Power of Play
In addition to basic obedience commands, I like to demonstrate the power of play in my dog training classes. But I don’t let the dogs run around and chase each other in mad circles. Instead, I demonstrate with my dog, Harry, how to motivate and reward your dog by playing one-on-one with it.
In my opinion, the power of play is one of the most underrated aspects of dog training and one of the great joys of owning a dog.
Harry and my games are a variation on a simple theme. There’s tug-of-war with a rope tug toy, chasing a ball and bringing it back, and chasing Harry when he’s run off with the tug toy or ball.
Play creates a strong bond between you and your dog. It’s a great “free” reward during training, and it allows you to set behaviour limits. For instance, teaching your dog not to bite during a tug-of-war!
But this raises an important point: Some dogs will use play to assert themselves. Do not play tug-of-war with your dog if you can’t command it to release the tug toy.
Children and Dogs
Furthermore, children should not play with a dog unless an adult has established limits for the dog and children and supervises the play.
At eight-and-half years old, Harry is as playful now as when he was a pup, and the reason is simple: he is rewarded for playing because I enjoy our games. And Harry does, too.
© 2007 Robert Fairhead
This article appeared in the Village Voice Eastern-Harbourside in October 2007. I loved playing games with Harry and did so right up until he passed away, four years after I wrote this article.
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Robert Fairhead is also a writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, and he writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in various print and online media, and he's published three collections of short stories. Please contact Robert for further details.