Hello Dogs Today
Can you help me? My family and I have just adopted a Staffie. The rescue thinks she's about three or four years old and has had a few pups in her time - probably a breeding bitch.
She is wonderful with the kids and we love her very much, but the poor girl doesn't know how to play. I assume she's been kept inside for much of her life - the rescue did a lot of training with her before rehoming her with us, including walking on a lead, recall etc. We're taking her to training classes, too.
How can I teach her to play games such as fetch or other interactive, fun games? We've had puppies in the past and they've taken to playing from day one, but poor Gem just looks at the ball. We don't want to stress her out at all, but would love to see her having some fun.
Thanks very much.
The Morris Family, by email
Janet Garrett DipCAPBT (COAPE) MAPDT, advises...
Oh poor Gem - she has had no time to be young in her life so far. As you are making such wonderful progress with all her other training this bit should be fun, it might be very slow but your enthusiasm when she starts to ‘get it’ will be all she needs to carry on. I like to begin with dogs who don't know how to play by sitting on the floor with them very close. I usually try two different methods at any time so that you can keep swopping and keep things interesting for you both if progress is slow. Make sure the toys you are going to use for this are not on general availability in your house but are truly ‘special’. The first I try is ‘Be a Kongaholic’. With a large enough Kong in my hand and something really lickable on my fingers like a butter type spread melted in the microwave, I get my dog interested in my fingers and then rub them round the Kong so that as she licks my fingers she moves easily to the Kong and back to my fingers. I support the Kong so that she can lick away. The real trick is not to go too fast - don't be tempted to throw it or jiggle it around too soon, just let her lick the remnants of the butter, dip your fingers back in if necessary, keeping the Kong still. Try this whenever you have a moment and then watch as she starts to notice when you get the Kong out of the cupboard and continues to watch as you get it ready. Keep the sessions short but soon she will be nuzzling the Kong which may occasionally escape from your hand or being wedged under your shoe and she will have to pursue it in order to carry on her lovely game.
The second game I play is in a similar vein. Using a plastic ball that is bigger than the dog’s mouth I sit on the floor with my dog between outstretched legs. I squeeze a little of the Arden Grange Liver Treat spread on the ball and when she starts to lick I let go of the ball so that she has to go with it to continue licking. It’s important to go too so that you can trap the ball again and she is rewarded with another good lick and then allow it to go free. She’s playing - she’s learning to have fun! Top up the spread every so often and again stop the game and play more later rather than let her get fed up and wander off.