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Positive Playtime - Episode 4

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Hi everyone. It's Chelsea and it's another week and another Positive Playtime. So thank you very much for everyone who's been sending in their questions. I've tried to answer as many as possible without making this video too long. So yeah, let's take a look at what we've got so far.

How to play tug with a dog that easily over aroused?

Tug is really beneficial for various reasons. It's great, our dogs really enjoy it, but as Julian Mortimer's question said, how do you play with a tug with a dog that is really easily over aroused? I had this with one of my Kelpies.

Kelpies, as you may know are quite high drive, quite excitable anyway. So tug quite often sent him a bit loony, which is great, because it was great he was motivated, but he still needed to be able to think in arousal. So to begin with, I stepped away from the real fur because he really loved the sheepskin, but it was almost too much for him to cope with at the time.

So we dropped the value of the toy a little bit. So he found Faux Fur a little bit less exciting, so we worked with that to begin with. Something like our Bright Fauxtastic or our Pocket Fauxtastic would be great. Also, I watched my play style. I was very aware of how much effort I was putting in because he was likely to mirror that, match it or even go next level. So I tried to keep my play style a bit calmer and also, in between, ask for commands. So I'd tug for maybe five seconds, ask for a leave, ask for a sit, so I know his brain is still engaging.

If I play tug for 60 seconds, two minutes, that would be too much. And if I'd ask for a sit, then you could just see he was already gone. His brain gone, completely. So watch your play style, maybe pick a slightly lower value toy to begin with, and then build up to their favourite one.

Also mixing between food and play. I sometimes have to do a little bit of play and then a little bit of food if I'm training, just to keep his head space right. Or at the end of the session as well, I like to scatter feed treats. I know I've mentioned this before about a leave cue, but if you scatter feed as well, it helps bring the arousal level back down because they have to sniff and find it, and sniffing is a naturally calming behaviour for dogs.

So break it up, keep the sessions short and maybe try a lower value tug toy and watch your play style too, is some good tips for that.

My dog will play at home but not when out and about

This question is from Isabel and it's about her schnauzer that will play at home and in the garden when training, but won't at certain venues. So this is all about the level of distraction. Her schnauzer's obviously struggling in different environments, whether it's new dogs, new things, new smells and more going on. For example, at a Agility competition, you've got multiple rings of Agility dogs running around and it's a lot to take in. So the tug toy might not be top of their list of priorities.

So it is really, really, really important to build value into a tug toy at home first, which I'm sure you've done to a certain extent, but our How To Master The Art Of Motivation guide can really help also. It's got more tips in there about looking at your play style, looking about the length of time you play, things like that. Some simple things that you may often overlook.

Like I said, play style's a big one. When I know I'm going to an environment with lots and lots of distractions, rather than using a small pocket tug or something like that, I quite often whack out the Chaser toy, because that's their ultimate toy and it's novel. It's different because they're used to playing up close and playing like that. So when I get out the Chaser style toy for them to wiggle around on the floor, it's a next level. So it's that little bit extra that gives me the advantage over the distractions.

It is just building value into the toy and overcoming those distractions. And also try and build up the environment you're working in. So obviously at the house it's easy, low level distraction, garden, a bit less distraction, but maybe try training at the edge of a dog park or something like that, where there are more distractions, but it's not quite Agility level distraction when you're at a competition or venue.

Try maybe training at different venues and building up that way. It is hard to replicate competition environment, but there are things you can do to sort of build level of distraction, even if it's a sort of in a staged, set up way. So maybe try that.

How do I get a large dog to play nicely?

Okay. The next question... Sorry. You might have noticed there's a little Kelpie head in the way. The next question is, how do I get Otto to play nicely? He is a large dog, gets excited and starts to use paws when we're playing, so it's not easy to tug with him.

With any games, there should be rules, whether it's with people or with dogs. So I'm not talking Monopoly style, lots of complicated rules. I'm just talking rules that keep the game safe and make it enjoyable for both parts. So the benefit of tug is that there's many benefits for both the human and the dog, and it should be a bonding experience for both. We need to ensure obviously that the dog isn't super over-excited, jumping around, thrashing around, pawing at us, accidentally scratching us. I mean, the dog isn't doing it on purpose. They're not being bad. It just sounds like a case of being over aroused.

So I would, when he does start using his paws, interrupt that behaviour. You don't need to tell him off, just ask for a leave and just walk away for a couple of minutes. Not even a couple of minutes, 30 seconds, give him. Just let him calm down a little bit. Go back to it and re-engage the game of tug. And likewise, if he does it again, starts to use his paws, interrupt to ask for a leave and walk away.

If you find he's still really struggling and he's doing this quite a lot, I'd maybe look at how you're playing. Maybe he is over aroused. Maybe he's too excited, and then that's when the paws come in. When you play tug, just keep enough tension on the toy. You don't need to be thrashing it around. You may find it's when you're thrashing it around and getting really excited, he's getting really excited. And then that's when the extra bouncy pawing behaviour comes in. So yeah, just think about how you're playing with him. Maybe keep it a bit calmer to begin with, until he starts learning that the pawing isn't acceptable.

Also, maybe look at the type of tug toy you're using. If you're using sort of real fur, maybe that's a bit too exciting, too motivating for him to begin with. Maybe switch it down to a faux fur or a fleece type product and see if that helps keep him a bit calmer to begin with. But yeah, just interrupt it. Don't tell him off. It's not a bad thing he's excited, but he just needs to learn what's appropriate play. Yeah. And try that and see if that helps.

So that's a wrap. That's it for our Q&A sessions for a little while. Thank you everyone who's sent them in. It's been fun to answer your questions and do these little videos. It's kept me busy. But we are still around, we are still here free to do sort of toy recommendations for your dogs. And also if you've got any product queries, feel free to drop us a message by the normal means.

Thank you very much everyone for joining in.

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