Learning how to Play

Learning how to Play

December 23, 2017

Whole Dog Care

Canine hunting behavior refers to those actions that allow the dog to detect and capture prey. Dogs evolved as hunters in order to survive, and all modern dogs are born with innate predatory instincts. This relates to all dogs: wild dogs, working dogs, sporting dogs, and even purse puppies. These play behaviors mimic the same techniques as those used for hunting.

Not all dogs have the same abilities to hunt and many prefer different aspects of the Hunt/Play. One or more of the Hunt(tracking/stalking/pointing), Chase(herding/driving/retrieving), Attacking,(capture/tug/shake), Celebrating, and Consuming behaviors may have been selectively augmented, enhanced, or inhibited in various breeds throughout the domestication process.

For instance, the Bloodhound has been selectively bred to be an expert tracker and lives for scent and the Hunt. Greyhounds and many of the terriers are excited more to movement than scent and love the Chase and the Attack. Sheepdogs like Australian Shepherds also love the Chase, to herd their wooly charges, but the final Attack sequence has been nearly bred out. Of course, few dogs can Chase, Celebrate or Consume like a Golden Retriever. Regardless, all dogs play using all 5 stages to varying degrees.

Watch your dog – know His/her games – how is your dog play hunting? How can you create a better partnership with your dog in the pretend hunt? Play is an integral part of the human-dog bond and relationship. It fosters both trust and focus.

There is a documented correlation between lack of play and increased behavioral issues with dogs. Play can often correct dysfunctional canine behavioral problems and a lack of play can cause up to 22 different behavioral issues.

Both humans and dogs are two of the few species of on the planet that continue to play well into adulthood. Dogs need to engage in fun activities just like us, in order to keep them both mentally and physically fit. Regular use of the Plaque Monster will not only help with Oral care but can improve your dog’s mental well-being, address behavioral issues, and boost the physical and emotional health of both you and your pet.

The Games


THE HUNT – using his/her nose to find the toy

It is best if your dog has a good stay command and reliable recall in place before you begin but the game can be played using an anchor as well.

Teaching the “find it” command or whatever term you’re going to be calling it is next. Have your dog stay at a given location. While he’s watching, place a stuffable toy with a small treat at the other end of the room. When you give the cue to release your dog tell him to “find it.” After a few repetitions he’ll know what you’re expecting him to do.

Once your dog seems to know “find it” you can step it up a notch. While your dog is in the stay position put the same toy just out of his line of sight.

The idea with this search activity is to gradually build up to new distances and areas. When first starting out, keep the game centered in one or two rooms.  If you’re confident that your dog knows the “find it” command, you can hide a variety of items or even start playing the game outside and increasing your distance.

THE CHASE- playing fetch

Many dogs instinctively understand the game of fetch but on the other hand, many more wonder why you threw away a perfectly good toy or they run after it and refuse to ever give it back – enjoying the game “keep away.”

In order to teach a dog the proper way to play the game of fetch you must first motivate the game of “chase”. Encourage your dog to want the toy, either by baiting it with treats or by playing with it yourself. When your dogs grabs at the toy reward with praise and then take toy away. Repeat this a few times, and then toss the toy a short distance. When your dog goes for it, immediately reward him again. Repeat the process until you can reliably toss the object and get him to chase it.

The next step is to reliably get your dog to retrieve the toy for you. 

There are a number of different things you can do depending on your dog’s behavior. If he won’t bring the object back at all, it can help to toss the toy unbaited and have treats ready in your hand. Once he’s “caught” the first one, show him the treats and throw them in the opposite direction. He probably won’t carry the toy with him, but it will at least get him accustomed to the idea of running back to you after he’s caught the object.

After he masters this, try calling him to come back to you while he’s holding the toy and asking him to drop it. If you show the treats, he’ll likely drop the first one get his reward. Eventually, he will learn that if he comes back to you and drops the toy, you will throw it again.

Avoiding “keep away.”   For dogs that like to catch a toy and run off with it, a leash helps. Once he/she catches the toy, gently reel the lead in and praise when your dog gets close, then toss the toy again and repeat. Do this for a few weeks and your pup should come to you naturally. 

If your dog stops and drops the toy before reaching you, back away while saying “All the way,” or “Bring it.” Once he reaches the spot where you were originally located, go to him and offer praise, then toss the toy again. If the issue is that he won’t let it go, tell him to drop it and put a treat by his nose. Most dogs will drop the it to go for the treat.

Pick something your dog really likes.

THE ATTACK – playing tug

Many people think it’s risky to play tug-of-war with a dog. Tug, when played properly actually avoids dangerous situations and is a great way to practice keeping control over your dog when he becomes excited.

To play tug-of-war safely, always follow these rules:

You begin and end the game – you are in control. Only play if you can get you dog to “drop it” and “sit” at any time. Mix in training breaks of “down” “paw” etc. Restart game as a reward. Every time the toy leaves the dogs mouth, toy immediately goes behind your back, and dog sits; game does not restart until you say “take It.” This avoids dogs lunging for toys and accidental nips. To teach your dog to let go of the tug toy, stop tugging and freeze for a moment. Say, “Thank you,” and with your other hand, waggle a food treat in front of her nose. When she releases the toy to sniff the treat, praise her and ask her to sit. When she sits, praise her again and give her the treat, then waggle the toy and tell her, “Take it.”

Soon, you can ask your pup to release the toy without a treat in your hand. But keep rewarding her for letting go of the toy by immediately telling her, “Good dog, take it,” and giving her back the toy.

CELEBRATING- being able to self-fling the toy around

This is exactly what is sounds like. You do not always have to win. What fun would it be if you never got to win a game? Let you dog win at Tug, let you dog Take the toy some times and just run around, let him or her play “silly buggers” or “zoomies” or whichever pure joy game you are Lucky enough to witness.  This is not the head shaking, thrashing but a gentle tossing of the toy, and running in circles, this is your dog actually just being happy and joyful to be in your presence. Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, and wild dogs all celebrate after a hunt and sometimes just for fun. This usually happens before CONSUMING , but CELEBRATING does not happen every time.

CONSUMING- being able to pull things out of the toy

Tearing things apart is a basic instinct for a meat-eater, but when a dog gets that out of his system by digging breakfast and dinner out of a dispenser, he'll feel less need to shred the furniture. Using a toy food dispenser for your dog’s food satisfies this need, and some even specially designed to help clean teeth at the same time.

Try to make a bonding experience for both of you. Be careful to use non-toxic toys and always be on the lookout for ingestable or broken pieces. Have fun.

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