Did you take a few minutes today to play with your dog? How about yesterday? The day before?
When life is hectic, or complicated, playing with your dog is like a very mini-vacation. Nothing else to think about. Just sit on the floor and spend some time with someone who loves you unconditionally, never criticizes, and is always ready to play.
Tops on the “To-Do” list
Every morning, before we start work or chores, we play games with our dogs. Each one gets about five minutes. That’s it. That’s all it takes to start the day with a smile. Some days we play training games. Other days it’s fetch, or tug, or even just a little petting and/or massage.
It’s a little recess for everybody. The playing, and the attention, will set you up for a better day. After all, companionship is why you have a dog in the first place, isn’t it? Having a dog is a responsibility; you have to walk the dog, feed the dog, clean up after the dog. Non-dog people look at all that and wonder why dog people bother.
Those people won’t understand the value. But you do. For both your sakes, play with your dog.
Make up your own games
In our training classes, all the basics are covered; walk nice on leash, sit, down, leave it, etc. We address all the manners stuff; housebreaking, jumping, nipping. The “must-haves” discussion (collar vs. harness, bowls, brushes, leashes) happens. And one lesson that’s always weird for the participants: how to play with your dog.
There are all kinds of ways to play with your dog. Since dogs think everything they do with you is fun, training games are right up there. Dogs are always watching and learning from their people – you may as well teach them something useful. It can be something as simple as teaching your dog to touch your palm for a treat. That’s a great game for getting your dog to “come” when called. It’s also fast and fun, one palm then the other in rapid succession, maybe even moving as you play.
One game that always surprises our students is “throw your dog away.” You just push a little on the dog’s chest, moving them back a step or so. It’s almost always a prelude to the dog bounding back to you for more. It’s another way to get your dog to come. And it makes everybody laugh. Add a dialogue and see if your dog doesn’t start smiling with you: “What are you doing here?” (push away). “Are you looking at me?” (push away). “Again? You want some more of that?” (push away).
Just a few minutes
Take a few minutes to play with your dog. It doesn’t have to be in the morning, if that’s your crunch time. But see if you can’t find five minutes, sometime during the day, to give your entire attention to your dog. Some days it’ll be the cherry on top. Other days it will be the highlight.
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