THE IMPORTANCE OF Toys & PLAYING with your Dog
Whoever said "a family that plays together stays together" could perfectly get his inspiration from the relations that join a dog and its owner. Playing is the foundation of a healthy relation between them. Playing together can increase the respect and understanding between them and helps keeping dogs under control.
Despite this, only few dog owners take a real advantage out of playing with their dogs. In fact, they don't even teach their dogs to play properly: having a lot of fun, but always under control. Some of them think that "playing with the dog" means to get on all fours and roll around with it; which they both would really enjoy for sure, but this may not be an educational activity for the dog.
Dogs use playing to practice the social rules that apply in real life. Rolling with your dog may be really funny, but this teaches dogs to jump on people that are lying on the floor. Imagine what would happen if a boy falls from the swing and your dog instantly jumps on him. We should not let them learn, while playing, conducts that might be misunderstood in some other context or when you are not there to control the dog.
PROBLEMS WITH Dog TOYS
Using toys is a great way of having fun playing, but always keeping the dog under control at the same time. However, some dog owners have problems using them for two reasons that are very different from each other: their dogs are not interested at all in the toys or they are so interested in them that they won't give the toys back.
The toys may not interest your dog because of its breed or because of previous experiences. The Chihuahuas for example, lack the same instincts that make other dogs chase the objects their owners throw to them and bring them back. On the other hand, a born retriever as the Labrador can reject them if the bad experiences had taught them to associate them with physical pain or punishments.
The obsession for toys is a more frequent problem. It happens a lot when a dog finds out that its good physical shape let it defeat its owner; once thrown the toy it can be fun, but to keep it and not give it back no matter how insistently the owner asks... well, that is a really great experience.
Don't fall into the temptation of accepting this behavior because correcting it will improve your relations with the dog. It is convenient to insist to be able to enjoy long hours of healthy playing with different toys.
TEACHING THE DOG TO PLAY
It is relatively easy to teach the dog to play with toys.
- Choose a toy that is especially attractive for a dog, as a puppet or an old sock.
- Leave it on the floor or wave it in the air in front of the dog. It will normally get immediately closer to smell the toy.
- As soon as the dog touches the object, emit the chosen approval sign or make a training clicker sound and give the dog a treat.
- Repeat the exercise until the dog touches the toy with the snout to get the approval sign and the reward.
- Now wait. When the dog finds out that touching the toy is no longer useful to get the approval and the reward, it may try to do something more explicit as taking it in its mouth. Be patient. As soon as the dog gets they dog in its mouth, approval sign and reward.
"RETRIEVING" TOYS FOR YOU
You dog may know how fun it is to chase and hunt the toys, but prefers to keep them instead of giving them back to you. In this case, you can use an infallible magic trick: the double toy. First of all, you should buy two identical toys that will be attractive for your dog.
- Take the two of them to the garden. Throw one of them and let the dog play with it for a couple of minutes. Now, call it. If the dog comes back without the toy, take the other and throw it up many times making a lot of noise, but not paying attention to the dog.
- Dogs normally answer immediately to see what is going on, dropping the other toy. Emit you approval sign (like "yes") as soon as the dog comes to you and then throw the second toy. Then pick the first one and repeat the exercise. In this way, you will always be in the possession of one of the toys.
- Be more demanding with the dog every time before emitting the approval sign and throwing the toy you have in your power. You can for example, ask the dog to drop the fist toy at your feet, or to approach it to your hand without dropping it as a condition to take and throw the second one.
Your dog won't take too long to retrieve toys for you and give them to you in the best of the moods.