Day 73 Play: Be goofy

Welcome to Day 73 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!


Be goofy!

At a glance:

  • toyless/treatless interactions that are playful and silly
  • develop your goofiness as we work toward no-toy play that is truly cooperative and joyful
  • play is the ultimate in relationship boosting, stress busting fun
  • social and cognitive based enrichment
  • play and engagement form the foundation of relationships and successful training
  • lots of these exercises can get pretty exciting, so it might be better that smaller children not take part but help in preparing training rewards.
    Children can be great dog trainers but require lots of guidance and support.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • no formal training sessions today, no contrived enrichment scenarios – make it natural, make it delightful, make it goofy

What do you need?

  • just you and your pet!

We will talk about human-dog play throughout this program, and have already started with Fun with Food games on Day 32.

Enrichment Goals:

  • to make the fun about the engagement and interaction and not training exercises, food rewards or toys
  • to build engagement between dog and human
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans

We are not working on training exercises today but I do want to make sure that we understand that all behaviour is reinforced or punished. Reinforcers increase behaviour, punisher decrease it.
So, if behaviour is happening something is reinforcing it, and if it’s not happening, something is punishing it.

Play is no different. Just like cueing behaviour and your dog responding is a dance of communication, play is too. Perhaps, even more so.

You do behaviour, your dog responds, you respond, your dog responds, you respond and so on and on.
This allows for a wonderfully complex level of communication between two species, forging a most health relationship between our two species.
This is a level of social and cognitive enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?


How can we achieve these goals?

Today’s challenge is about keeping it simple and collecting information from your observations.

What sort of interactions, between your dog and you, make your dog smile?

No treats, no toys, just you and your pet.

Maybe it’s just a passing interaction, a little touch, a fun movement, a silly voice.

There doesn’t need to be any duration to these interactions, a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes is good.

Sit on the floor. Wait for your dog to check you out. Try some different moves and see which ones cause your dog joy and get them wanting more.

Practice those.

Keep it really simple today – get a good understanding of inter-species play, and how we humans often get it pretty wrong.


Applications of Play:

Play is a tricky thing that we think we recognise if we see it, but might not be able to adequately define it. And that’s the case in the literature too.

We think that animals play, but we’re not really sure why. The play research suggests we start by defining play so here’s a simple run down…

  • play for play’s sake, because you choose to play
  • play is fun, and that’s enough
  • play feels good and we want to engage in play (you don’t have to play)
  • play can sometimes look serious, but there are important differences; the serious parts happen out of order or in the absence of normal triggers relative to the serious stuff
  • play is creative, spontaneous and improvised
  • play happens when we feel safe – time should fly, you should feel less self-conscious

And although there might be some agreement on how we might define play, when it comes to deciphering the functions of play, there are lots of differences.

Play probably helps animals prepare for swings in emotion, gets them ready and honed for life and let’s not forget, play is fun! Having fun is a viable function of behaviour.


Dogs and humans play differently and dog-dog play differs from dog-human play (and differs from human-human play). But, like in so many areas, dogs and humans share tons of the basic rules of social interactions.

As is so often typical of us humans, we often approach play in the way we think the dog should play or in the way we think the dog should enjoy playing. And this so often turns the dog off play, changes the nature of games and ultimately causes break downs in communication and relationship.

We even have research that looks at how people play with their dogs and how our play behaviours can overwhelm our play partner, yet we continue to push, presumably believing that this is fun and this is how it should be done.
(Rooney, Bradshaw & Robinson, 2000) (Rooney, Bradshaw & Robinson, 2001) (Rooney, Bradshaw & Robinson, 2002)

I spend a lot of time working on improving relationships between pets and their people; that’s what this entire project is about too. I also spend a lot of that time helping people play with their dogs (certainly not the worst job in the world!).
I incorporate play in almost every training and behaviour program I design. My most common problem is that people don’t appear to know how to play with their dogs and sometimes don’t value play’s importance, whether that be toy based games, or just silly, playing interactions.
Our trainers will tell you that that is something that causes me great stress and concern – I take play very seriously, playfully serious and seriously playful!

I believe that play is life, and play is a way of dealing with life. Improving your play with your dog does so much more than just fun with food.

Just because you (think you) utilise reward based training, R+, “force-free” or whatever “positive” label, doesn’t mean it’s a happy, playful learning experience. Teaching playful behaviour isn’t the same as playing.

The beauty of establishing these foundations is that the more you play together, the more you will each shape one another’s behaviour. Your behaviour will evolve, adapt and adjust to your player.

The ultimate goal in play is to get really nice play-interactions, without treats or toys. The two players, dog and human, are participating for the pure joy. That’s coming soon!


Play starts with an invitation and consent, the players make eye contact and ask if they want to keep the game going; play is cooperative so we ask and answer. Play involves mirroring of behaviour and balanced participation.

Today, we continue on the road to wonderful, consent-full, choice-led, partnership based play between dog and human. What could be better than that?

Play Dos and Don’ts


  • play in really short sessions
  • get their attention first
  • invite play
  • get consent
  • and keep asking if they would like to continue…
  • practice – play is like any other behaviour


  • bring too much intensity
  • push the toy at the dog
  • make it too exciting when the dog is just starting to show interest
  • expect too much
  • rely on food too much
  • get stuck
  • play too long

Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

My favourite playa, whose capacity for joy, fun and play apparently knows no bounds and has me in amazement and awe (and sometimes bewilderment) every day.