K9 Corner, Feb. 5; Teaching better games to play with dogs 

Published 4:34 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2018


A reader called and asked that I repeat a column I wrote a long time ago on visitors playing with your pets. After scanning the files, I think I have the requested one, dated Oct. 23, 1995.

Well-meaning friends and family members that just want to play and pay attention to the family pet can court disaster. An example would be a young visitor at my house who fell in love with my very young border collie pup. This canine youngster was the size and shape of an animated stuffed toy. The wiggly soft furry body and the quick lick of the tongue inspired the visitor to slip down to the kitchen each morning and steal the puppy away from her bed and into the guest room.

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When I realized what was going on, I warned the young woman that she had better give the pup bathroom privileges before taking her upstairs. The warning fell on deaf ears until one morning when I was informed that the pup was no longer welcome to snuggle in bed. 

“Oh,” I said, “So she finally wet the bed?” 

The answer, a sheepish “Yes.”

Then there are young family members who think that games like “tug- of-war” and “chase” are so much fun. Soon, the owners turn up at an obedience school asking what can be done for their biting dog and how come such a sweet puppy turned into a snapping rowdy that is constantly begging for more attention.

Tug-of- war can be a dangerous game to play with any dog as it teaches the animal to use its teeth. When the pup releases its grip and grabs for a better hold, you are encouraging it to snap at the rope or tug-of-war chew-toy. 

The snapping can include the hand or arm that holds the toy. It is allright for pups to play this game among themselves, but only experienced trainers should try this and even they should have a reason for doing so.

The game of chase stimulates the pup to follow the moving object. Unfortunately, it encourages snapping and biting as the pup loses its self-control and lets the primitive instincts of pre-biting to take hold. Children should be cautioned about playing chase with any dog.

Another game that adults seem to like to play with pups is “growl.” This is played by staring at the pup and growling at him. If the pup is the least bit dominant, it will growl back. Played often enough, the pup will start jumping up on the growler and snapping.

This brings up another bad habit that is inadvertently taught during playtime, that of slapping the thigh or patting the chest, encouraging the pup to jump up on the person.

Every one of these responses is difficult to erase once it has become a habit. Try to teach your children and your visitors better games to play such as retrieving a ball or squeaky toy or playing hide and seek.