So….. It’s finally all come together. My approach:
Play as the Way.
I have always been in that “zone”.
Play has always been my go to activity. But, It wasn’t the “Way”.
Like…… “THE Way”. In the martial arts, philosophical “life path” sense!
I’ve written articles about “preferring” play as a way of relating. But, would still default to “training” sometimes. Because…… That’s what you do….. right? I’m a dog “trainer”, right?
Ain’t nobody hiring a dog “player”…… Right?
But…. Fortunately for me, my thoughts do not get held in. And I have never been one to follow the “rules” anywhere. So…..
Play as the WAY!
I’ll see if I can explain.
Games develop skills, and character.
Not only will games build physical skills like sit, down, stay, and whatever…… They build emotional skills, physical skills and character without making it seem like “work”. Same as with kids. We put them in sports not just to make them tired, but to teach them about focus. And teamwork. And delayed gratification. All those cool life lessons. Through a game. Not through “training” them, through play.. You, will be training, guiding, and coaching them. They will be playing a game.
Games make “corrections” fun!
No one has ever gotten really pissed at the buzzer on the Family Feud for saying their idea was wrong. But if you put that same buzzer in a board meeting and buzzed bad ideas….. Yeah.
The fact that it’s a game, puts the corrections in context. And make them part of the game. It also lets me stay in the feel good realm of corrections. Like…. The penalty box is more powerful if you love to play. If you don’t like my game. You could give a shit about me taking it away as an infraction. The more powerful and rewarding your play…… The more powerful losing access to it can be as a punishment. Let’s me stay my preferred diagonal of the Quadrants for as long as I can!
Games develop relationships that can handle life.
Sadly…. in some dogs, you may eventually get into a disagreement about something that a game can’t fix. And, in those instances having a solid relationship built through cooperation and play can make the all the difference when getting over a disagreement. Also, when life throws something at your dog they think they can’t handle…. Having that trusted coach in your corner can make ALL the difference in getting through it.
Games make sure you’re not using too much pressure.
We all know that a dog that is in a zone of fear, panic, or rage…. they won’t play. It’s the first thing to go.We know from Zoo animals that f it’s really bad they won’t mate, or even eat. But, play is the first to go under too much duress. If your dog will not play, it can tell you that the training you’re doing is past their ability. I don’t mean that you never challenge your dog. I want to develop the dog too! But, if you’re exposing your dog to the scary thing for a few seconds and the plan is to reward with play for the effort…. And they totally disengage…… You probably pushed too hard. If you have a dog that will not play ANY games? That’s bad. Sure, some won’t like all the games, but a dog that will not play AT ALL? That dog is struggling. You need to deal with the base levels of stress in it’s life. Work on trust. Develop tolerance for your interaction. Here’s my teacher Chad Mackin doing some of this preparatory work.
All of that needs to happen before we “train”. If they can’t handle life pressure. They certainly can’t handle training. When they will play….. They are ready!
Anyway that’s it.
It finally all gelled in my head.
It’s not just “Tug as my main thing” anymore.
It’s Play as the WAY!
Food games. Toy games. Personal games. Leash and harness games.
Build biological fulfillment, relationships, skill, and character through play.
Then, use what you’ve built to navigate the world.
Done and done.
If you’re interested in learning the play that I use….
Feel free to do a personal lesson, in person, or Skype. Or, attend our NEW Play as the Way workshop!
Now, go play with your dog!!!!