Friday, October 3, 2008

Time to Play?

Play and work are both very important to dogs, with each having a place in their lives. There are so many kinds of play that it's hard to list them all, as nearly every dog has their own preferred way to play. Some dogs like to play with their owners, some like to play with other dogs, and some like to play with toys on their own. And some dogs don't play very much at all, preferring only to do serious work. I have known border collies who fill all of these roles, and routinely play with my dogs or watch them play with each other.

This photo is of Ezri and Riker playing with each other in a small e-pen last Saturday (September 27). These two don't want to play with toys, no they only want to play wrestle and chase and bite games. In an enclosed area like this pen they simply weave and tumble over and over, but in an open area they will dodge around people and obstacles as they ferociously chase each other. As of last week Riker was required to use fast turns and obstacles to keep ahead of Ezri, as she is nearly his equal on flat open ground already. It will be interesting to see how they interact this weekend!

At home, Curzon is the only dog who will play with Ezri, and we've even been teaching him the command "Play with Ezri" as a code for "go babysit your sister." They will play wrestle/bitey games, and also play tug with various toys together, but there's not enough room in the upstairs for a good game of chase so I don't know if he would play with her like that. Phoebe used to tug with Curzon when she was bored, but she is now trying to avoid Ezri so I haven't seen her play games with him since the puppy came home. And Jadzia has never liked playing with other dogs, much preferring to simply play fetch with one of her humans. She did play tug when encouraged while Curzon was a baby, but once he got older and stronger she quit doing it at all.

Working with the dogs on commands and tricks blurs the work/play line, at least in my opinion. They enjoy the treats and the attention, but they're also being asked to think and do various actions on my command, so it's really a mix of the two. I am currently working on teaching Ezri the standard commands (sit, down, bang, roll over, spin, stand, weave, wait, leave it), and intermittently working on more advanced tricks with the other dogs (back up, bow, paw, beg, dance, over, leave it+). Phoebe is very stubborn and really only will do sit and lay down reliably, although with treat-leading she will do stand, dance, and spin. Jadzia has the prettiest beg of any dog I know except Bear, who crosses his front feet while he begs. And Curzon is just lightning fast at anything you want him to do, as if he figured he gets more rewards for doing the requests at hyperspeed. I enjoy working with the dogs on their commands and tricks, as it is good bonding time and reminder of who is in charge in the house, and ending it with a good session of tug or fetch makes it truly fun for everyone.

Now, if I could only train Phoebe to leave the cats alone without using that zap collar.....

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