Does my dog think I'm fun? How can I do more?
Updated: May 10, 2022
In this blog, I want you to ask yourself, “am I fun enough for my dog”? That’s not to say that you aren’t fun, but at the very least, this blog may help you to look at how you can be more fun, meet their needs, and maybe give you some ideas on how you can utilise your time together better. Our training is all about games, having fun and working with your dog, all whilst learning new skills. If you can teach your dog through games, while you both have a great time, then to me this is the definition of training. So ask yourself, how many games do you play with your dog? How many one-on-one activities do you have that provides mental or physical enrichment? What about opportunities to let off stress, or that would meet their needs genetically? Being fun doesn’t just mean providing and playing lots of games (although the more games you have the better). Being either involved, or the source of the fun, is also great. Taking them to areas where they love to sniff and search around (scent walks), beach trips, a walk with friends or setting up play dates, the list is endless and will usually cost you nothing!
Providing a basic level of companionship, is the basic level of being a dog owner and keeping your dog alive! You want to be looking at offering way more than this.
When you were at school, the children you enjoyed playing with became your friends, and the children you didn’t enjoy playing with, you didn’t play with again. So, you want to be someone your dog WANTS to play with. Below, we will talk about the difference between a basic level of companionship, and actually being your dog’s friend, and somebody they seek out to play with, trust, and find reassurance and comfort in. Not all owners will be a source of fun or play with their dogs. This could be because of the owners age, a lack of knowledge, not enough enthusiasm, a busy lifestyle, or simply think, because they had a couple of toys that their dog didn’t show much interest in when they were younger, they have labelled the dog not bothered in toys, without exploring any other types of options, or even just trying a little harder. Companionship. Any owner, or at least anyone that doesn’t want to be called a bad one, provides a basic level of companionship. This might include care, providing safety, food, a home, and love. Now providing this basic level of companionship isn’t really going above and beyond, or meeting your dog’s needs both mentally and physically. It’s really the basic level of responsibility that you have taken on, when you decide to take on your new four-legged best friend. You might say that being fun is part of this basic level companionship, and I would agree somewhat, but I am going to pull away from those mentioned above, and go into detail specifically about why being fun is so important with your dog, and why it is slightly different. Let’s take a look at a couple of things. Firstly, dogs thrive off positive and enthusiastic energy. Dogs are also naturally playful and from day one, enjoy the company of either their litter, or carers. Unless they have had a troubled start or traumatic experience, dogs will naturally draw close to humans, and this is exactly why we have domesticated them and call them our best friends. But not all dogs are like this. Some dogs don’t know that humans are for playing with, they also might not know that the round, yellow bouncing thing (tennis ball), is there for them to chase and play with. Often, if a dog doesn’t know that humans and toys are a source of fun and can be played with, it’s not often simply because they haven’t the motivation to play with them, and is usually because they haven’t been allowed or shown that this is the case. If you as the owner don’t or can’t, provide a basic level of companionship, which is a fundamental requirement to building a strong relationship, then your dog may be less inclined to seek your time, to play and interact with via games. This to you might look like they’re not interested, or don’t want to play. Many dogs through no fault of their own, may never have been given the opportunities to play with toys, or been allowed to interact in certain ways with their owners. They could’ve of course had a terrible upbringing, or simply one that was deprived of this level of engagement and fun, although were provided the basic level of companionship. I guess that is where and why I have separated them. Although most owners need to provide a level of companionship to keep their dog alive, games, fun, and opportunities to express themselves, isn’t something that owners necessarily need to provide to keep them alive. Even if you do provide lots of toys and opportunities to interact and play, are you providing them in the environment that your dog understands, and actually thinks is fun? What you think is fun for a dog, or think that’s how your dog should play, might actually be completely different to how your dog likes to play. So how do we make ourselves more fun? I guess to answer this question you must look at your dog’s breed, their instinctual and genetical behaviours, and also what the individual dog enjoys to do. Some dogs will prefer to chase, some to kill (a toy), others may enjoy to search, dig, run, swim and so on. Being able to understand how your dog likes to play, which often is what comes naturally to them, gives you the best opportunity to provide the right types and opportunities for fun.
Areas to spice up in your day-to-day life: Games - We have spoken lots about games that you can play with your dog. Every single toy provides a different way to play. Changing the environment in which you play with them is also great. Taking them to different areas - Use longer leads or off lead if you have a recall. Use scent walks, take them to interesting places where they can run, sniff, climb, be free and so on. The list here is only limited to your imagination. Feed time - Do you feed your dog or does the bowl feed your dog? There are hundreds of ways you can feed your dog, and pouring it straight into the bowl is just one. Training - Training should always be fun not boring, so make it fun. I won’t go into how here, but you know what gets your dog going, and is your responsibility to motivate them. Walking around your house and doing chores - Being upbeat, moving with purpose, dancing and singing your way through the chores, not only makes them easier, but it’s a great way for you and your dog to interact and have fun. Ultimately the more fun you are, the more your dog will not only listen to you more, but will actively seek your attention more. You can’t play with your dog if they run off with the ball, maybe you used to take things off them lots, so now they don’t want to return to you. You can’t play with other dogs off lead if they never return to you, maybe the other dogs are much more interesting then you are. See how it works? Always look at increasing your value, your games, to keep your dog always interested in you and fulfilled.
It’s difficult with such busy lives, to feel like you have to constantly entertain your dog. But once you know how
you can affectively use the potentially small amount of spare time you have, your relationship on the whole will grow massively, their behaviour will improve, and the alone time that you choose to spend together, is quality time, and not just filling the time.