Horsing  Around With Your Dog!

One of the topics on this week’s Dog Talk® was a lively conversation I had with Marc Bekoff, the dog expert and educator, who has written too many impressive animal-oriented books to list! Marc is a fun and modest gentleman — despite his PhD and many accomplishments — and he likes to encourage us to have common-sense fun and play freely with our dogs. In addition to tug-of-war, there are adaptable human games like Hide-and-Seek, “Tag you’re it,” and just rolling around on the grass together, that allow us to get down on our dog’s level and enjoy each other (safely).


Is Hugging Your Dog Okay?

Marc and I had this conversation last year on Dog Talk®  about whether it’s okay to hug a dog. In that interview we discussed some guidelines about how to hug thoughtfully — with your own dog’s personality in mind. Marc has written about hugging dogs, noting that it’s just fine to hug your dog as long as it’s on her terms (in “Hugging a Dog Is Just Fine When Done With Great Care“).  His rule of thumb before hugging a dog is to pay very close attention to the dog’s body language, your relationship with the dog, and previous experiences.

Is Tug-of-War Okay?

Marc has also written about playing tug-of-war with dogs, which he explains is not necessarily about dominance when played with people. As long as tug-of-war is on the dog’s terms it can be fun for both of you. It can also be important in bonding and maintaining a positive and friendly relationship and training experience with your dog.  Dr. Bekoff’s article “What’s Happening When Dogs Play Tug-of-War? Dog Park Chatter” discusses that.

Positive Reinforcement Can Go Beyond the Games

If you have a dog who handles herself really well when playing games or “putting up with” human behavior (like hugging!) don’t be afraid to give her a reward for being such a good sport. Keep some high value treats nearby and every so often during your play — if you like the way she’s controlling her energy or displaying her “sense of humor” — you can slip her a yummy healthy bite.

NOTE:  It’s okay to play in these ways as long as the individual dog shows you he is okay with it. Pay close attention to who each dog is as a unique individual. Playing  has to be done on the dog’s terms, not ours.

—Tracie Hotchner
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photo credit: shehan365 day 20/365 via photopin (license)