Almost everyone who has dogs will agree that toys are a great reinforcer when working and playing with your dog. Where ideas split is when it comes to how to use said toys. You have basically two options (and of course many variants of each). They are: throw the toy or play with the toy, or more commonly known as: fetch or tug-o-war. As I noted in my earlier post, a lot of people have the idea that tug-o-war is bad so that leaves fetch. And playing only fetch leaves a lot to be desired.
Now don’t get me wrong, retrieving can be great! Most would agree that it’s good exercise for your dog with little effort on your part. You can drink your coffee or text while mindlessly playing with your dog. Great, right?
Not so much actually.
And here’s why.
The fact that you can multitask while “playing” with your dog is a problem. Is it better than your dog sitting at home bored all day? Absolutely. Does it do anything to build the relationship between you and your dog? Nope.
Now before all you chuck-it fanatics jump down my throat, I must clarify and say that if played correctly (with total engagement and clear rules – more to to come on that later perhaps), retrieving can certainly be used as a supplement to building good feelings between owner and dog. The sad fact is though, that 90% of people are not playing it correctly and aren’t using it in a supplement sense. For a lot of dogs, heading to the field to chase and return the ball to it’s ball dispenser (yes, that means you!) is the most excitement they will get all day. Yes, they will learn to love it (obsess over it even) but it’s not because they love the time with their owner. It’s because it’s all they have. They get their enjoyment chasing and catching the ball. This has pretty much nothing to do with who throws it. Ever heard someone say (with chuck-it in hand) “My dog is great at the park, he is glued to me.” and then a moment later “Unless he sees someone else with a chuck-it or ball, then he’s gone and doesn’t look back”. This should tell us something!
Next blog: the power of personal play AKA tug-o-war.
While having a fetch session with your dog is good for exercise, that is all it is good for!
If you ever visit you will quickly notice that it’s not my daughters nor is it me that our dogs follow around from room to room. It is my wife, Nancy, that Joey and Roo-Roo shadow constantly. Here’s her take on why that is.
Imagine having your dog watching your every move when you are out on a walk. Imagine being able to have your dog move right past that deer grazing in the bush or that squirrel that darted under his nose. And imagine all of this without uttering a single word.
Sounds a little unbelievable, yes but I have been having great success over the past few years creating results exactly like this.
The theory behind run club is based on what I have observed dogs doing naturally everyday. The concept of following the leader and moving as a unit or a pack.