Playful Pooches!

by Helen Kay // November 2017

Playful Pooches!


Play is a great way to interact with your dog. It assists in:

  •  Building motivation for reward which you can use in training.

  • Building a bond with you dog.

  • Building confidence with your dog.

  • Is a great source of mental enrichment.

  • Is a great way of exercise.

The first thing to look at is how motivated and toy focused is your dog anyway? Dogs are not born thinking ‘wow.. toys.. great.. lets go...’ WE are mainly responsible for building up that exciting association. So some of it is down to prior learning, though there is no denying that some of it can be spurred on by nature too.. meaning…the character of your dog and sometimes the breed type!

There are so many games to play with your dog including retrieve games, tuggy, hide and seek though remember there are elements of these games we have to teach!

I’m referring to things like teaching your dog to return with the ball rather than running away with it! For these dogs we need to teach them that there is value in returning to you… an identical second toy which becomes much more exciting than the one your dog has just chased and now has in his mouth! YES you may have to retrieve the first ball yourself a few times that your dog spits out as he comes racing back to you for the exciting replica but this is team work in the training stages!!

Once you have this toy exchange retrieve game going it is a great opportunity to reinforce your recall too and here is how!

  • When you have chosen a game that you know your dog will come running back to you for, you can use this as a training opportunity, shout “Rocky, come!!” as he’s running towards you!

  • Once you know that your dog will drop the first (more boring) ball for the second (even better) ball, you can use this as a training opportunity, say “Rocky, leave!” as he drops it!

  • Everyone’s a winner! Your dog learns what “come” and “leave” mean without even trying! There is also lots of opportunity for reinforcement, so use these opportunities and shower your dog with love and praise for getting it right!

Lots of dogs love Tug of War games, but not all of them – here are some pointers for getting the most out of your games!

  • Some dogs LOVE tug games and need little encouragement where as others just don’t see the point!

  • What you need to be aware of is how excited it gets your dog. Have you ever got so excited about something that you have then forgotten to concentrate on anything else because the excitement has taken over?! With our dogs we can manipulate the level of excitement that we create in them by the way that we interact with them… What we want to avoid is getting them so over-excited that they start showing behaviour that we don’t want, such as grabbing, nipping or excessive noise on the occasions when they don’t win the toy!

  • I know that if I play tug of war with my Shepherd dog at home that I will probably have a trip to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder as she is so strong… so I don’t play these games… simple! I use retrieve and search games instead!

  • Interaction and Play with your dog should always be enjoyable for both YOU and your dog!

  • Use it to develop practise your “leave” with your dog. You can introduce swap games using another toy or a tasty treat. I would suggest some “leave“ training before using it whilst playing tuggy and we can show you how on our Dog School courses!

  • Make sure that you use DOG toys which are safe and appropriate. For example, if you use the tie on your dressing gown as a tuggy toy you can hardly be surprised if your dog starts grabbing and tugging on your clothing!

  • DO let your dog win his toy when you play tuggy games. Interactions with your dog are always about bond building, confidence and some training using positive reward based methods!

Interactive play is all about what works for you and your dog! It’s also about spending quality time together and enjoying each others company. Play always needs to be appropriate and how you play with one dog may differ from the next!

Most importantly it needs be safe, and FUN!

If you would like to learn more about training and play interaction with your dog why not join us on our Dog School courses here at Darlington. We use up to date, scientifically proven positive training methods in our classes.

 We also run presentations which explain more about how dogs learn and up to date information on training and understanding your dog.

For more information please contact us

Telephone 01325 331430 or 01325 331431