Play More With Your Dog!

Play More With Your Dog!

Although training is serious work, it does not, in and of itself, have to be a serious experience.  Two of the key components that I see missing in the way that many people train their dogs are joy and play.  Even when they are training using positive methods, I often see guardians working hard with training their dog but they are missing some key components that could make their training even better.

We were working on heeling and I was JUST about to release her to chase me and then snuggle  (because that's how she rolls).

We were working on heeling and I was JUST about to release her to chase me and then snuggle (because that’s how she rolls).

Anyone who has been in a class with me knows that while we do serious work, I try very hard to keep the entire environment upbeat, fun, playful and full of joy.  I want handlers to adopt this general attitude as much as possible because I think that when the handlers look like they are having a blast, the dogs will be more engaged (*handlers should still be joyful but modify it for dogs who are fearful or shy).  If you want to see joy in your dog when he/she works with you, you need to give that joy to him/her as well.  I know I posted about that idea last year in this pose, Give Your Dog What You Want In Return.

I like to use toys in my training but there is something else, an intangible thing, that can be seen by watching a handler and a dog connect with one another and enjoy their work together.  Although I started this blog with a title about adding more ‘play’ what I really want handlers to add is more joy.  The work becomes the play when the handler keeps things fun and upbeat.  Laugh with your dog while you work, have fun with your dog while you train, embody the idea that training is play and play IS work.

When I’m working with my dogs I laugh, I smile, I chit-chat with them, I chase the pups, I encourage the pups to chase me, I pet them, wrestle with them (only if they like it), and I simply encourage them to have fun with me what ever it means for them.  I work hard to make sure we are connected and we are playing together and having fun together while we train.  The more that training becomes a reward in itself, the more the dogs seem to invest in the work and in their partner–there’s nothing better than having a dog who wants to initiate training and is all in when working.

The moral of my story is to make sure you have fun with your dog during training.  They are with us for far too short a time to waste it on boring drills or painstaking training.  Enjoy the time you spend together working–have fun with your dog!

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