How we play with puppies can either set us up for success or set us up for failure in all aspects of puppy raising.
Often times it’s a certain type of play with puppies that teaches them biting, jumping, scratching and over the top “crazy” behaviour is ok. Certain types of play teaches our puppies to treat us like another puppy. Certain types of play can damage relationships and require behaviours to be fixed as the puppy ages.
The video below is an example of two very different types of play, with different energies involved and different rules. One is a free for all where biting and jumping are rewarded, the other is controlled and keeps both parties happy and safe. Can you tell which is which?
The first example has us encouraging the crazy. We inadvertently reward the behaviours that we don’t like including jumping, biting and acting out of control by continuing play when those happen, and making those behaviours seem extraordinarily fun and rewarding (squeeling, fast movements, screaming, flailing all look and sounds fun to puppies). This is the type of play that encourages inappropriate behaviour which bleeds over into other aspects of puppy raising. If you don’t want your puppy to treat you like another puppy, don’t act like one. Kids are notorious for this … they of course want to get down and have their puppies crawl all over them and get excited over them, but this is not the relationship that you want to set up between your puppy and your kids.
The second example shows the energy level lowered drastically, and the focus is on a toy, rather than hands, face and feet. Movement is deliberate, and the puppy has something to occupy their mouth, other than yours or your child’s appendages. If play, in this instance, becomes inappropriate, we either get up and stop the game for a moment or two, or end the game altogether, showing clear rules to our new puppy.
Taking the time to evaluate how your play with your puppy looks and what behaviours you might be accidentally rewarding during play that you would really prefer the puppy doesn’t do, can help change the over all picture of how your puppy interacts and responds to you and your children.