This is the eighth and final article in the series about educating yourself about DOG OWNERSHIP
Fun and Games – (Play)
The benefits of exercise, ‘tricks’, dog sports and just simply more interaction with your canine friend.
Let’s get started!
Fun and Games or in other words – Play
What are the benefits of teaching my dog to do tricks?
Tricks are fun and rewarding for both you and your dog. If seeing your dog perform tricks makes you happy, it also makes your dog happy!
Your dog lives for positive attention. He learns that performing these tricks gets him plenty of love and affection from you and other people. This positive attention aids in socializing your dog as well because his trust will grow when he receives approval from a variety of people in his environment.
Teaching your dog to do tricks will also help you interact with others, especially people who might be somewhat afraid of dogs. A dog that can ‘shake hands’ or ‘roll over’, for example, automatically appears friendlier and less-threatening, and this can put others at ease.
Are some breeds more trainable than others?
If you have done your research you will come to realize that some breeds have beed bred where “train-ability” is a key element of their genetic make-up.
A very generalized explanation is that some breeds where bred to follow the orders of their human companion while other breeds were bred to follow other natural instincts that did not require a directive from their human companion.
As an example, we have guarding type breeds such as German Shepherds who need to be very responsive to human commands in their line of “work”.
Then we have a German Shorthaired Pointer who needs to “suss-out” the quarry, and “point” towards it so his human can ready his gun and shoot it when it is scared out of its hide.
We have the Labrador Retriever who needs to know instinctively that they have to go retrieve the game after their human has shot it; often in a water environment or some impenetrable shrub.
We have herding breeds whose herding instinct is something to be seen to be believed. Often a puppy in these breeds, (only a few months old and with no herding education, can be seen enacting it’s instincts on the family children or the backyard chickens, etc. Probably the most well known and capable herding breed is the Australian Kelpie.
Now all these breeds above do require an ability to take a command over and above their “genetically engineered” instinct related to their hunting / herding tasks. So these breeds can be very trainable for tricks, etc. as well but can often do get a bit excited / distracted by other goings on, however overall are equally as trainable as the guard breeds.
The small breeds. Well they come in all shapes and sizes and vary in train-ability. You need to read up on the small breed of interest and find out a bit about its ancestry to assess how much you can teach it. Toy and miniature breeds especially. Then you have the little terriers or the breeds with terrier blood. As lively as a packet of popping corn and as cheeky as they come; but with the correct communication can match and even surpass most breeds when it comes to playing and performing tricks.
Lastly we have the hunting breeds. Many dog devotees who own “trainable” breeds consider hunter breeds as less intelligent; but the truth is they are at least equally intelligent if not more so because their core attribute is to be able to make quick decisions to catch their prey as well as (in many, many instances), to save themselves from a terrible injury from the prey or the terrain. There are many dogs from the hunting breeds who have individually performed outstandingly in obedience and the learning of tricks; usually with one big difference. They learn quickly, they do what is asked of them for a time, and then they become bored and their capability tappers off.
So depending on what you see as the ideal doggy friend for you …. a totally obedient and trainable pooch, a dog that has instincts for some of the other characteristics mentioned above AND can be taught tricks or a more subdued dog that is a little independent without being less friendly.
All reasons for it being so important top chose the correct breed personality to match your expectations.
What are some tricks I can teach my dog, and how do I do it?
The main ingredient when teaching any kind of trick is a healthy dose of praise and treats. Always reinforce the positive, and avoid scolding. In fact, when your dog fails to perform the trick, don’t do anything at all. Just pretend it didn’t happen and try again. You NEVER use negative / aggressive tactics to train or control your dog; NEVER!
Trick #1: ‘Shake Hands’
You can teach your dog to ‘shake hands’ or ‘high five’ once he’s learned to follow the ‘Sit’ command. Begin by having him sit as you kneel down to his level. Give him the command (“shake”, “shake hands”, “high five”,etc), then pick up one of his front legs and gently ‘shake’ it a few times.
As soon as you let go, give him some praise and a food treat. Repeat the whole process no more than 5 times per session. It may take several weeks, it may only take several days, but eventually your dog will automatically raise his front leg the moment he hears your verbal cue!
Trick #2: Say “Hi”
You can teach your dog to say “Hi” in his own way. Some dogs may actually mimic you and make a human-sounding ‘Hi’, but most will bark or squeak.
To begin, you have to get your dog a bit riled up and excited. Find his favorite toy or treat. Show it to him, but don’t let him have it. The key is to ‘tease’ him as you say the cue word ‘Hi’ (or whatever word you want to teach him) over and over again.
