Clever Owners, what if I told you that you could play all of your dog’s problems away?  Would it sound too good to be true? I thought so too, but now I am a converted true believer. Earlier this month, I went to see Dr. Amy cook of The Play Way to learn about therapeutic play for dogs.  Dr. Cook holds a PHD from the University of California at Berkeley, and spent her time in graduate school conducting groundbreaking research on the dog-human relationship and the importance of play. She is a pioneer for sure. You can read more about her and her work here at Play Way Dogs.  Dr. Cook is a hilarious presenter who you should all check out if you get the chance.  She is lighthearted and irreverent, but what more could you ask for in someone who basically makes her living teaching people how to get down on the floor and play with their dogs?

The matter is simple enough — play! But like everything simple, doing it with ease and grace is complicated, and of course Dr. Cook makes it look easy.

First off, Dr. Cook redefines play — because, of course, there are many kinds of play.  She is not talking about fetch or tug or anything like that. For the most part (like everything, there are exceptions) she takes away your toys and food.  This is true social silly play — play for the sake of play play. So get ready to laugh and roll around and remember how to have a good time, just you and your bestie on the floor, like when you were both young and shiny.

This is an example that Dr. Cook used in her presentation to show some awesome play.

Like with everything, there are some rules of engagement.  The above video is so great because it follows all those “rules”.  Here is the simple outline for keeping your play within the lines:

Invitations: You must have consent. You can only invite — never force. But don’t be put off if your dog looks at you like you’re being weird – you are being weird! So ask. If they say no, try again another time.  Relationships take time to build. And remember, your dog is living in an arranged marriage that you set up for them.

The 3 second rule: You may not touch your dog for more than three seconds. Why? See above. No seriously,  you need to keep asking if your dog still wants to be doing this.  So sure — pet, cuddle, and then take your hands off. If they move back into you, then game on. If they don’t, or they move away, tell them you still love them and you can play later.

Predator vs. Prey – make sure you and your dog each spend time being both.  Dogs and people are both social predators by nature. So let your dog ‘get you’ sometimes; don’t hog the predator time by always saying “gonna get you,”. Remember to roll over and let your dog get you – squeal too it helps sell it.

To learn more, take this class online:  Dealing with the Bogeyman 

Or read Dr. Cook’s blog about Play Way here in her own words. 

So, Clever Owners, since Connection is one of the 3 C’s of being a Clever Owner, get ready to reconnect with your dog through play! I am happy to facilitate play sessions for you and your dog, and then help use that play to rehab your rover!