Playtime between humans and dogs happens everyday, all the time. It is not an uncommon occurrence and great for the bond between dog and pet parent. It is great for mental stimulation, bite inhibition and exercise for both owner and dog. Benefits can go on. Dog play with humans is not a problem but it is more a discussion of what kind of dog play, monitoring and controlling the situation that has run into problems.
For example, lets discuss rough housing between a human and dog. While both love it, the problems that it can lead to such as biting or temper and why children tend to get bit more. What some owners don't realize is that dogs as a species communicate when other dogs on a discipline size by biting the muzzle. So if they are rough housing with a child and the child gets a little to rough with the dog and the dog doesn't like, the dog is more apt to bite the child in the face as disciplinary action. Not because they are vicious animals and hate children but that is the way that they communicate with their own species. Rough housing is a longer discussion but this is just an example on the differences and misunderstandings that some people don't remember or don't even know.
Another discussion that has come up is that the game Tug of War (tug that will it will be referred to) increases agressiveness in the dog. If Tug is played correctly, with rules, it will help to burn the predatory energy and exercise for both the dog and owner. Rules are the most key part of playing Tug as this establishes control on your end over the dog. With the rules you are teaching your dog to control their jaw, obedience by making it fun for both, mental stimulation, energy burner so that it prevents boredom.
Brief synopsis of Tug Rules:
- Dog Out/Release Command: The command that you give when your want him to release the toy, there is a time out for them or you are ending the game.
- Designated Object AND Initiation Take of Game: You must have 1 specific toy/object for Tug, not multiples AND have a command that will begin the game. He will only associate that command with the toy and the game, therefore avoiding accidentally starting the game with some toy if you say the word or if you just pick up the toy and thinking you are playing.
- No uninvited takes or re-takes: dog can not grab the toy before the initiation command or else face a timeout or after multiple re-takes possible game ending. This teaches him to follow rules.
- Frequent Obedience Breaks: implementing obedience in to tug is great because he will be more apt to do obedience so that you go back to the game. The more that you do this with tug, he/she will just think of obedience as part of tug as it will all be meshed together. Classic Conditioning (associating one action with another).
- Jaw Control: Any kind of nip - accidental or not is game ending. Zero Tolerance. This is to teach them Bite Inhibition. Dogs have amazing jaw control, it can be done. If they nip you in anyway, yell "OUCH!" and end game immediately,
If you would like more specifics on the rules for tug and hot to implement them in a successful manner please feel free to contact me!
*Tug rules courtesy of The San Francisco SPCA Behavior and Training Department.