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The Importance of Play

Dogs play for a variety of reasons, they have their reasons and we must as dog owners, handlers and lovers need to provide an opportunity for our dogs to enjoy and experience play.

Many times dogs are brought to us for a behaviour problem, it may range from aggression to digging holes, many times the cause is a drive imbalance. This means that the dog is not receiving enough mental stimulation and seeks it in other avenues.

Let’s take a look at this example:
You buy two dogs from the same litter, same sex, same parents, same age. You feed pup number one 350 grams of food per day and it is of perfect weight. You feed pup number two 350 grams also, but it is under weight.

You may visit your vet and have many tests done, all of which come back with no reasons for weight loss. You come to the conclusion that pup number two has a faster metabolism than pup one, simple.

But dogs have more than one input to fill, many have a high desire for prey satisfaction and others have a high desire for pack satisfaction. Providing too little satisfaction will simply trigger behaviour plasticity, new behaviours developed out of desire to seek balance.

You may experience aggression, barking, digging, clothes taken from the clothes line, jumping on you, rushing others and any number of undesirable behaviours or combinations thereof.

Here is another very important situation that you need to be aware of as a dog owner.

playIf you feed your dog at 7pm every day, and one day you past that 7pm for 5 minutes, you need to be aware that your dog is now being punished. I know you are going to say that your not punishing your dog at all, you just have not fed him as yet.

But in dog behaviour we call the removal or delay of an expected reward is negative punishment.

When a dog is being punished this will trigger behaviour plasticity, and this will start behaviour creation. Now when some people train their dogs they use something called “shaping”. Shaping is the dog going into behaviour plasticity and this occurs when the dog is feeling punished. Whilst this trainer may be using a “purely positive” or “force free” or a “reward based program”, there is still discomfort needed to trigger behaviour plasticity.

There is no problem at all with this and I use negative punishment (the removal or an expected reward) frequently.

So to get back on track, say that your dogs genetics determine that your dog has high prey drive, and you don’t dedicate any time at all in teaching your dog how to achieve drive satisfaction, you can bet that this dog will feel loss and will develop behaviours to deal with this. The problem is that you may not like them.

Your dog will likely choose something in their accessible in their environment, perhaps that is your other dog, birds, lizards, shadows, other dogs, cats or your washing on the line? You need to satisfy this need through play, preferably before your dog finds another method.

My Training in drive system is one great way to provide the ultimate stimulation to your dog and if you have goals to compete or train a working dog, Training in drive is the very best way to achieve these goals and create drive balance. If you don’t have these goals, training in drive may not be for you, but your dog still needs drive satisfaction and balance or you will be fighting behaviour imbalance.

Play is a great way to interact with your dog, some toys can teach your dog to be gentle, to share, to relax, to scent, to hunt and retrieve and many more beneficial facets to your dogs’ life.

Our Durafoam Disc is the Pro Dog Version of the Frisbee. These provide your dog with great exercise, retrieve and share the toy and interact with you… You can add a great deal of mental stimulation by having your dog sit and stay while you throw the Disc and this teaches great impulse control and helps with obedience and drive balance.

The Hurley is a throw toy, its unique shape means that it never bounces the same way twice, this is incredibly effective as a reward as the toy always exceeds the dogs reward prediction, providing a better than expected outcome, which promotes drive satisfaction.

We also have a range of Behavioural Aids, these help us provide an escape for our pets in a number of ways, the treat balls can provide hours of fun to our dogs and also satisfy the dogs need to hunt. These can be hidden in your back yard so that your dog needs to hunt them down, great mental stimulation!

Don’t forget a good game of Tug, when structure is added, this can be a great source of exercise and mental stimulation for your dog and helps build a motivational engine to form the back bone of your working dog or sport dog program, or just a great way to achieve drive balance.

Five Benefits of Play…

Many dogs these days are suffering from obesity, interactive play with your dog is a great source of exercise.

Mental Health!
Drive balance is a great state for a dog to live in, it also can mean you have a new activity to share with your dog.

Play helps dissolve fears, uncertainty and strengthens the bond between you and your dog.

Behaviour Problems resolved and prevented!
Many dogs that bark, dig, escape and destroy your home could easily be redirected onto an interactive behavioural toy, try one today!

Its fun to play with your dog, try it, you will see!

Choosing a toy?
First you need to decide if you will be playing with your dog, or entertaining your dog whilst you’re away. Then you need to decide how much structure the play will have, are you training for a goal or just to have fun?

Interactive – Structured and None Structured  – Fun providing toys

The Chuckit, the worlds best launcher
The Hurley, unpredictable throw toy.
Durafoam Disc
K9 Pro Pro Line Tugs

Non Interactive – occupying toys

Foobler, arguably the best treat dispenser available.

How tough are they?

Whilst our toys and aids fall into the professional range, no dog toy is indestructible, we of course could make them indestructible, but they would be so hard, the dogs’ teeth would pay the price.

Something has to be sacrificial; we would rather it be the toys than your dog.

Our Everlasting Range are extremely flexible and durable, I have really never come across a dog toy that can take as much punishment as these can. The Hurley is also super tough through flexibility, they even have a no questions asked, one time replacement or refund if your dog can destroy them!

As a Behaviourist I prescribe these toys/aids in my daily practice, do your dog a favour and get some in your house, you will see a benefit right away!

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