Power of Play


Power of play - Harry playing with frisbee

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.

Simple Games

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.

Harry dog tug-toy 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.

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About RobertFairhead.com

About RobertFairhead.com

Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of Robert Fairhead. A writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, Robert also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media, and he's published several collections of short stories. Please contact Robert for further details.