==> Dog Play is great FUN - for us too! But what?
Games to Play With Dogs!?
This week: Outdoor Games. These include free dog games and free puppy games. With a German Shepherd you should aim to play dog games every day!
Even winter ice is no true excuse. While researching for the best skid-free dog paw pads, I found this very informative article from Daniela of taildom.com.
And for winter ice? It seems our old classic is still the best, summers and winters: Ultra Paws high performance dog boots with traction control.
How Dog Games fit in
Can you still remember the very first MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL? Probably. Because I linked to it quite often.
It was about toys, yes. Toys that German Shepherds love. We showed you 6 Toy Categories, half of which dogs can play with on their own, (see Solitaire in the last Periodical on Dog Play Styles), while the other half requires our active involvement: Together-time with our dog.
And the penultimate Periodical showed you How to Play With Your Dog. - How, yes.
The last Periodical then showed you How dogs play.
Now, in this Periodical just has to come the logical add-on: Dog Games, or Games to Play With Dogs. And this week we focus on Outdoor Games for dogs.
German Shepherd Games: What GSDs Love!
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
Maximum FUN while providing what German Shepherds are made for: Exercise. Running around. Collecting the herd. Identifying subjects or objects. Organizing subjects or objects. Taking care of weak or injured individuals. Integrating them back into the herd. Maintaining social cohesion.
Yep! GSDs do all of that. Without sick leave, without asking for a pay rise, without arguing, and without even mentioning it. Probably we won't even notice all that they do. GSDs ENJOY it. They have FUN doing it. Maintaining group cohesion is in their genes. Like arguing is in ours. Or at least in mine.
Gimme the livestock!
No worries, no need to go rural and ask the closest farmer to lend you some sheep for your GSD to play with. We'll do without that!
Why? Only because I grew up in the city, not on a farm, hence I had to find substitutes anyway. If you live near a farm (or you even are a farmer??), then by all means use your opportunity to introduce your GSD to some livestock (but safely, initially observe).
Watching your dog how (s)he manages a herd (sheep, cows, horses, buffalos, rhinos, dinos, mammuts, whatever you have close by) will be an incredibly enjoyable time for you! I've done that sometimes, and I feel it's very rewarding, entertaining, and educational at the same time.
Not all GSDs are equal
Just note that some modern GSDs have less instinctive herd management skill than others. Some GSDs just won't know what to do: they stand still, possibly they bark from the distance. While others (maybe yours?) will naturally start to 'work' right away, without needing instructions - and without waiting for instructions. The dog is gone!
Work or Play? Play. Maybe both. For German Shepherds the boundary between work, play, tricks, and training is fluid (unless you ruin any of it with obsessive Obedience Training). The key is, GSDs have FUN with all of that: work, play, tricks, and training. For us it should always feel like Play, so that we have FUN too.
The classic German Shepherd shepherds do a brilliant job, keeping all animals close together - so efficient you'd otherwise need 4 cowboys to do that! But a German Shepherd (even 4 of them) run cheaper. And no arguments either, ha! I can go home.
But before I go, I promised some dog games - above and beyond playing with livestock. Dog games with FUN factor. Hopefully for both of you. Since the GSD is a herding dog, most (but not all) FUN involves exercise. Maybe this word alone thwarts all your FUN?
No worries: There are some ways to provide your GSD with FUN (incl. exercise) while you can have FUN not having to exercise. Gosh, what a dictum, I am surprised myself that my hand came up with that!
Go crazy? Why not!
Note this: How much FUN you have during playtime (and during training too!) naturally depends on you: Can you enjoy yourself - excuse yourself with "It's for my dog!" - or do you now have to be serious?
For myself I know: I am a sharp cadult, not a soft sadult (child adult, not serious adult), hehe. There you see: too goofy to pass as sadult! But just right for dogs! You know that you can't get your dog to behave sadult (like a sadult, a serious human adult). We have to adapt to cadult when we are with dogs. Those who don't adapt, too easily become obedience-obsessed...
