[nagdu] Arbitrary restrictions on playing with future guide dogs

Tami Jarvis tami at poodlemutt.com
Wed Aug 12 15:40:47 UTC 2015


I think it's nonsense (since that's the question you asked). First of 
all, dogs can tell the difference between work and play. Or maybe they 
think the job is just a different game? I sometimes wonder with mine.

On the theory that play is practice for life, I play a lot with my pups 
and keep playing with them. For puppies, the running involved in fetch 
is good conditioning, for learning to judge moving objects and for 
learning cooperation. When they're puppies, I play the games they want 
their way, and we just have fun. As they get a little older, I start 
directing the play more and expecting them to follow some rules if they 
want to keep playing. Just as human children do, the pup will start 
trying to make rules for me and expecting me to follow them. It's pretty 
funny sometimes and totally aggravating at other times. I think it adds 
to the future work ethic, though, since the dog will be making decisions 
for the two of us as a team. I let the youngun have fun learning that 
some choices have good outcomes while others yield poor results. Fetch 
is a good way for the pup to express its natural prey drive while 
learning to control and use it in cooperation with a human and to let 
the human determine how it will be used. There's such a great reward 
system built into play that the learning happens naturally.

It's also easy to teach the puppy that if it rends the soft toys, the 
toys will go away. Results may vary, but the natural reward system 
teaches control of the rending and tearing instincts.

When I first had Mitzi, I heard or read that playing tug creates 
aggression and that you should never let the puppy win at tug, blah, 
blah. Bunk! It was with Daisy the crazy coonhound that I discovered that 
letting the dog win at tug reduces aggressive play and makes for a nice, 
gentle tug game. Rope toys are fairly safe, if you have a nice cotton 
rope, and they can be good  for keeping teeth clean. With Loki, I've 
used tug in teaching some retrieval skills to good effect. He gets 
pretty wound up about tug, so we only do short sessions then change to 
another game. We do tug when I say tug, and that's the reward for 
bringing me the rope and putting it in my hand. He's pretty good about 
letting go of the rope for "give," and the reward is that I throw it. 
When he's too excited about tug, it's really hard for him to let go, so 
he makes funny noises while he argues with himself.

I should think that if the puppy raisers have a clue about dogs and 
enough sense to do the serious training they do with the pups, they 
should be able to manage healthy play that enhances the dog's ability to 
control its instincts in a way that will be beneficial on the job.


On 08/11/2015 07:20 PM, Raven Tolliver via nagdu wrote:
> As some of you know, I recently started working at LDB. One of the
> aspects of my job is handing puppies over to puppy-raisers, explaining
> to them basic dos and don'ts of raising, and going through the 16-page
> contract they have to sign.
> One of the things we tell them not to do is play fetch with the dogs.
> Also, many of you know that the schools advise both raisers and
> clients against giving the dogs soft toys, such as stuffed animals,
> squeaky toys, or rope toys--anything they can tear apart easily.
> I recently sat down with the director of training and asked him why
> they set these guidelines. He explained that LDB doesn't want to
> stimulate a dog's prey-drive. They don't want the dogs to be excited
> by moving objects or moving animals because it could translate into
> lunging after balls, animals, etc in harness.
> I think this is ridiculous. I haven't raised a pup myself, so maybe
> there's something to it. But since I've brought my golden home, we
> play fetch with balls and frisbees, tug with stuffed animals or
> squeaky toys, and whenever the Golden Guy is in his kennel at work, I
> give him a stuffed golden retriever as a comfort object, though he
> probably doesn't need it. My coworkers were surprised that my dog will
> not chew the stuffed toy apart and rip the stuffing out of it.
> Also, I played fetch with him out in the hallways tonight, and the
> kennel care staff asked very sarcastically, "Wow, playing fetch
> doesn't ruin his work?" And we then had a long discussion about how
> the no-fetch advice is extremely unrealistic. They even told me that
> the trainers will play fetch with the dogs in the runs sometimes, and
> that there are many a tennis ball in the training trucks while dogs
> wait their turns to be with their trainers.
> I understand all dogs are not the same. Some dogs will chew toys up if
> you let them, or if they're under stress. But you should monitor your
> dog with toys no matter what. Some dogs just have the prey-drive
> engrained in them and will go after moving objects and small animals
> regardless. But I don't think the ways we play with them mitigates or
> increases these behaviors. Retrievers were originally trained to
> fetch, and shepherds were trained to lead and chase. They can
> differentiate very well between what they do with toys out of harness,
> and what their job is when in-harness. Given, dogs have their
> distractions, but again, I don't think playtime has anything to do
> with it, unless play is used as a reward during work.
> Even then, the reward is offered after a cue is given, so if used
> properly, this kind of play would improve a dog's work, not ruin it.
> Does anyone else find that the advice against fetch and soft toys is
> nonsense? Or Is it legit in your experience?

More information about the NAGDU mailing list