Play might look differently through the eyes of a child compared to an adult… and the same goes for your dog’s perspective. The common thread that is woven through all of these experiences, no matter your age or species, is the internal joy that is felt when we let our hair down, laugh a little and forget about our stress. Joy is an emotion that is felt by both humans and dogs. It uplifts and creates lasting impressions as the hormones dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are released within both you and your pup.
Every moment your dog experiences in life, just like you, creates an imprint for them to recall down the road. At Full House Dog Training, we teach clients to capitalize on building memories for your dog to recall, both positive and negative, so we can guide their behavior using the consequences associated with each choice they make. Among the most powerful tools we can utilize in training positive behavior habits are experiences that result in joy and happiness.
While humans and dogs do share some similarities, one differentiating element is prey drive. Dogs are obviously natural hunters and have the instinctual motivation to seek out and chase prey. Playing with your dog activates this biological instinct which, in turn, kicks your dog’s mind into high gear and builds desire to repeat the process.
Connect play with a few key behaviors:
Listening and paying attention to you. Build engagement and a desire for your dog to check back in with you among a wide variety of distractions by carrying a favorite toy or treat. Starting in a low-distraction environment, any time your dog acknowledges you are in their environment, activate a play session.
Being Obedient. Start with simple requests like a short sit-stay, then reward your dog with a play session upon releasing them. Throw a ball, activate a session of tug on a rope, wrestle with your dog to create a desire for him to sit a little longer during the next repetition.
Controlling energy levels. We love to use play to help dogs learn to toggle their energy, much like switching off a light. Each time you end a repetition of play, require your dog to gain a slightly higher level of mental and physical relaxation before starting the next round of play. Watch for deeper levels of relaxation such as less movement, less panting, fewer wiggles, a shake off or big yawn. The reward for achieving more control will be another play session.
Key elements to a play session:
Keep it short. Make each experience short like the bursting of a bubble, so your dog continues to desire more, thus increasing the motivation to create the experience again.
Make it memorable. In each session, move the dog by tossing or bouncing toys or food, holding these valuable rewards in your hand and move yourself to create a game of chase. Activate their prey drive.
Mix it up. Use toys, food and personal touch for different types of play and to build different memories for your dog. Also, take note of which type of play generates different levels of happiness and re-engagement for your dog.
Take advantage of spring and summertime weather to create lasting memories with your dog through play sessions. Watch the numerous videos we have available on our Full House Dog Training YouTube channel including our Think to Play and Building Obedience Through Play for ideas and a deeper understanding of how you can utilize play in your training routine.