Don’t Play That Game

If you could poll dogs on this, I think the number one, favorite game of all time for all breeds, and the vast majority of individual dogs would be — KEEP AWAY!  It’s a great game!    A dog can play it with one, or multiple playmates.  It can be played inside or outside; with or without a toy.  And even HUMANS play it — all the time!

Of course, when we’re “playing” we’re not always having as much fun as our dogs!  It usually goes something like this:  Fido proudly gallops out into the middle of your party dragging a bra, or loudly-colored pair of dirty briefs.  You are understandably embarrassed and your one thought is to get that item away from Fido ASAP!  So, you order him to “Drop it!”  Fido is delighted!  He’s gotten your attention, and drops into a play-bow in return, perhaps growling a bit, certainly wagging his tail.  You move towards him speaking sternly.  “Oh joy!” thinks Fido, “She’s getting into the game,” and he takes off.  After much chasing around furniture and all around the house, you decide that you’ve embarrassed yourself enough and let Fido have his prize.  Fido is beside himself with glee!  He’s gotten a rousing session of is favorite game — and gets to chew on his prize!  What more could any dog ask?

Whether it’s this scenario or what you intended to be a game of FETCH or trying to put the dog’s leash on, dogs love to play KEEP AWAY and will seize any opportunity to turn any situation to into that game.  A dog will do this for two reasons, 1) it’s his favorite! and 2) he can!  We’re letting the dogs dictate the game we play — or even IF we’re playing!  

It’s fairly simple — notice I dont’ say EASY — to prevent this.  We just have to remove the “fun-factor!”  If he’s not having a good time, a dog won’t continue wasting the effort.  In almost all situations, the prescription is simply — DON’T ENGAGE IN THE CHASE!   

In the scenario above, once Fido has trotted out the embarrassing item, your face is red, so just turn your back on the dog and walk away.  99% of the time, the dog will follow.  Still IGNORE him.  If you don’t really care about the item and don’t mind if it’s chewed, that’s all you have to do — and get your guests to do the same!  (If you won’t play, Fido will try everyone else!)  If that’s your brand-new silk bra, then turn the game into TRADE ME?

The TRADE ME? game involves just getting something else the dog really values.  For some dogs it’s a treat for others a squeaky toy.  Hold it up enticingly.  99% of the time, the dog will drop the verboten item in anticipation of getting the new one.  I always ask for a SIT or some other command before treating so the dog doesn’t get the idea that he can blackmail you for treats by draggin’ out underwear.  And I make sure that the verboten item is in MY hand before the dog gets the treat!

It really is simple.  What is difficult is not letting our “chase” buttons get pushed!  That is really the hard part because dogs are experts at pushing those buttons.  After all, this is their favorite game and they are the experts at strategy!

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