For dogs that are over-stimulated, prone to aggression or highly reactive, incorporating play with training can lead to amazing results. In this article, we’ll delve into the surprising perks of having fun with your dog.

Defining and Understanding Playful Dog Behaviour

Owners often wrongly perceive appropriate play as dangerous behaviour while others are unaware of the risks they are taking when they allow their dogs to engage in inappropriate play behaviour.

Play is spontaneous, voluntary, rewarding and done entirely for its own sake – you can tell the difference compared to aggressive behaviour because play is incomplete, exaggerated or awkward. Play will only be initiated when the animal is fed, healthy and stress-free as it requires a certain level of relaxation.

There are a few differences between play fighting and actual displays of aggression. When playing, dogs will inhibit their force and occasionally perform a self-handicap by rolling on their backs or allowing themselves to be caught during a chase. These actions would never occur during a real fight. Partaking in a certified dog obedience course will equip you with the knowledge to differentiate between these behaviours.

Redirecting a Hyperactive Dog’s Energy

Play is an underrated tool when working with dogs that are over-stimulated, frustrated or lack impulse control because it incorporates positive reinforcement with energy-burning activities. Instead of relying on treats, you can introduce your dog to real-life rewards by moulding their favourite games into training techniques and being a part of the reward experience.

The best obedience training occurs when the activity you’ve chosen feels like a game to your dog, rather than a lesson. Following games teach your dog to heel, tugging games practice “take it” and “drop it” manoeuvres, and chase games teach recall behaviour.

Choosing the Right Games for Your Dog

Each puppy has their own set of likes and dislikes. Some dogs are naturally interested in retrieving, making fetch their favourite game. Other dogs enjoy chasing or being chased while some overly energetic dogs enjoy horseplay and roughhousing. Pay attention to your dog whenever they are introduced to other dogs to determine what games they are naturally inclined to.

Ensure your initial play training sessions are short, fun and at an appropriate level. When playing tug with your dog, if their teeth touch your hand or they shake the toy too violently for you to maintain grip, merely drop the toy and walk away. Keep the game at a level where your rate of reinforcement is high. If you’re playing fetch and your dog has to run a long distance to retrieve the ball, they will lose interest in the game because it requires too much effort. If your dog is engaged, training will be a much simpler endeavour.

To learn more about professional training techniques or to start your Certificate III in dog behaviour, contact NDTF online or call 1300 66 44 66.