|Playing tug with my Teddy|
I was assisting the instructor at our obedience club's puppy class on Tuesday night and a very sad thing occurred to me. Most people don't seem to know how to play with their dogs.
Sounds odd, doesn't it? And it was a strange realization for me, too. The half-dozen people in class range in age from teens to mid-sixties. Their puppies run the gamut, too; from a four-pound Chihuahua to a six-month old Viszla, with a Boston Terrier, a KleeKai, and two French Bulldogs in the mix.
One of the Frenchie people was having trouble getting her dog's attention. He was interested in the other dogs, in me, in the instructor, in the dogs in the Rally class across the room - everything but his very nice "mom." There were a couple of reasons for that - the first one being that he didn't have to look for "mom" because she had his leash so tight he knew exactly where she was - at the other end of the very taut leash. The other reason is that mom's not much fun.
I encouraged her to get his attention by playing with him - and she responded that she hadn't brought a toy to class. And she seemed astonished when I said "You don't need a toy - have him play with you!"
It never seemed to occur to her - or most of the other people in class.
So I got down on my knees and gave her dog a little poke. Then I put my hand against his chest and gently pushed. It got his attention. So I gave him another chest push. And he rebounded back, ready to play and eager to interact with me. And we had a lovely few minutes playing "throw the puppy away." And his mom was astounded - she'd never seen him so happy to play with someone and she'd had no idea how to start the game.
Dogs are many things in our lives; companions, friends, protectors, comforters, but they're also play machines. Let yourself play with your dog - get down on the floor and be a silly kid for a while. Toys are wonderful - play fetch, play tug, play keep-away. If you don't have a toy, play shove-the-puppy, or tummy-tickle, or you-can't-catch-me. Don't worry about anyone else seeing you, or what anyone else will think. If they have any sense they'll admire your spirit and be a little bit jealous that you know how to have fun.
Dogs can live a lot of fun in just a few minutes and they're excellent reminders to live in the moment we have.