Power of play
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I cannot stress enough the importance of play for your dog, as it is thru play that dogs develop their social skills. Humans and dogs have a common love of play as from babies to adults both species use play to teach and to bond together.
Play is also your dogs ways of learning to compromise – Fights or conflicts can occur and although the humans often get upset when the dogs start to push each other around, it is actually a healthy way for dogs to sort out their place as well as to develop their body and mind.
Playtime in the Pack – Puppies start to play when they are just over 2 weeks old. They have their eyes open and start to pull themselves up on their feet and paddle their front legs at their siblings. Little yelps emit from the den as the pups start to work out where their brothers and sisters are. By the fourth week the pups are having fun rolling and playing they also venture from the den for short periods. We also start to see the more ‘alpha’ personalities starting to appear. They will commence having little fights with each other and some serious sharp growls will confirm these challenges.
At 6-8 weeks the play games develop into chasing, tug of war, wrestling and fights. The fights may sound serious but they are not intended to cause harm but instead they are to allow the pups to develop a strong coping behaviour against these rough games. At about this time the pup has left the den, he has the older dogs in his pack to work with. The adults will give the pups the chance to climb on them even to play bite. Initially it may seem that the pups are given too much liberty by the adults, however by the time the pup is hitting 4 months the adults will now start to seriously reprimand him if he steps out of line. Initially with a light warning but the adults will quickly increase the ‘Block’ if the pup doesn’t back down.
Building a Bond – From here on there are regular games within the pack. As the pup matures into a young dog he has developed a strong understanding of what is acceptable to the pack. Playing games with the adults helps him to develop good social manners. He has also forged a strong bond within the pack and knows his place. If he oversteps the boundary the older dogs will block him to bring him back into line. This may involve a strong reprimand that is perfectly normal and acceptable to all in the pack.
Social Play – Dogs can continue throughout their lives to develop and enhance their skills thru play. When dogs meet new dogs they will attempt the greeting rituals then there are a couple of likely outcomes (more on this in the Chapter Greeting Rituals). One outcome is when tension builds from the greeting then the dogs may move away and ignore each other. The second outcome is when the greeting goes well then often some degree of play will commence. When dogs of similar build and temperament meet they will often feel very comfortable together and then games can become very active, even to the point of humans making the interpretation of aggression between these dogs which in fact is often just building their skills.
If you wish to learn more on the topic of Building the Foundation – the book is available from the Author – $20.00 + $5.00 p&h – please send an email to order.