Why does play with your dog really pay off?
Here’s a common problem:
“We’ve had an Irish Wolfhound puppy for 7 months now and he’s a great dog, but we are having trouble with him at the dog park, as many other dogs and people are scared of him because of his size! Do you have any advice about what we should do?”
Teaching good manners
My advice would be: work really, really hard to teach him his manners! He is not allowed to go up to any other dogs or people unless you say so. Mega hard, I know! He is just being friendly and wants to play, but it is not wanted. It’s no good calling out to people “He’s really friendly, it’s fine!” No, it’s not fine. It is your responsibility to manage your dog.
DO NOT CHASE YOUR DOG SHOUTING IN A CROSS VOICE!
The trick is for YOU to be his exciting play mate. Have squeaky toys and lots of treats. Whenever you see someone else, it’s playtime! Engage him with you, chasing, playing, tugging, being really fun. You must be better than anything else! Then he will look at you, not at what is going by.
Then he won’t want to rush off and you won’t be calling/chasing after him. If he starts to go – turn and leg it in the other direction, shrieking wildly! Idiotic I know, but it works. Eventually he won’t be bouncing up to others and once you’ve rewarded him for not doing that, he can politely say hello. It’s not easy!
As puppies grow and mature, they become worse before they get better! He’ll be going through a bit of a rebellious stage soon, so training will go backwards! But if you persist, you should get a dog who knows his manners and can be enjoyed by everyone.
Play – what does that mean?
Here’s a short demonstration of me playing with Ounce:
This is demonstrating ‘engagement’. Ounce is totally focused on me and the game of tuggy. The reason I am patting her sides and touching her is to reinforce this process further. I am making sure that she is working hard on the game and is not easily put off.
Dogs do not automatically do play like this, necessarily. Some dogs are really tenacious and will tug a toy really happily. But many will be easily distracted. The more you play with them though, the better their focus will be on you and the game.
Why bother to play?
When your dog knows that you are exciting and rewarding, you can then teach them to do something far more easily. They want the end reward, so they will work harder to get it. This means that if you grab their attention and ask for something, they will be much more keen to get it at the end.
Here’s another clip, showing Ounce ‘working’ for the reward:
How brilliant is that? She is excited to be playing the game, because she gets the great reward at the end.
Play is the best distraction
If you want a better behaved dog, you need to have a great reward to hand – play! Of course it’s never quite that simple. As I’ve said, a puppy can still get a bit above itself and ignore even your best efforts. You don’t want to have to go into mega play mode every 5 minutes on walks, so a balance must be maintained between nice calm walking and super fun. But if your dog feels stimulated and excited by you some of the time, they are much more likely to return to you if you need them to,
Ask for help?
You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice. I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues. Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.
Please let me know if you have found this post helpful? More information about training a great recall can be found on the recall training post.
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