Play is an important part of agility foundations for me and my dogs. I want to find a reward which inspires them to run fast! So they need to want whatever it is I have on offer, otherwise they’ll be slow and unmotivated to learn.
But people often struggle with this part of agility foundation. Here’s some reasons why:
Type of Toy on Offer
- Hard plastic toys aren’t great for tugging with a dog who has a soft mouth, it puts them off
- Something softer is much better to begin any dog off with to gauge interest before playing about with different types of toys.
Breed of Dog
- This will influence what sort of play they would naturally enjoy
- For example – Border Collies like to chase things, Terriers like to chase & kill things, Spaniels & Labradors like to carry things in their mouth
- Knowing these things means you can incorporate some of what they would naturally like to do into your games, whilst starting to introduce the idea that tug might be a fun game too!
- But work with them not against them – you’re on the same team!
People aren’t good at it!
- Some people do find tugging and playing with their dogs a bit alien
- It can feel uncomfortable because they’re not really sure what they’re doing
- Simple things like holding the toy low down on the floor, and wiggling it around like a little mouse
- Not like a frantic, epileptic mouse I might add!
- But moving it in a prey like way – still, then a little movement
- And make it achievable & interesting for the dog you’re working with
- Too much for a gentle dog will put them off trying, and too easy for a more playful dog will have them taking the toy off to play with by themselves!
Tug is a shared experience. It’s a team game, which you can learn lots about your partner from both from a life and sports perspective. Play makes progress possible in so many ways – when we are relaxed and having fun, we’re in a good position to learn and take on new information. It’s also an excellent way of building excitement into normal obedience type behaviours, so that they’re more enjoyable and, most importantly, more reliable in high-pressure situations. I have taken my Border Collies to sheepdog training and been stunned at their level of self-control in a VERY exciting environment. But it’s because they learned such a lot through the games we play and they’re clear that being excited doesn’t mean you can’t, or indeed, shouldn’t listen!
Gemma Fisher is an knowledgeable and inspiring agility instructor, dog trainer and behaviourist. Her experience comes from working with a variety of people and different breeds of dogs, both in person and online. Her goal is to make learning FUN because that’s how you engage best with people AND dogs! Check out her website for more help & advice: www.fisherfixdogs.com or follow her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gemmafisherfix/