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
My point is: Unless traumatized, all dogs (GSDs and others) are cadults - they keep the FUN attitude of child adults way into senior age! And why not? Life is serious enough already (and for a dog boring enough already). So, be goofy, have more FUN with your dog. When someone looks queer, you can always say: "It's for my dog!" - Dog owners are a lucky bunch, no?
Yes, we are!
Great Dog Games
Great games for dogs meet all the following dog game criteria or dog play principles:
- The game matches the dog's mental and physical skill and interest
- The game benefits the relationship building with the dog
- The game reduces the conflict the dog is experiencing in the Pack
- The game strengthens our role as accepted Pack leader
- The game allows us to finetune the dog's energy state
- The game trains Bite Inhibition, both bite temptation and bite reflex
- The game exercises both the dog's mind and body (and if we want, ours too!)
- The game trains the dog moral values (see How to play)
- The game improves the dog's play behavior and play language skill
- The game strengthens the dog's senses: particularly see, hear, smell, taste, and feel
- The game improves the dog's motor skill
- The game is FUN for both, the dog and us!
- We plan the game such that our dog is successful the vast majority of the time (>80%)
- Where we wish to increase difficulty/complexity, we keep all but one criterion constant
- When we notice lack of interest or mental or physical exhaustion of our dog, we stop the game immediately
- Play itself is a GREAT reward for all healthy dogs, thus we avoid involving food treats
- Instead of directing the dog what to do (training), we let the dog show initiative (play)!
- We use no commands at all during play - playing games is about FUN!
The more of these game criteria your chosen game meets, the better! Most games we can tailor, such that they meet more game criteria.
Dog Games Categories
I came up with 19 dog games categories. NINETEEN, yes! I will list them here all, including some examples for each games category. However, the games that are rather dog indoor games (I) we will look at in more detail in the next MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL. Because this Periodical is about Outdoor Games for dogs (O).
Don't take my explanatory notes of the examples too serious...it's playtime, so have FUN!
Running Games (O)
With a dog the size of a German Shepherd, running games are better only played outdoors: A GSD doesn't even reach full speed indoors - whether or not you have a house the size of a palace. But have you noticed the sheer joy on your dog's face when (s)he's allowed to run full speed? Unlike most humans, most dogs LOVE running! So, better reserve running games for outdoors only.
Examples: competitive sprint (for once please let the dog win, Mo!), competitive touchdown run (to be played on mud only!), flag run (US flag not allowed for once: dogs know no borders), cross run (marshland and creeks only), hurdle race (dog at dog body height, you at your body height),...
Chasing Games (I+O)
A few chasing games can be played indoors - IF a) your rooms are rather empty, or b) you don't care too much about your interior (in which case, frankly, you may not need to House-train your dog to behave well in your home). The majority of Chasing Games are better reserved for outdoors though.
Examples: Gimme that thing (eg gimme that underwear - favorite game of teen girls and boys with their dog), Tag (mock threat only please), Round Robin Recall (you, the taxman, the UPS man, the binman, the milkman, and the family man, all in a circle), blow bubbles (pink colored only), spray water (ice-cold please), water drops, Tail Teaser (seriously, you can build this yourself), flashlight or laser beam (you can't build this one though - mark that: never in dog's eyes!!),...
Fetch Games (I+O)
If you have a room with ming vase, flatscreen TV, display cabinet, persian rug etc, then some fetch games can be great FUN indoors - for the dog.
Examples: fetch the fresh egg, fetch the overdue tomato, fetch the turkey, fetch the Chihuahua,...
Now seriously: Indoors, fetch soft toys only, eg throw a (wetted) towel, old children plush toy, pillow, Soft Toss Ring, Chuckit Kick Fetch Ball, Flying Squirrel, Indoor Ball, Wheel Toy, Amphibious Bumper,...
Seen this funny video of a dog who wants to play fetch?
Retrieve Games (I+O)
Examples: retrieve the overdue tomato, retrieve the wallet from that man there, retrieve the handbag from that lady there, retrieve the gun from that cop there, supermarket shelve shopping, meat market,... you name it!
Ball Games (I+O)
Examples: dog boule (french, nothing to eat, but is FUN!), bowling (yes, you may use the Varsity ball if you have it), dog pawball (also known as 'football') perfect with the Chuckit Kick Fetch Ball, dog basketball (use soft smooth rounded ball only, although they bounce little, they don't hurt the dog's nose!), dog volleyball (see prior note), or just throw a ball like Chuckit Ball,...
