Great job Dog Boss, you are just checking off the list to helping your pup live a happy life!
Let’s double check your skills:
Fantastic! Now for the funnest of all activities for making sure your pup is a good boy. . . playtime! Playtime with people and other animals is an essential tool for draining all that puppy energy and having a well mannered pup.
Training Essential #5: Appropriate Play
Playing with your new pup is essential for the bonding experience, but it also teaches the pup how to interact with people during play which is different than how they interact with other dogs during play. As you know, dogs explore with their mouths as we do with our hands, when we are playing with them we use our hands, but its essential to teach them that using their teeth on people is not okay. To do this we will look at the psychology of how dogs learn bite inhibition with other dogs during play and why early dog-dog socialization is crucial to their learning.
Rule #1: Don’t let them chew on you even as small puppies.
Naturally, this is going to happen when they are small. Their tiny little teeth don’t hurt and its kind of cute. That’s all good and well when they are tiny, but soon their jaw power will increase and those little needle teeth can do some damage. If you haven’t already check out NPTE102 for a guide to redirecting inappropriate chewing. Teaching them it’t not ok to chew on you at a young age is easier than correcting them for it at a later age.
Have you ever seen dogs play and one of them decides to be a drama queen and yelp with an unnecessarily loud, high pitched, punishment doesn’t fit the crime kind of bark? Thats how dogs correct each other. That yelp says “I’m not really hurt, but you took it a little too far.” We can use this behavioral cue as people too, so if your pooch bites and its uncomfortable don’t be afraid to let out a loud annoying “OUCH!” to communicate with them that they used too much pressure.
Rule #2: Bite Inhibition and Puppy Socialization
Dogs know exactly how much pressure they are exerting in a bite and can execute a warning vs. a bite with precision. The problem with failing to socialize your pup with other pups through their growing stages is they fail to learn what is a bite vs. what is play and often times this ends in adult dogs who “play too rough”. This can cause accidental bites with people, and can end up causing dogs to communicate poorly with other dogs during play leading to fights.
The experts at the ASPCA have written this blog on Mouthing, Nipping and Biting to explain the intricacies of this area in canine development. Socialization with their litter mates is essential in weeks 2-8 because of bite inhibition; if possible never separate a puppy from its litter prior to 8 weeks of age (the only reason this should ever happen is for safety or medical reasons).
When your dog is young it automatically gets a pass with socialized adult dogs. They know pups will be pups and they will do their best to teach them, but pay attention and make sure the adult gets breaks from time to time. Think of dogs playing like young boys being rowdy. . . its all fun and games until somebody DOES get hurt and then it easily turns into a fight. Always supervise your dog with other dogs, and know when its time to stop.
Rule #3: Play all Day
Serious stuff aside, play with your dog and allow them to play with other dogs as long as its safe and fun for everyone. Playing with your dog is essential to building a strong bond and having them accept you as a friend as well as a leader. There are endless activities you can do with your dog both at home and around town.
Playing for dogs doesn’t have to be all games, playing can also be training opportunities. For example, not all dogs instinctively fetch, if thats the case with your pup you will know pretty quickly, but it is something you can teach.
Ideas for playtime:
- Dog Agility
- Dock Diving
A word on dog parks:
First off, dog parks are great amenities for cities to provide and can certainly provide lots of entertainment, play, and socialization for your pup. With that said, you should always be very cautious with your dog at the park because not everyone is. There is little enforcement of rules at public dog parks, it is a use at your own risk scenario, to be safe when going to the dog park, follow this checklist:
- Make sure your dog is fully vaccinated (including rabies) and is taking a tri-wormer/heartworm preventative combo. While your pup may be healthy, not everyone is as responsible as you and unnecessarily exposing your pup to parasites and disease can cost you in the long run.
- NEVER take food, treats, or toys (for yourself or dogs) into the park. Those are for private play. Again, your dog may be great at sharing, that doesn’t mean the other dogs are. The best way to protect your pup is to refrain from the use of toys. Not everyone does this, so when I go I make sure no-one else is using them, and pick up any that may be laying around and dispose of them in the trash.
- Pick up your dogs waste and pick up “ghost poop” where you see it. Some people are irresponsible and sometimes you might not always catch it when your dog poops, so it never hurts to be a good neighbor and grab a couple extra bags.
- Practice a don’t look, touch, or talk approach to your pup and others while in the park. They aren’t there to play with you, they are there to socialize with other pups. If you aren’t “valuable” then neither your dog or others have a reason to guard you.
- If you pup is in a scuffle, use a recall command to redirect them, greet them happily and then leave the park. They will eventually associate their poor behavior with having to leave and hopefully refrain from being naughty.
- If there’s a disagreement GET INVOLVED and separate the dogs, situations can go from bad to worse quickly and the sooner its broken up the better. Using water hoses, loud noises, and recall commands are best, but if those work and you have to get physically involved remember two things: 1) don’t touch the biting end 2) grab the dogs “wheel barrow” style from the rear to separate them.