Playing with Dogs

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Most dogs enjoy a game even when they get older.  Playing with your dog is a wonderful way to interact and it can cheer both of you up on a wet and horrible day. There are lots of games you can play indoors with your dog and plenty for outdoors as well.

Jamie with his toys

Does your dog want to play?
I always find it sad when people say their dog doesn't want to play or doesn't know how to play.  Often these are rescue dogs that have ended up in care because the previous owners didn't really have the time for them.

Most dogs have a hunting instinct and the best way to encourage play is to work on their instincts.  Tie a toy to a piece of string and drag it along or whirl it round.  If you throw a toy keep it low to the ground.  Dogs don't normally look up when they chase but they will go after something that skims at ground level. 

Encourage the dog with a bit of silliness.  Throw the toy for a human and get the human to chase it.  It's highly entertaining for the neighbours. 

At the opposite end of the extreme there is the mad dog that play bites and barks and never stops.  It's best to play with this type of dog on your terms or you'll make a rod for your own back.  
 

Biting
There are times when dogs overstep the boundaries and start to nip and bite during a game.  This can also be carried over into training, particularly when it's something exciting like agility.  Jamie was an awful dog for play biting.  I had bruises all over my arms at first and I really didn't know what to do.  He did stop eventually but even now he sometimes nips in play.  What I've found is helpful is to immediately stop the game.  I often give a high pitched squeak as I turn away.  I fold my arms and ignore him and before long he realises that there's no pay off for biting. 
Even though Jamie's getting older he still has mad turns.  Those crazy dashes round and round in circles that dogs do.  He's often tempted to nip during these mad runs so I've taught him to hold a toy in his mouth.  We now have a daft situation where his energy builds up to fever pitch but he must have the toy before he can go.  It stops him biting.  Even Jamie can't hold a toy and bite me at the same time.
This has worked very successfully with Sasha too!
 

Dog Toys
There's such a wonderful selection of dog toys on the market today that it's hard to know what to choose.  In our house tennis balls are banned unless they're very large.  Dogs can choke on a normal sized tennis ball.  I once bought a type of hard plastic bone for Jamie but he chewed bits off it and swallowed them and they made him sick.  Also, we don't have plastic squeakers in the toy box in case the squeaky bit works loose and comes out in Jamie's mouth.  We do have squeakers and gruntys though that are covered in fur fabric.  These are quite safe unless you have a dog that rips things to pieces to get at the insides.   

Jamie with a football sized tennis ball

If you'd like a bit of fun Jamie has his own version of the Toy Symphony. The page works in Internet Explorer, Netscape and AOL.  It takes a little while to load.  Just click on the picture to go to the page.

Have lots and lots of fun.

Picture of a dog toy
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