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You should have fun with your dog

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

In my long-gone obedience classes, I kept reminding the handlers that, “It is important to have fun with your dog. That is the reason you have a dog, isn’t it?”

One owner said that her dog didn’t know how to play. What is the difference between play and having fun?

Checking my library of training books that goes back 40 years or so, I found Patricia Gail Burnham’s book titled “Playtraining Your Dog.” I feel she has an answer for this question as she defines the word “play” as “a spontaneous activity that produces pleasure, creative satisfaction and self-fulfillment.”

Burnham goes on to say that many adults “have not played in so long that they have forgotten how to do it.” She says that children are the best examples of spontaneous play and that parents finally meet their need for play when they join the children. Burnham gives the example of fathers taking over the train set or other toys on Christmas morning. It brings back childhood memories and desires.

How does this coordinate with the family dog? In the first place, teaching dogs to play with humans is easier when they are puppies because, as they grow older, they tend to forget what they instinctively knew in their innocence. Throwing a ball or later a flying disc is a game that exercises the dog and gives pleasure to both human and animal as they interact. Hide and seek is another game. Throw in a treat when the pup finds you and you will have a playmate for life.

Tag is a game that dogs will play among themselves. I was keeping a cockapoo (cross breed of cocker spaniel and poodle) pup for a friend and couldn’t wear it out enough so it would sleep through the night. That is, until one of my dogs took over and raced the pup up and down the yard, turning on a dime and leaping over the pup as she went in the opposite direction. The pup finally collapsed and none of us had any trouble sleeping that night.

Burnham feels that human adults consider recreation as play. However, she says “recreation can be tiring and painful.” (She gives the example of mountain climbing.)

I want people to have fun with their dogs. Too many owners think that means working on an obedience title or learning to handle the dog in the show ring. That is more like work than play and most of the time it is not fun unless you plan your quality time with your dog.

I like to see handlers who carry a toy with them to toss to the dog after it has completed a training exercise. Other handlers utilize agility equipment as the fun thing to do at the end of the training session. I find my senior adopted dog has great fun playing with an unstuffed plush toy especially when I pretend I am going to grab it.

Now, go have fun with your dog!