Even though dog training and dog care, especially online, are full of ALWAYS’S and NEVERS, you don’t need to stop with fetch games cold turkey.
Our post Fun with Find It!, not just Fetch from last week, gives you lots of ideas so that you can break up repetitive fetch games, add some variety and improve the quality of play time in terms of behavioural health and enrichment for your dog.
Fun with Find It!
All sorts of absolutes are shared online about stopping with fetch games and dumping the ball launcher. Fetch is a most popular game for pet owners and their dogs, and I really don’t want to throw the ball out with the fetch games.
The PDSA Paw Report, 2019, found that almost 40% of dogs only get out of the house for up to 30 minutes at a time, and that 13% of dogs not getting out daily at all.
And a 2019 survey of 1500 pet owners by dog food Forthglade found that less than half of dogs are walked daily.
In the case of some of these dogs, their owners may incorporate some structured enrichment program (beyond food dispensing toys and food puzzles), but for most, this is unlikely.
Given this worrying trend, I certainly do not want to start limiting owners’ efforts when it comes to providing adequate physical and mental outlets for their pets.
It may not surprise you that one of the first things I do with clients is help them improve and refine enrichment for their pets, helping them meet their pets’ needs before we can start with training interventions.
That’s what #100daysofenrichment is all about; encouraging pets and their people to have fun and brain games together with as much guidance and support as possible. And play most certainly forms part of that program.
Fun with Find It! and fetch and other stuff too
Here are some clips from today’s trek around the Phoenix Park. We start with just sniffing and roaming – I want him nice and warm before he does anything strenuous. For the most part, he is trotting and loping around, at will as much as is possible and safe.
Intermittently we might do recalls, Go Find It! games, or just silly stuff just as part of engagement and joy in hanging out together.
When he’s good and loose, we might play fetch; not every time, not in the same places. Sometimes I don’t even bring a ball.
But, we do our best to follow the rule of doing a different move each time to cut down on repetition, and making play time more than just fetch. So, we might have several rounds of this.
Then we might walk on; he gets to carry the ball: he’s the winner! We’ll have intermittent interactions around the ball – “I’m gonna getcha!” and a bit of tug, maybe.
Don’t just think about variation in toy games, but on your walks and outings in general. Engage your dog in lots of different activities and interactions, bring them to areas that allow for sniffing and running, different gradients, different footings, different levels of cover.
Rather than abolishing, we have responsibilities to help refine. And rather than going after pet owners, we have responsibilities to shape behaviour and apply differential reinforcement, rather than aversive approaches.
Add in Find It! games, along with sniffing, and lots of adventure time, rather than taking exercise and entertainment away from dogs. Concentrate on making it more dog.