Puppy play is a very important part of the puppy’s socialization and when supervised properly has many benefits, the most important of which are:
- teaching the pup about bite inhibition
- teaching the pup about reading canine body language
- teaching the pup about polite behaviour around his peers.
But… play unsupervised can be disastrous for the shy puppy who wants nothing more than to be left alone but is constantly being bullied by one of the other pups in the class.
So, to avoid a puppy play session from becoming your pup’s worst nightmare, the following rules must be adhered to.
- Pups in play must be watched all the time for any inappropriate and overly rough behaviour. Puppy play can be extremely rough at times, but there is a difference between rough and boisterous “give and take” and rough bully-boy tactics. Be aware of the difference, and immediately you see any pup behaving this way gently remove the offending puppy, take him away from the other pups and wait for him to calm down before putting him in amongst the other puppies again.
- Avoid letting the pups indulge in a free-for-all for more than 10 minutes. After a brief period of play, call your pups to you and practise your attention/focus game until your pup has calmed down. Then let him loose to play again. This “off-switch” game is extremely important as it teaches the pups to calm down after an exciting interlude. What you are looking for is a period of boisterous play, followed by a period of calm sniffing and noodling initiated by the pups themselves.
- If the pup ignores you when you call him to you out of a play situation, gently get hold of his collar, calling him to you and removing him by luring him with really yummy treats. Reward him profusely when he is with you and away from the other pups. When you have his attention back on you then allow him to resume play. This recall out of play is a very important part of your pup’s training so it is a good idea to start practising it as soon as you can.
Play with their peers is an extremely good learning experience for your pups but so is interaction with older, trustworthy dogs. Older dogs will continue teaching your pup the manners it started off learning from its mother when still under her care.