like there’s enough juice to light it at 5 feet, but not 100!

Get the dog into the game!!!!

Unbroken engagement for 15 minutes. Goal number one.


Goal Number 2:

Break the line!!!!!

This is where it changes from a game of just relationship building, biological fulfillment, and stress relief….. and turns into the driving force behind actual work! In order for that to happen…. the current in the line has to be strong enough to jump the gap!!!!


If the current is strong enough, it will jump the gap and STILL light the bulb! The “circuit” will survive the breaks.

The first break is just stopping the game. It’s the “Out” in toy play. The “Easy” in personal play. Etc….  No matter which game….. The stopping is only for a moment. Just a very small gap. Once you’re sure the circuit can survive…. start increasing the gap. Making them wait. Asking for obedience, etc…. The stronger the current, the bigger the gap it’ll jump! If your light is “flickering”….. the gap was too big. Back up, and get them back in the game.

So, build the line. Then, break the line! All while the game survives!!!!!


Goal Number 3:

Test the connection!!!

This is where the real magic happens. Obviously…. the gaps, or breaks in the game are the first test. But, you can even further test the connection. Seeing if the current jumps to another thing! Set up distractions!!! Anywhere from other more distracting environments, to other dogs. Hell, you can use other decoys TRYING to bait your dog away!!!!!

If your current (engagement)  is weak, and the other conductor (distraction) is too close….. Your juice will jump and connect with the wrong thing!. Or, you’ll just lose energy to the other things, and not have enough juice to light up YOUR game bright enough.


If your connection or engagement is strong….. It will remain unbroken in spite of the other potential connections.


OK…. Lets recap:

1- Build the “line” that is the game!

2- Break the line, but not the game! The current should survive.

3- Test the connection! If the connection is strong, the current will flow no matter how many other opportunities exist, or how big the gaps are.


Keep that in mind, and you will always know what you should be working on when you start a session!


For more mind blowing ideas like this one…..

Check out Ivan’s site:

Comments 2

  1. Brian

    My dog will play fetch till she falls over, tug till her teth fall out and pull till the path ends. However she is reluctant to engauge in play with most other dogs. From what I can surmise she holds back for fear of getting to competitive and what could be fun turning into a fight.
    Any input is appreciated
    -Thanks, B

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