Monday, December 14, 2009
Dog Play DVD by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.
I love agility, but more then that I have to say I LOVE watching dogs and I really enjoy learning about dog behavior. I have not got to any really good behavior seminars recently and in the past I have been to some really good ones, so I was excited to get Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. lecture on DVD from Clean Run, entitled Dog Play-Understanding play between dogs and between dogs and people. This was taped at a recent seminar she gave and included a lot of terrific video of dogs playing. I really liked the DVD and feel like there was lots of excellent information presented-and I found it fun to snuggle in and to learn more about just plain old dog behavior.
Patricia goes over reasons for play, why play is important and then she started talking about dog-dog play. Some of the interesting things that she talked about was the research showing that dogs will pick and enjoy playing with certain dogs over a lifetime, not just any dog, they will pick some dogs they like to play with and it is good for them to have their doggie playmates. Interesting.
Some signs of healthy play between dogs:
SELF HANDICAPPING-with healthy dog play the stronger dog will alter their play to suit the weaker dog. I have seen this with Lizzie and Cricket, Lizzie does not tug as hard as she normally does and she plays softer and easier when she plays with Cricket. An older dog will often play softer and do things to teach the younger dog to play,pretty cool stuff. Patricia showed some video of a puppy of hers playing with an older dog and how the older dog was more careful playing with the pup, then she had video of the pup all grown up and very strong, the older dog was then 15 yrs old and you could see how now the younger dog was the one self handicapping so they could play and everyone could be safe and comfortable.
OPEN MOUTHED-when dogs are relaxed and playing you will see open mouths and relaxed faces, when the mouth tenses and you see more teeth and their faces tense and mouths close then you should be watching.
LOW LOOSE TAILS-these show relaxed dogs playing for most dogs.
EMOTIONAL CONTROL-neither dog gets over the top
LOTS OF PAUSES-when dogs are playing nicely they take a lot of breaks and just pause for a few seconds-when there are no pauses you need to watch what is going on.
EXAGGERATED AND LATERAL MOVEMENTS-the dogs move in side ways ways, and their back ends go faster then the front, they go back and forth going to the sides
BITE INHIBITION-goes without saying the dogs are gentle and don't bite too hard and don't hold on too long
SIGNS OF UNHEALTHY PLAY
Little or no pausing in play
Little or no self handicapping
one dog is attempting to terminate play
one dog dominates the other, does not let the other dog rest, inhibits the dogs freedom of movement
Change in vocalizations-lower pitch, higher pitch, louder
Also when looking at play you need to factor in the age of the dogs. Young puppies engage in a lot of rude play and learn how to play nicely as they mature.
HOW TO HANDLE PROBLEM PLAY
RECOGNIZE HEALTHY PLAY-understand what is normal
KNOW THE SIGNS OF OVER AROUSAL-no pauses, teeth flashing, vocalization intensifying
THE DOG SHOULD MASTER ONE CUE-a back, a leave it, a down--One thing you dog does NO MATTER WHAT. Patricia really does not recommend a COME as much because that is a complex behavior and the dog would need to stop, turn around, think to come, and she would rather have like a down where the dog just drops. you CAN BODY BLOCK IF YOU NEED TO GET THE DOGS SEPARATED. DO NOT sit and stare at them, or hold your breath or get tense because that will escalate things.
ONCE YOU HAVE DOGS ATTENTION TURN AWAY AND GO ON A WALK-give a treat if that is not going to escalate things, give dog the toy, and get the dogs attention off things and walk away, put a lot of distance between you and the situation.
EVALUATE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE DOGS BEFORE YOU LET THEM PLAY AGAIN
The last part of the DVD Patricia talks about play between dogs and people. Patricia talks about the type of play that works with your dog. of course she talks about some of the benefits of play with your dog that include...
Strengthening your bond
Play Often involves healthy mental/physical exercises, and tricks can fall in the play category
You can use play to teach emotional control and frustration tolerance
Play helps manage multi-dog households
Play is fun
Play can be used to solve behavior problems.
Patricia does show how you can use play behaviors to teach these things, and I found that part of the seminar very good.
Patricia showed a dog she had that was severely dog aggressive at 7 weeks, and she shows how she uses play to calm him down and at 2 yrs old he looked great with other dogs, she would let him see another dog and then throw him his toy, let them sort of say hi, and throw his toy, building all sorts of associations between other dogs and relaxation and play. It was pretty neat to see.