Examples: dog hurdle race, egg race, sausage bobbing, dog teeter/see-saw, dog slide, dog bouncer, dog skateboarding, dog tunnel, negotiating weave poles (or your legs), negotiating A-frame (OMG, you can build this yourself much cheaper!), goal crawling, negotiating Chinatown, merry-go-round disc, or get the agility pack in a bag straight away,...
Examples: King of the mountain, dog hoop jumping, dog hurdle jumping, or just jumping over your outstretched arm, broom or whatever,...
Find Games (I+O)
Examples: Tracking Games, Finding lost objects (your keys, wallet, phone, remote control), Hide-and-Seek (don't help, let the dog pick up your scent!),...
Digging Games (O)
Although digging in communal grounds can be all the more fun (until police, border patrol, or navy seals arrive), digging games are best played on a whim (ie often in own yard). In that case, either you have FUN with your dog's digging, or you play digging games only in a dedicated digging place. If you don't have soft ground for your dog to dig up, a children's sandbox is perfect (also prevents the dog is digging all the way through to Australia).
Examples: bury a (stuffed) Kong or other toy, competitive digging, speed digging, or turn garden work into play,...
Tug Games (I+O)
Examples: wetted towel, rope tug toy, garden hose, living room curtains, shoe laces,... (but never with electricity cables, you would condition the dog!)
Initiative Games (I+O)
Examples: 101 things to do with anything (eg foot stool, tree branch, milk tetrapak, toilet paper roll, newspaper), 101 things to do at any moment (eg ... well, see what your dog does, and then join the FUN!),...
Acting Games (I+O)
Examples: roll up in blanket, give up, play dead, shake body, shake head (yes/no), dog dancing, moon walk, dog math, shame yourself, clean up, sneeze,...
Scent Games (I+O)
Examples: sniff poop, sniff flowers, grass, peanut butter, old sock or slip (your's or friend's), mustard, water, coffee, beer, wine; competitive sniffing, comparative sniffing,...
Sound Games (I)
Outdoors, sound games are prone to distraction, so these are better played indoors only.
Examples: Record dog sounds, sheep sounds, deer sounds (whatever you encounter), play them through your home hifi stereo system at infinitesimal volume, and slowly increase until your dog hears the sound (and reacts with barking, whining, or whatever - be cheerful, make it FUN - if your dog doesn't like to hear animals without seeing them, stop immediately); get the kid's xylophone and play to your dog, play the piano (or let your dog play),...
Watch Games (I+O)
Examples: finger counting, TV watching, finger puppets parade, pantomime,...
Taste Games (I+O)
Examples: perfect game to identify dog's ranking of favorite foods/treats!
Talk Games (I+O)
Examples: barking on cue, roo-roo, duet singing,...
Touch Games (I+O)
Examples: patty-paws, dodge feet, high fives, bear clawing, dog kisses, dog hugs; perfect game to identify dog's ranking of favorite toys!
Mind Games (I+O)
Examples: clearing up dog toys by name (short play with each!), dog math, Puzzle toys, Puzzle treat toys (like those from Nina Ottosson: Trigger, Turbo, Tornado, Spinny, Smart, Brick, Worker, Casino, etc), stuff favorite plush toy into empty kitchen paper towel roll, cut sausage rings into empty milk tetrapak and leave open,...
These 19 Dog Game Categories with examples should be plenty to let your imagination flow and start playing with your dog every day. Enjoy more FUN with your dog. Enhance your dog-human relationship! Remember: Behavior Training beats Obedience Training in every regard - and playing Dog Games with our dog is a huge part of Behavior Training.
In her great book Play with your dog, Pat Miller makes this memorable point: "if humans remembered to have as much fun teaching their dogs the 'serious and important' behaviors as we do playing games and teaching tricks, no one would ever know the difference, and our dogs would think 'Heel, sit, stay!' was as much fun as rolling over and jumping through hoops".
Next edition: Indoor Games for Dogs