Why play is so important for your puppy

Play with your puppy – it’s a vital part of training

It’s lovely to see Ounce running around with her cousin Charlie, who is just over a year older than she is.  They had a great time, getting on straight away.  I love that she is able to interact so well with other dogs now – she was a bit anxious around other dogs to start with.

I have already talked about her playing with her family at home and again, it is lovely to see this.  They play tag, and snap-snap and tuggy with a toy – great dog games.

What if you have an only dog though?  How can you replace this interaction?  Some of my puppies go to homes without other dogs and obviously it is important that they do not become bored and frustrated, because this is when problems occur.  A bored collie will become extremely destructive, chewing up furniture and even the walls!  They can also become obsessive, looking for lights to chase, or barking at anything and everything.  Frustrated collies may also become snappy and aggressive, if they feel that they are being ignored.

Collies are not great at coping with challenging situations.  If you start to get stressed or anxious, they will quickly start to freak out.  If you are trying to get one dog in a room and another out of a room, for example, they will easily pick up on your annoyance, or urgency and stop listening to you.  They will then just cower and/or try to get away, which of course is even more annoying! Play is the way to get around these issues. Stop trying to get them to do that thing and have a quick bit of play.  You will then regain their attention and can ask again for the desired behaviour.

If you can meet up with friends with other dogs on a regular basis, so that they have the chance to run around together, then this will be really helpful in giving your dog a chance to interact.

If you struggle to do this, then playing is up to you!  Tuggy games are an easy place to start; you hold one end and the dog holds the other.  You can also play fetch, although watch out for your furniture and valuables if you do this indoors!  You can also play a kind of tag, chasing your dog or running away from them.  Or you can do a bit of rough and tumble, although be careful not to allow biting, even in play.

Whatever you do, the object is to engage your dog’s brain and get them thinking about something.  Once you have their attention, you can intersperse bits of play with bits of training.  Play, command, reward with play.  Repeat.

This is also a great way of distracting your dog.  I have used this with Ounce when I want her not to go chasing off after someone, especially runners and cyclists.  Also when the dreaded fireworks started the other night, I had all the dogs doing a few tricks to help them realise that it was nothing to get excited about.

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