February 19th, 2012 by LittlestMusher | Posted in Your Dog is Your Coach
Tags: Applying the Lessons From the Dogs, Be the Lead Dog, dogs as teachers, how to teach dogs, Human Canine Bond, Intention-structured play, what I learn from my dog
Some people view their dogs as “unthinking” animals that just respond to a treat or a rebuke. These folks view the relationship they have with their dog as one of dominance-submissiveness, with their dog merely a dumb animal that doesn’t think, doesn’t know anything beyond where their food bowl is and whose primary purpose in life is being good for a lick or a cuddle or chasing a ball…and not much more than that.
Nothing wrong with licks, cuddles and ball chasing. But is that really the limit of what dogs have to offer their people?
If you view the relationship with your dog as simply a feel good exchange of food for love, and nothing more is needed…then this blog post is not for you.
I’ve got a different perspective. Since the time I started getting huskies for my sled dog team, I’ve been confronted by people who viewed them as only sled dogs…no abilities or usefulness or role beyond that of being the dog power in a transportation mode as old as time. Yet once I opened my mind to the possibilities…I found the sled dogs to be thoughtful and patient teachers, creative problem solvers and excellent communicators.
For example…I was hiking with a young sled dog puppy and then I realized she and I had became separated by an old dilapidated barbed wire fence. A sharp “STOP!” halted her in her tracks as she came toward me, as I surely did not want her getting cut up charging through the fence. “Go Back!” I told her, even though I’d done zero obedience training or any training to speak of with her. I kept my intention clear, the picture in my mind was focused and sharp about having her go around the fence. The puppy got a very “studious” look on her face — you could literally see the wheels turning in her head — and then suddenly she bolted back the way she had come. She ran all the way back to the beginning of the fence line, came across, then ran back to me on the correct side of the fence.
To her, it was a game. I hadn’t “trained” her what to do, but she responded to my intention, and she wanted to play along with this game.
That’s what I call “Intention-Structured Play“, and you too can do it with your dog. It takes playing a sequence of simple games, all of which can be done at home, no special equipment needed, and with as little or much time as you want to spend.
So if you don’t view your dog as a “dumb animal” who doesn’t think — rather you understand that dogs can think, be creative, problem solve, and that your dog wants to bond and communicate with you as much or more than you do with them…then Intention-Structured Play is your ticket to having the fun, fulfilling and rich relationship with each other that you both deserve.
Your dog may be a goofy lab, a tiny lap dog, a gregarious golden or a rowdy rottie. But that’s not ALL they can be or offer you. Just as you are not only a food dish or a leash or a chauffeur — you also have so much more to offer your dog. You each can truly be the world to and for each other. And that’s FUN!
Next online session starts this coming week — find out more play tips and info here. Hope you and your dog can join us!
Do you naturally and easily engage in Intention-Structured Play with your dog already? What have you most enjoyed about playing with your dog? What has your dog most enjoyed? How has your dog learned about being and doing more than what they were naturally bred to do?