The past couple weeks have been crazy. You’ve been there, I’m sure! Those days, day after day, when there is so much to get done. When you keep going, moving, doing, but don’t seem to get much anything done. All the while, your dogs seem to have forgotten all the hard work and training you shared. Your stress meter starts beeping at the least twitch, while your amazing, adorable, previously well-trained pooch is practically crawling the walls! Then you get to the point where you are so distracted by one major question: Do you pull his hair out, or your own? When we have a crazy week that is emphasized by our precious pups, it’s time to stop and go play!
The Importance of Play
From the time a puppy opens its eyes they appear to be playful. Most of what we witness as playful desires are actually attempts to inspect and understand their environment. This is how puppies learn. But playful learning does not stop at puppy-hood!
Another crucial factor about regular play times, at any age, is exercise. No matter what type of dog, large or small, young or old, they all need various levels of physical exertion. Almost like a young child that never gets out to play, a bored pup with no regular exercise will become a problem child!
Most importantly, engaging your pup with daily playful exercise will build and strengthen that bond between you. On the flip-side, neglecting daily playful exercise will create gaps in that bond and leave your pup to believe he is on his own. If he is not reminded that you are pack leader, and lots of fun, he will take full advantage of the gaps. So remind him daily 🙂
Will Work for Play
Proof of the fact that pups play their entire lives is evident in watching working dogs. Watch the police and border patrol dogs. Yes, according to their handlers, K9s are the hardest working members of their force. But watch closely…. The four-legged officers do not seem too serious. It’s all play to them! Watch below as the Stow Police K9 Officer Spectrum demonstrates his skills, a short play time follows to reinforce his training.
So, essentially, the dog works for play!
Works the Same at Home
You gotta figure, if working dogs are at play on their job, your pampered pooch ought to respond as well. Make all training time (aka “work”) fun for your pup and you will find him respond much better to you in all situations. If a dog finds himself scolded or corrected more often than he has fun with you, you will find him less interested and less engaged with you. Just look at the amazing things working K9s are doing every day. Watch how much fun they’re having!
This is the key you could be missing.
Alongside this, I believe God gave us such animals as companions for many purposes. One of those crucial purposes is to enjoy them. Dogs bring us joy. What a gift! Playing with them helps relieve stress, takes our minds of the daily aggravations and they help us focus on enjoying life. So, while you may be playing to train, there are many other benefits you will experience.
During your work week and all the craziness of life, be mindful of your God-given gift. Your pup. He is not there just to obey and be quiet until you get whatever else done and can squeeze in the time to play. He is that child that never grows up, always longing for your attention. Always saying, “Come play!”
I keep at least a couple types of treats on my kitchen counter, right in the way. And, believe me, my pups know where they are! Often, I will take a few minutes to toss a couple treats, get them turning in circles, do “uppies” (stand up on hind legs), or “tell me”, just to engage with them. While waiting for water to boil on the stove to make dinner, or sometimes even while I’m on the phone, any time is a good time to play.
Especially days when the housework has piled up or I am glued to my office for the day, I make it a point to take regular breaks. We head outside to toss a ball, play tug, or even run through some basics, such as “Down/Stay”. We keep it upbeat and playful and I let them win often 😉 During these play times I offer no corrections. I simply ignore when they do not respond and reward (usually with more play) when they do. Since these are not regular training times, there is no need to correct.
What I find during crazy weeks like has been around here, when I skip these play times and there is little to no spontaneity, my pups are not well behaved. So if you are having some issues with back-sliding behavior, take a break and go play!
Key #1: Make time daily to play!
Key #2: Whether a working K9 or home companion, pups of all ages need play! And so do we!
Key #3: Be spontaneous and let your pup win often!