Our dogs love to play, no matter their age or breed. Through play we can exercise them both mentally and physically. We can train in a fun and effective way. We can satisfy their natural urges based on their breed. We can bond and teach them that we are the source of good things.
Sometimes it seems we get too serious with our dogs and hung up on obedience. Basic obedience is of course necessary to help our dogs live in our world. A sit or wait by a roadside for example helps keep them calm in a dangerous scenario. There are many training tips we can use at home to live harmoniously together. However there has to be room for just having fun. I guarantee if you play more with your dog, then the obedience training clicks into place a lot smoother as a result. You go up in your dog’s estimation and they are quicker to listen to you. Play can also be structured to have training outcomes.
A common misconception, especially amongst new puppy owners, is that the priority is to allow our dogs to play with other dogs. Whilst it can be great for them to play with other well matched dogs, our priority should be to teach them that play with us is better! Especially outdoors amidst distractions. When you recall them, you rely on them choosing you over the distraction. If you are grumpy and boring then why would they choose you?
Our puppies are the adult dogs we have for 10/15 years, much better they learn to be with us than other dogs. The puppy ping-ponging back and forth to all the dogs in the park, while the owner stands idly by, is a puppy learning that everything BUT his owner is rewarding. He is the adult dog with recall problems!
Next time you go for a walk, forget distance travelled and instead focus on play. Adapt to suit your dog, bring their favourite toy and see if you can be more interesting than the world around them. Use the natural environment, splash in a stream or kick around some leaves. I bet as a result you’ll have to recall them less as they’ll be hanging out by your side!
Let’s all remember why we got a dog and enjoy making memories together.