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Positive Playtime - Episode 2

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Hi everyone. I'm Chelsea, Tug-E-Nuff's play expert, and like you, I'm stuck at home with my dogs. I'm trying to keep busy, doing a lot of enrichment, a bit of tug, a bit of sniffing, a bit of food enrichment as well. But while we're here, we were going to do a Q&A and answer some of your training and play questions.

How do I get a nervous dog to play?

This question is from @elli_agility How do I get a nervous dog to play?. So the first thing with a nervous dog is to go at their own pace. You may find a nervous dog will play at home but maybe not out and about in different environments. That's because they're more relaxed at home. So do always start at home, no distractions, just an environment they're normally used to. I really personally like the chaser style toys for nervous dogs, it's got a large bite area, and a long handle. So the long handle means the dog can play at distance rather than up close. Sometimes if you've got short handled tug playing really, really face to face can be quite intimidating for a few dogs. So having a longer handle is quite nice. I'd also maybe try standing side on as your dog's tugging. That also relieves some of the intimidation side of it that some dogs don't really like.

Also, it's important to use what your dog's already motivated by, so if they are foodie rather than play then try and check out a bungee food bag or a clam toy as well. But yeah, definitely check out the guide, build it up slowly, start at home first, I think are good tips for that.

Help! My dog won't give up their tennis ball

Next up is a question from Sophie Marie Linney and it is about her dog not being able to give up tennis balls when playing with the other dogs. So obviously his play time ends up being a bit boring and he has to sit and watch, because he's not very good at release. I've mentioned previously, teaching a drop cue or leave cue, it's really important to do this at first when your dog is calm, if you do it when they're already playing and end a game of tug or after a game of fetch, they will be really over aroused and can't think straight and they will struggle to get that up. So before you start expecting it at the end of a game, please, please, please try and teach them that when they're calm, and give the toy, and ask for a leave, and reward.

Another way you can do this is the toy switch game. As promised, I said I do a quick demonstration of the toy switch game with one of my own dogs. Admittedly, I have had a couple of practice goes off camera just to make sure my dog will do it to demo it for you guys, as he is a novice with it. So for the toy switch, you need two tug toys, two toys. I personally like the Pocket Bungee ones just because they're a bit smaller and a bit easier to shift around and play with. Admittedly I have got a sheepskin and a faux fur. So ideally if you've got two of the same, that's better for a beginner dog and then you can mix and match for high value, low value type toys. So yes, I'm doing it today with Nero, one of my dogs. Nero, come. And Nero's very excited to be on camera, as you can see.

So you start with one toy behind your back, and then the other you just play tug as normal. Get it. Good boy. So the point of this is to teach a dog basically switching leaving toys isn't always a bad thing, and not always the end of the game. So play with this one as normal, and then you make this one go dead, present the other. Nero, switch. And engage in that one when they start playing. You may find with some dogs they don't switch straight away. So you may have to make the first toy go really boring, really still, and make the other one wiggle around really excited before they switch and change. Switch. Good boy. Nero's being a very good demo dog today. Good boy. Switch. Good. Good boy.

Yeah, as you can see, I'm not sure how noticeable that was on camera, but you might have noticed that Nero was a bit more reluctant to leave the sheepskin than the faux fur, that's just because he prefers faux fur, he finds it higher value. So starting with two matching toys to begin with does make it a lot easier for your dog.

How can I get my dog to play longer?

We have another question, and this is from Jenny Penny in Devon, and her question is, how to keep a dog playing? My dog will play for 30 seconds and then nothing. So they're not really interested after that. However, I would like to say that 30 seconds, if you're really going for it and having a really intense time of tug, then the 30 seconds is quite a long time. Imagine you're at the gym and you're doing a high intensity workout and really, really going for it and putting your all into it for 30 seconds, that is quite exhausting. So if your dog's really getting stuck into it, then 30 seconds is absolutely fine.

However, if you're finding it's 30 seconds of halfhearted play, you might need to build more value into the toy and into the game itself. So think about how you're playing, whether you're being honest with yourself, whether you're really getting stuck in and really enjoying this time with your dog, or whether you're kind of, it sounds bad, but faking it a little bit, just going, "Oh yeah, good dog, good dog. Well done." You really need to mean it. You really need to get stuck into. You look a bit silly. I look stupid all the time squealing and being all excited with my dogs when I'm playing, but they get stuck into it too. And that's really good.

Building value into the toy at home. So you may find they're not as interested when out and about, but at home they really enjoy it. So it's about distractions. So if you build the value into the toy first at home before progressing out and about too, that will really help.

My dog won't retrieve The Clam

This is a question about our ever popular clam. This is from Carol Patrick, and she said that her dog will use a clam, go get the treat out, but not bring it back, as in retrieve it for her to refill it, and she's struggling with that.

For those who don't know, this is our clam, this is our yellow and blue version. So what you do is you open it up, fill with treats. You can then give it to your dog, throw it for your dog, hide it for your dog. They go find the clam, pop their nose in, just like that, open it up and get the treats. This is designed as an instant food based reward, so not necessarily as a food puzzle or anything like that.

My first question to Carol would be, does your dog know a retrieve already? If not, you might be making this a little bit harder for yourself. Mainly because when teaching retrieve, the reward comes at the end once they've brought the object back to you. With the clam, they're getting an instant reward by chasing down the toy and going and getting to it and putting their nose in and getting the food. So they've already got their reward. So the incentive isn't necessarily there to bring it back at that stage. If they already know a retrieve, that's great, because cue the retrieve word, fetch, get it, whatever it is, and they will bring it back. But if they don't already know that, it might be more difficult.

So to teach a retrieve, I never taught this with food or with balls or Frisbees or anything like that. I actually taught it with tug, and that is because my dogs are very driven with tug. I know you want to be on the camera. Get in your bed please. My dogs are also bored being stuck at home. But yeah, I taught that with tug, mainly because they find that more rewarding than food or anything like that. So there is a method in the madness. I do have a reason for using that. I taught by going to a quiet part of the house, somewhere with no distractions. So I actually shut myself in the hallway because there are less distractions going on.

Anyway, back to the point. To teach retrieve, I would play tug. I would get them to get really, really stuck in the game. Then I would drop the toy, sort of encourage them back up, not you, encourage them back up and re-engage in the game of tug. Re-engaging in the game of tug for them was more rewarding than a food based treat. So I kept doing that, and eventually, I'd ask for a leave, and I could chuck it two or three feet, go, "Yeah, come here, give it back." And play some more. And I kept doing that and built it up that way.

Eventually, I could ask for a leave, could make my dog wait, walk and then lob this as far as I could, and say, "Go get it." They'd run, go get it and bring it straight back to me. I don't always have to engage in a game of tug, but that is their reward, if I wanted to, they could go retrieve it, bring it straight back, I could ask for a leave, and I could have the object. And then I built it up to different objects, so Frisbees, bulls and such.

So yeah, I'd maybe look at teaching a solid retrieve away from the clam at first. That way they can go get their reward from the clam, you can cue your, "Get it, bring me," whatever it is. They can then pick up the clam, bring it back, you can refill it, and you can go again. But yeah, definitely, definitely nail the retrieve before expecting them to do it with the clam.

So I hope you found this session helpful. We're hoping to be back again next week with more questions and more answers. And yeah, thank you everyone for tuning in.

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