When his excitement level reaches its peak, he should make some sort of sound. He might bark or let out an open-mouthed whine. Go ahead and give him the toy or treat and then praise him lavishly. As with the previous trick, limit the training to 5 repetitions at a time.
Trick #3: Sit Up
This trick teaches your dog to sit up on his hind legs, front paws off the floor. Your dog will need to learn to maintain his balance, and it is a good idea in the beginning to teach him this trick close to a corner or wall so that he can catch himself if he loses his balance. Remember though that some breeds aren’t capable of doing this trick so check up before you try it.
Begin by issuing the command: “Sit up.” Now, show him a toy or treat, holding it just above his nose. Slowly move your hand upwards so that his eyes follow. Once his head is looking straight up, begin to move backwards a bit, so that his only choice is to stretch his body to reach the reward.
Watch him closely and give him the treat the moment he sits up on his hind legs. Praise him and repeat 5 times, then give it a rest for a couple of hours.
What are some other fun activities to do with my dog?
Dogs enjoy all sorts of games. You can play games that are purely for fun, for exercise or even for ‘education’ or ‘sport.’
Indoors, you can play “hide and seek”, tug-of-war, wrestling and even ‘fetch’, so long as you have the space for it and train your dog not to get too excited or rambunctious.
Outdoors, you can go for walks, bush walks, play frisbee, play soccer and variety of other games that involve running, hunting/tracking or retrieving. In fact, you can even teach your dog ‘agility’ games which involved running and jumping over a series of hurdles.
Most places have “dogs off leash” areas nowadays so this is a great place to do some important socialization with your dog. Some of these dog parks can get a reputation of having “difficult” owners and difficult dogs but most are quite OK and there is always the next suburb if you don’t like the atmosphere at your local dog park. Often it can be down to your dogs reaction to the atmosphere that helps you make the decision as to whether it will be good for him long term.
Oh, and don’t forget, in those hot summer months if you are near the coast or within a couple of hours drive there are usually “dogs off leash” beaches and ANY dog just loves water. It makes a great family day out.
All of these games and places can be fun for you and your dog. In regards to some activities you can look for training programs in your area to nurture your dog’s abilities and take him to the next level and get him ready to compete if that is something you think you and your dog might enjoy.
How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?
All dogs need daily exercise for optimum health, but some dogs need more than others. Certain breeds have very high energy levels and, somewhat like hyper-active children, need your assistance in ‘burning off’ this excess energy. THIS IS THE CRUX OF FINDING OUT WHAT BREED SUITS YOUR PERSONALITY AND REQUIREMENTS AS A COMPANION AS THIS IS “THE BREAKER” WHEN IT COMES TO DOG OWNERSHIP.
If your dog is destructive and never seems to “mellow out”, it’s likely you’ve got a high-energy dog on your hands, and he is in need of far more exercise than he’s getting.
In addition to daily walks and ‘backyard time’, the high-energy dog will need to engage in something that satisfies his instincts. This usually involves play that includes plenty of vigorous running and jumping.
Depending on the breed, your dog may also need to hunt, track, herd or retrieve something. If you have a Border Collie, for example, you’ve got a breed known for herding cattle.
This instinct does not disappear simply because there are no cattle around. Instead your dog will try to herd you, other animals and even passing cars. The healthy way to satisfy that kind of instinct is to play ball games such as soccer.
Likewise, if you’ve got a retriever, then you’ll want to play games like ‘fetch’ and ‘hide-and-seek’ to satisfy his urge to capture prey. Get the idea?
It is important to not just “assume” that a certain dog will be far too much work because you concluded that it MUST need a lot of exercise. There are many surprising anomalies in the dog world. For example you have considered re-homing a greyhound but such an athletic dog will need SO MUCH exercise won’t he. Right? ……. wrong. If ever there was a couch potato it is a greyhound (or other sight hounds for that matter). These dogs conserve their energy for short bursts of exercise and actually do “self-exercise” from time to time. You actually have to get them up, hitch up their collar and lead and coax them out of the house for a walk each day. (Which they thoroughly enjoy).
CONGRATULATIONS ….. this is the end ….. you have made it. You (hopefully) now see why it is so important to be armed with the correct information before you make a decision on what breed you should invest your time in. I do hope you base your choice on personality rather than looks. Most often you will find that you have had some “ah ha” moment when you find that you have narrowed it down to breed you were already contemplating.
And if you already have a dog this information is important for you as well so that you can modify your thoughts and your “connection” with your dog to make your relationship work so you can be a better companion to your dog.