Friday, 8 March 2019

Puppies – all the toys are mine!!

There’s no getting away from the fact that most puppies like to pick stuff up, sometimes the stuff they pick up is fine, like their own toys and chews. Sometimes they may decide they want the toy that’s in another dogs mouth though…so what do we do then?

This week I’ve met two puppies who have fantastic older siblings, the older dogs are very tolerant of their new little brothers, so tolerant in fact that the puppies are stealing toys right out of their mouths!  

When Summer (Flatcoated Retriever) was a puppy she very quickly learnt that trying to take toys off Poppy (Cocker Spaniel) and Scout (Border Collie) wasn’t a good idea. They would initially try and move away from her but then growl if she persisted. She would then immediately back off and leave them alone. Although I was supervising, Poppy and Scout were doing the teaching.

Spencer (GSD) was a different story, he would show signs he was uncomfortable but he quickly gave the toy up to her.  I soon noticed him start to be reluctant to play with his toys around her and if he had one, he’d drop it as soon as he saw her. So I started to intervene when I noticed Summer attempting to grab the toys in Spencer’s mouth to help him feel more relaxed around her.  

When it’s OK to let your puppy grab the toy

  • When the other dog is parading or offering the toy as an invitation to play together
  • If the other dog drops the toy and moves away from it
  • Any toys on the floor not being played with
How can you tell if the other dog doesn’t want to share?

  • They may trying to avoid the puppy taking the toy by turning their head away or moving away
  • You may see them stiffen up or go really still

If these signs are ignored you may see…

  • Growling or snarling
  • Barking and chasing the puppy off

Sometimes the puppy picks up on all these signs and responds accordingly and backs off, but when they don’t we may need to step in.

When should I intervene?
  • If your puppy is ignoring the signs the other dog isn’t comfortable and is persistently trying to get the toy
  • If the other dog starts to become reluctant to play with their own toys around the puppy or lets go as soon as they see the puppy
How to intervene?
  • Call the puppy away using an excited voice and give them another toy to play with, ideally with you.
  • Call the older dog to you if they have a more reliable recall and intercept the puppy if they follow
  • Create places the other dog can escape to with their toy where the puppy can’t follow
  • You can see if the dogs want to play together by holding a long tuggy toy in the middle and encourage them to grab each end and let them tug together.

We don’t want to discourage the puppy from playing, we just want to prevent them learning to take things off other dogs.

Spencer learns that Summer can be a fun playmate after I intervened 

Having two or more dogs who love to play with toys can also be a great way to practice some self-control training

  • Teach your dogs to wait their turn for a retrieve.
  • One dog can learn to stay settled on their bed while the other dog plays tug.

We often use play in our classes as a way to reward the dogs and also to help teach self-control.

If you’re a recent puppy graduate and looking for your next class then Canine Activity Foundations is a good place to start. We introduce the foundation skills required for activities like; Dog Parkour, Scentwork, Canicross, Gundog training and more…

Our next 5 week class starts  Monday 8th April at 7.30pm

Happy Training and Playing

Clare and the Gang

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