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Positive Playtime - Episode 3

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Hello everyone and welcome back. We've got another Q and A session, answering some of your training and play questions. So let's see what questions we've got.

Help! My dog barks for attention

This is a question that's come up quite a few times actually. So it's about demand barking, attention barking and just dogs not settling in general. So you really do need to teach a settle with some dogs, it isn't something they'll naturally do, especially if they're young or they're sort of high drive working breeds. So it is something you sort of need to encourage them to do yourself. So there are a few ways you can do this. I personally like to capture the behaviour that they're already offering. So even if it's not very frequently, I'm sure they do lie down or they go to sleep at some point. So if your dog is laid down, go over, I say the word "settle" and then "good dog," give them a biscuit, sort of build up from there. So they associate the word with the behaviour they are offering. It is really important not to be all excited and go, "Yay, good dog. Well done. Here's your biscuit." Because they're going to bounce back up and they're going to be excited and they're going to want to go do something. So give the treat slowly, speak calmly, speak softly, and weirdly, try not to make a big deal about it, just give them treats or walk away and go do something else. Or give the treat and just sit beside them until they settle back down and go snoozing again.

Another way to do it, is some people literally put their dogs on a lead and sit down and they go, "Okay, we're going to do five minutes of settle," say settle, sit down, ignore the dog and wait for them to chill out. Read the paper for five, 10 minutes, whatever floats your boat really. At the end, once they have settled, reward them and then use a command, sort of release or break usually works quite well, so that they know they can get up and go do their own thing again. So those are two ways.

I'd also, if you've got a puppy or a young dog, look at crate training. I swear by crate training for new dogs, they learn that that place is their safe place. Also, it is a place they chill out and relax. So one of our dogs shadow chases, so she struggles to settle a lot. So her crate is a place where she knows to relax and she automatically runs in there, she's happy to be in there and she chills out and she relaxes. To begin with, we had to give her sort of Kongs or chew toys in there, just to bring her arousal down and distract her, and then after she'd finished that she would be calmer and she'd settle and she'd sleep for a bit. So, there is no harm in giving your dogs sort of chew toys or stuffed Kongs in the meantime to get them settled.

Also, it's important to look at the activities we're doing. If we're constantly running them around, constantly doing this, that the other, they're on the go all the time, their arousal level is going to be really high anyway, so they may not settle as well. So it's important. Balance is important. Use scent work, use brain games, work their brains and their minds and not just their bodies. So yeah, get those brains ticking and do some more calming sort of scent work games as well as high drive games too.

Should I let my dog win the toy?

This is an interesting question from Mia and Mav. The question is, should I be letting my dog win the tug when practising recall, and will this teach him to stay away? So, okay, with this one it's definitely down to the dog. I have one dog, as much as I've built value into the toy, he is a bit of a de-shedder, a plucker of toys. So with him, I know if he wins the toy he's gone. We're working on that. That's something we're building it on. But if I was teaching a recall with him especially, I would make the value in the game being with me. So if he's coming back, he's recalling, he gets a toy. Having that game of tug should be a reward in itself. So he doesn't necessarily need to win the toy for that to be rewarding. So with recall, because you are working on proximity, I personally just sort of play tug and then ask for a leave at the end of it, rather than letting him win.

Obviously with some dogs, if their value is enough in the game with you rather than the toy itself, that's fine. I've got one dog that I can tug, tug, tug, let it go and he sort of bounces back at me to keep playing. So it's sort of dog dependent. But letting them win isn't necessarily essential for recall because you're working on proximity anyway. So no, it's not necessary. But yeah, you can sort of work with the dog you've got.

My dog keeps biting the handle 

Okay, so we have a question here from North Coast Canines. It says, how to go about stopping the dog aiming for the handle, ouch, my poor fingers. So I've had personal experience with this with one of my own dogs, a Kelpie. He is quite an enthusiastic tugger but he was also so frantic, so manic when playing, he'd quite often go for the handle. So it's not that uncommon. Lots of dogs will do it, especially inexperienced tuggers. So what I'd recommend doing is bunching up the handle like this, and sort of presenting it to your dog. I use a command like "get it," "tug" or something like that. Something simple, easy. So once they make contact with that bite area, reward them, praise them, tell them they're good, keep tugging, tugging. Keep doing that, if they start working their way up, just ask for a leave, restart the game.

Eventually, once they get the hang of that, you can present the bite area, let them grab it and unravel this. If you keep tension on the toy, that will stop them from being able to sort of regrip and work their way up, because if they try to regrip, you'll find that they sort of, as you've got the tension, will just sort of slip away. So if you keep that tension there, it makes it harder for them to regrip. And another tug toy that I sort of recommend for handle grabbers is our sheepskin bungee ring. As you can see, sort of the bite area as you present it to them, is a lot more obvious and the handle more discreet. So it sort of tucks it away as you're playing, making it a bit harder for them to grab that.

How do I make my tug toy more exciting outside?

This next question is from Bruce's Springer Adventure, and the question is, how do I make tug more exciting outside rather than chasing rabbits? So yeah, it might always be rabbits, it might be squirrels, it might be other dogs, it might be ball launchers, but I'm sure at some point most of us have had iffy recalls with our dogs. So it's definitely something that can be worked on. The main thing with recall is being more exciting than the distractions. So for foodie dogs, having some really high value treats, maybe chicken breasts or hotdogs or something like that will be enough to grab their attention and reward them for returning. For other dogs, especially ones with a sort of high prey chase drive, the food isn't going to cut it.

So that's why play can be really, really useful. I used to use the chasers with my own dogs. They're sort of herding breeds, so they have that chase drive. What I'd do is I'd sort of drag the toy behind me, calling them and they'd sort of chase after the toy. That gave them that sort of fulfillment, that motivation that they already really enjoy, without actually going off and chasing the other dogs instead. It is really important to use a long line if your dog hasn't got a reliable recall. So again, we've used that long line just as a safety precaution. Also, work on recall at home first. Build up, build up, build it up before you get into places with really hard distractions. You need to set them up to succeed again. We do have a guide on recall, "How To Supercharge Your Recall." I will drop a link in somewhere below or above, that will give you lots of hints and tips on how to build that recall at home.

Yeah, maybe look into getting a training toy or something like that. Something really rewarding you use specifically for that, and keep that really high value reward for training. We also do, if it is rabbit, specifically, your dog enjoys chasing, maybe also look into our rabbit skin range. It's got that scent and texture that the dogs really like, and you're once again using that motivator to your own advantage. So yeah, check out the recall guide and hopefully that helps.

Okay, so that's it for today. Thank you very much for joining in. If there are any questions that haven't been answered in this session and you'd like them to be looked at, maybe for next week, feel free to drop them in the comments. I will take a look and hopefully answer them for you. Like always, we're still here, we're still available to give you personal toy recommendations and also to answer any product queries. So drop us an email that way if you have any. But yeah, thank you everyone for joining in.

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