Monday, 11 June 2012


Rolan Tripp, DVM of the Colorado State University Veterinary School, says “Whether it's puppies, kittens or children, Nature insists on play. Play is a requirement for healthy development of a loving personality as well as for a healthy body. In addition, play is the basis for a social structure. Individuals of any species that do not play when they are young are severely mentally and socially compromised when they become adults.”

Play for a puppy is extremely important and begins as early as four weeks. Puppies will play with their mother and littermates at this age. Play will teach a puppy many important skills, for example bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the most important thing the puppy can learn. Puppies need to develop ‘soft mouths’ for when they get older. Dogs without the skill of knowing how much pressure to use when mouthing either their human family or when the play fight with other dogs will very quickly find the game stops and no one will want to play anymore. More seriously some tissue damage could occur which would be completely unacceptable to human or dog.

Play at an early age will also stimulate the mind of the dog developing its mental ability. It will also develop physically, developing muscles and coordination. For example throwing a Frisbee or ball will help develop sight tracking. Playing hide and seek helps hunting skills because the dog uses scent to ‘track’ the hidden object, which maybe a family member rather than a toy. A great game I used to play with my two Labs was find ‘Mandy’. Mandy is my daughter and although she no longer plays with us, she’s 25 and got better more important things to do, she used to go and hide somewhere in the house and I would count to ten then send the labs after her. She would change the places she hid and would squeal with excitement when they found her. I always gave her a couple of treats to hold so that when they found her she would reward them with the treats. To be honest the treats were a bonus they loved the game and loved the excitement Mandy would show when found.

Once Mandy moved on to other things I changed the game to find the keys. I would smear the keys with doggy treat then hide them in another room. Once they had mastered that and I had run out of rooms, I moved outside and started hiding them in the garden. With all the different smells it made it harder forcing them to hone their skills and focus on the smell of the keys. I combined the find with a fetch. They had to bring the keys back to me to get the treat. They loved it. I would send them one at a time because I found that one would follow the other even if it was going in the wrong direction. But on it’s own the individual was much faster at finding the keys.

Clearly this game develops the dogs mind, developing its problem solving skills, and learning it to carry out sequences of events. Remember finding the keys and then fetching them to get the reward. Many obedience skills were learned during this game, for example I would make have the dog ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ whilst I went to hide the keys. Sometimes that involved going ‘out of sight’. The dog would have to stay until I returned. I recommend this game to all my friends as a useful game when teaching basic obedience.

“Playing games lets your dog explore using all senses such as sights, smell, touch and listening which helps with socialisation. Your dog will be less fearful and anxious and more confident if he has learnt under safe conditions to play and explore other dogs, humans and objects.” Julie Davies Puddle Paws.

Because dogs are essentially social animals, play is very important for developing social relationships. Your dog will learn to be a lot more sociable through playing games. Playing games is also important for teaching your dog rules and boundaries. It doesn’t always have to be strict obedience training although clearly that has a place in its overall development. But you can teach your dog simple things like ‘Sit’ and ‘stay’ and ‘Leave’ whilst playing. You can incorporate sit into the fetch game. Have the dog sit when it returns with the toy and then leave before you reward with a treat. The dog will love this game and you are teaching the dog basic obedience commands which are very important components of road safety. By teaching other members of the family how to play with the dog you are also helping the dog to socialize with different people, again the dog learns to be obedient with other family members. Play is very important and is a vital tool in developing a well balanced sociable dog which is a joy to be with.
Another crucial part of developing the puppy’s socialization is letting it play with other dogs. A dog that has only played with humans and has not had interaction with other dogs will not learn the necessary skills for meeting and greeting other sociable dogs.
“.a puppy who has not played, been isolated from other dogs/littermates and/or humans will not have learned bite inhibition, how to communicate and will be more likely to develop fearful and aggressive tendencies to control it’s surroundings in the future.”

In summary, play is vital in the development of your puppies’ socialization and communication kills. It stimulates the dogs and develops problem solving skills and helps develop the brain. But just as important as these are it’s also a lot of fun for both you and your dog.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


Miya is a white Northern Inuit dog. Seen here with my other dog Ben the black Lab. I rescued Miya from an animal rescue center here in Glasgow when she was about 14 months old. I had been to see her a couple of times and decided I wanted to give her the type of home that would let her reach her full potential. I lead a fairly active doggy life. Involved in dog training and spend a lot of weekends doing dog related stuff, like trekking and agility stuff. So I can give a dog like Miya a good life. She was hard work at first, I am her third owner. She was bought as a puppy from a breeder in Central Scotland and given to young children as a Christmas present. I can imagine that at eight weeks old she must have looked like a stuffed pure white wolf cub some kid would have on their bed. Who couldn't resist her. Three months later and sprouting somewhat, she became a bit of a handful. Originally cross bred from German Shepherds and Huskies, Northern Inuits are not Labs. And need a bit more experience when handling and training. This I found out very early on. Like many Christmas presents the kids soon tired of her and turned no doubt to the games consul that offers similar or more reward for a lot less effort. Mum and Dad were not interested in taking up the challenge and so at three months, off she went to the shelter. There she stayed for about four months before her second owner decided she would look good walking next to him along the road. She was adopted for a second time and went to her new home. She lasted there for another three months before being returned once more. The reason this time was that she was 'smelly and jumped up on the table'. The owner's circumstances were also changing and now had no room in his life for such a big dog. So back she went to the rescue center for another four months. In her first year she had spent seven months in a rescue center. When she came to me I had to win her over and as I've previously wrote in this blog, early influences are absolutely vital in helping to shape a dogs eventual temperament. I had my work cut out for me. I'm happy to say she is a much more relaxed dog now. I've had her now for three years. She competes at agility and has reached senior advanced level in road safety obedience. She is very vocal, not barking but typical husky growlly talking. She is clearly fond of me and follows me everywhere, but every now and then I take hold of her and give her a big cuddle. If I were to indulge in a bit of anthropomorphism I guess I would say she reacts like when you were that awkward teenager. Remember when you were say fourteen and dragged off to another family get together be it Christmas or Thanksgiving. You arrive there and know that aunty maud is going to be there. She must be a hundred and fifty by now. Smelling of moth balls and denture tablets. With both her hands she grabs each ear and pulls you towards her for a kiss. Wearing the most awful shade of violet lipstick. she insists on smacking you straight on the mouth, yeuck. Thats how Miya reacts when I give her a big cuddle. As soon as I release her she voices her Yeuck, wags her tail and runs off to get me a ball to play with.        Do I really smell of moth balls??
Thankfully Ben my black Lab doesn't think so he loves cuddles.....

See you soon...........