Play is very important for your pet. In young animals, play helps to develop social skills and bite inhibition, and in older animals play enriches their environment and helps burn off excess energy. Play can also be great practice for predatory behaviors (the stalk, chase, catch, kill sequence). Finding the fine line between good-natured roughhousing and inappropriate bullying behavior can be a challenge. Supervising your pets closely during play time can help encourage appropriate play behaviors.
And, if you need a little more hands-on help after trying out the advice in this article, please check out our Doggie Be Good Obedience Classes!
Starting Off on the Right Paw: Managing the Environment:
Games and activities with your pet should be kept within acceptable arousal levels. If your pet becomes overly excited during play, take a break and let him calm down. Roughhousing and wrestling with your pet may seem like great fun, but if you are having a problem with play biting or your pet is too rough during play, these activities will only make the problem worse.
Play should be kept low-key and under control Keep in mind when playing with a puppy or kitten that they grow up fast, and play behaviors practiced during this important growth period will follow him into adulthood. When your pet reaches adulthood, he will be bigger, stronger, and faster – and so will his play behaviors, so train youngsters early about boundaries and self-control.
Encouraging Appropriate Play Behaviors
Some animals are naturally adept at reading another’s body language and inhibiting themselves when playing, while others may not be as good with these social skills. Here are some good impulse-control exercises that your pet can practice. While most of these exercises are geared towards dogs, your cat or kitten can practice self-control, too, by working on these cues.
- Name recognition: This may sound silly and you’re probably thinking, “of course my pet knows his name” — but unless he is responding reliably over 80% of the time, he may not know it as well as he should. Practice calling his name and getting eye contact and then reward him with a food treat.
- Eye contact: Having your pet’s attention is especially important if you are about to give a cue or direction. Use positive reinforcement (Food treats, play time) so that your pet looks at you eagerly and often for instruction.
- Place: This cue is a great way for your pet to take a time out. Pick a mat or rug your dog can lie on comfortably, and use positive reinforcement to get him tow ant to go to the mat by feeding him food treats there. Train him to lie down on the mat to take a quick break.
- Wait and Stay: These cues will help improve your dog’s self-control by teaching him to wait for things (sit politely to go outside or before dinner is served).
- Collar touches/holding: Your dog should be happy for you to touch and hold on to his collar, but for most dogs, this posture is confrontational and can be scary. Train a collar touch by using positive reinforcement (food treats) whenever you touch his collar. Start slowly by just tapping the collar or reaching for the neck area, then work up to holding the collar gently. You never know when you may have to grab your dog’s collar for an emergency.
- Polite greeting: Your dog should sit while greeting guests or meeting strangers. You can easily teach this by not allowing anyone to approach your dog unless he is sitting; then have them offer food treats for a polite greeting. You need to start with a good, solid “sit cue” before training this behavior.
Tips and Hints
Get to know your pet’s play style and choose appropriate playmates. A Chihuahua may not enjoy playing with a Boxer or a Great Dane! Learn and understand your pet’s body language so that you know when your pet is trying to tell you he is stressed or nervous and is not having fun anymore. Interrupt play often and reward your dog with a food treat for coming to you. Play can escalate quickly, and frequent breaks will help to keep the levels of arousal within controllable limits. Don’t wait for a scuffle or a fight to happen; be proactive and supervise your pet so you can intervene, diffuse a tense situation, and redirect the behavior. It is also important to know when to let dogs play and not constantly be worried about them. Fun often sounds fierce when it isn’t.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
- Never use physical punishment when correcting undesired behaviors. Punishment may create other fearful behaviors, which will influence future training and make learning difficult for your pet. Your pet may learn to be afraid of you, and/or he may become defensive and develop aggressive behaviors. He could shy away from physical interactions with you, such as being petted.
- Sign up for a basic dog obedience class. Call 954.266.6819 to register for a low-cost class at the HSBC.
- Ensure your dog or puppy, cat or kitten is getting enough play time or exercise.
- Have your pet spayed or neutered.
- Has your pet always enjoyed playtime and recently changed his behavior and become grouchy, or avoided playtime altogether? Time for a trip to the vet to get a checkup. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet for any medical issues that may indicate a problems.
Remember, if you need a little more hands-on help after trying out the advice in this article, please check out our Doggie Be Good Obedience Classes!
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