To dogs, play time is school time.  Just like little boys play “battle” to learn how to protect their future families, little girls play “house” to learn how to care for their future families.  Dogs are no different.  They learn how to follow, how to lead, how to hunt, all from playing.  A lot of people forget to set boundaries on the most impactful area of a dog’s life: playtime.  Some say that playing tug or wrestling is bad for the human-canine relationship.  That’s not true as long as there are boundaries set into place. These exercises are great ways to engage in your dog’s play and can, in fact, be very educational.  Tug can be a great dog training exercise.  With boundaries, tug isn’t a “dominance” game, but a “team” game that can be a very rewarding way to teach commands for both the dog and the human!

Playing fetch is another great “team” sport.  If you have one of those dogs that doesn’t bring the toy back or plays keep away and won’t give you the toy, then YOU have not been a team player.  I know it’s a habit to immediately take the toy away from your dog as soon as he brings it to you, but that teaches your dog you are a ball hog!  The best way for both the dog and the human to enjoy fetch is to let the dog drop the toy on his own accord.  When he brings the toy “back” to you, instead of reaching for the toy, start petting him all over and tell him how great a fetch he did.  After a few seconds, your dog will revel in his glory, wanting to do it all over again, and will drop the toy.  After a few reps, your dog will start to drop the toy faster and faster.  (Don’t forget to continue to praise your dog for great performances!)

Don’t underestimate the value of play time and remember to set boundaries so both of you can enjoy the game!


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