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Why is dog play, so underused?

How do, my friend.

I was filling out my year planner during January, and started getting really excited about the upcoming year. Once this blasted virus/vaccines or whatever it’s gonna take to get outside again, gets sorted of course.

There’s nothing stopping me having that little bit of hope, is there? So, as I do every year, I started filling it out.

As I messaged to arrange seminars, mapped out what training I’m working on, and all the goals I want to achieve this year with travel, or at the very least some sort of a holiday, I found myself getting more excited about the possibilities.

When did you last get excited about something?

It may have been a very tough year for everyone in the world, but I’m a firm believer in finding the bright side. Looking forwards, not back. Laugh when you want to cry. You get the message.

So… when was it? (Let me know down in the comments, below)

When I thought about when I last got really excited, it did take me a while to process it. Though I knew I find the good in things a lot of the time, I can’t say I go past a happy feeling level. Like I don’t jump up and down, or do the weeeeeeeeee noise. Not like a child would, for example.

They seem to be happy at some point of every day… Every day.

So where did it go? That excitement? That joy? The care-free, happy go luckiness of life.

When did you stop getting overexcited?

Was it when you grew up, because you were told to act your age, not your shoe size?
Was it when you moved out of your parents, and became the ‘responsible’ one of the house?
Maybe it was when you’d got past all of those honeymoon stages with your partner, and life just became the same, mundane thing day in, day out, until you might as well be a walking zombie of the dead…

I don’t think we can ever really pinpoint the exact moment we lost our completely inhibitions free, selves. But what we can do is become aware of it. And once we become aware of it, then we can look out for how often it happens.

And from there, we can shock ourselves into living again. More specifically with play. Even more specifically, on getting really excited about playing with and training our dogs.

I’m sure you’ll have heard me banging on about emotions in my content before. How dogs can sense how we’re feeling. How it can impact behaviour.

So, if you want better, more reliable results from your dog, then for the most part you need to get excited. And mean it, emotionally! I get it, as adults society expects us to be a certain kind of way. But sod what society says! I’d rather be happy and have lots of fun out and about, instead of being the same as everyone else! Wouldn’t you?

When it comes to playing with and training our dogs, for some of them, too much excitement could be stressful, or perhaps frustrating for them. But there are still ways we can incorporate play into our dog walking schedules, so you can both have more fun and improve their behaviour at the same time!

Win Win!

I was reading a study about canine play, and they discussed the function behind why dog’s do it. Focusing mainly on the evolutionary function, and how its ultimate uses are explored through four main theories.

1) Developing motor skills
2) Training for the unexpected
3) Social cohesion
and 4) Play as a by-product of biological processes.

What does this mean?

Well, when dogs are playing, it generally means they are relaxed and happy. Of course, play can have its pitfalls. Main motor skills dog’s are usually practicing is hunting, so if your dog is viewing another living species as a quote on quote a ‘toy’, sure they could be happy, but it’s not something we really want to encourage is it.

If you’ve got a dog who is uncertain or scared of the outside, play can be incredibly powerful in helping to build their confidence too!

If you think about the motor skills they use during play, and more specifically the predatory sequence, they might do a variety of things with it. Stalk and pounce on it, they might toss it up in the air, parade it around like a trophy, shred it into tiny little components, bring it to you, to play tug with, circle around and try to stop it moving (herders), shake it, chew it, the list goes on.

When using play in your training sessions, or even just on your walk, you can get pretty amazing results with them, using toys in an effective manner. And whilst I will explain more about the ways in which we use toys, ultimately YOU have to get a little more excited about the process too.

Now, you might have a dog who doesn’t give two hoots what mood you’re in. And you could stand there pouring your eyes out with tears, be little ms grumpy pants or huff and puff until the house blows down, and they would still be loving the game.

Or you could have a dog who is quite sensitive, maybe lacking in confidence and needs your energy to help lift them up too.

You might have a dog who can’t deal with your over excitement, and gets frustrated or doesn’t know what to do.

Know your dog, is what I’m getting at.

But for the purpose of this blog post, let’s look at those dogs who need more from you. Who wide-eyed thrive, when you’re at your very best.

Over exaggerate your happiness. Don’t care what other people might think. Go out there and explore, have fun together. Laugh. Dance. Sing! Sometimes it pays to loosen up. Let go of your inhibitions and just have a laugh.

Play generally happens when conditions are optimum, so keep it quiet and keep it easy to begin with. Your back garden could be perfect! Most importantly, owners who play the most with their dogs, also tend to score higher for obedience to basic commands.

Wink wink. Nudge nudge…

Try it. Go somewhere quiet where you can work, and have fun together. And… go have fun.

If you want to be shown the ropes, and really have some fun, then on April 11th, 11am in Buxton, we have the wonderful Craig Ogilvie PLAY workshop back, and there is currently one space remaining for it. If you want to snap that up, then simply click here

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