An important – and often forgotten – part of training is the role of games within the boundaries of your relationship with your pet.
Play in the form of interactive games encourages good behavior by stimulating your dog's mind. Exercise tires them out, too and allows them to feel as if they have accomplished something in their day. In other words, it relieves boredom. Additionally, proper play allows your furry companion to practice their social skills.
How do I teach my dog to play?
Oftentimes owners engage their cute little puppies in games that encourage biting, chasing, and jumping. These are all behaviors that we discourage once that cute little puppy grows into an adult – especially if your dog happens to be one of the larger breeds.
Avoid over-stimulation and competition – You may say that the whole point of a game is to compete, which may be true in the human world, but will only cause problems with your pet. For instance, dangling a toy above your dog’s head and teasing them may seem like good clean fun; but when they are pulling the tablecloth off of the table or snatching Teddy from your child’s tearful grip, it’s no longer fun. In fact, it could be downright dangerous.
Do not use your body as a toy – Don’t wrestle with your dog or drop to your hands and knees and act like a dog. These types of games lower your standing from leader to equal and may affect obedience training. Additionally, these games encourage both barking and biting – characteristics that you should discourage. Toys that are acceptable include chew toys and interactive toys. Chew toys, such as that rubber hamburger, will redirect your dog’s biting instincts from your shoes to a more appropriate outlet. Interactive toys such as balls or tug toys are those that they play with you. While your dog may keep their chew toys, you should always be in control of the interactive toys. Do not let interactive toys turn into chew toys.
Use your voice and stance – Squeals and whining emanate the sound of a squeaky toy or a wounded animal, igniting within your dog the urge to attack. Always keep a deep tone of voice and recommend that children and all family members attempt to do the same. When giving commands, tell your dog what you expect; don’t just make requests. Stand tall and look down on your dog to demand respect. If your dog attempts to take something from you, don’t snatch it from them and hold it over your head. This creates a challenge that they are bound to accept, resulting in a jumping, snapping dog. Instead, hold the item close to you, move towards your dog and make eye contact. Say ‘no’ with a deep, matter-of-fact tone.
You make the rules – You determine which games to play. You decide when you will play. Never allow your dog to bark or thrust toys at you. Incorporate commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “fetch” into your games. The reward for good behavior is the opportunity to play the game.
Teaching your dog to play properly is a form of training. Keep it fun but remember to instill some rules, too. And, after the fun is over, you can reward your dog with a special treat or a reward such as a quick walk around the block.