Pat Miller explores the role and benefits of play between you and your dog – and between dogs. Play behaviors have important learning and health benefits that help dogs become well-adjusted members of both their canine and human families. Through play your dog learns dog-to-dog social graces and is mentally and physically stimulated. Play can be a great training tool, helping to build the relationship between you and your dog. And while play comes naturally to most dogs, there are many who need to be encouraged to discover their “inner puppy.” Pat includes dozens of game ideas collected from trainers all over the country you can try out with your dog(s).
Pat Miller CPDT, CDBC, is at the forefront of the force- free, positive dog training phenomenon in the US. She is a Past President of, APDT, the world’s largest professional group of dog trainers, operates her own training facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, and is a 20 year vetran of humane work. Pat is a popular columnist for Whole Dog Journal, Your Dog, and Popular Dogs and is the author of Positive Perspectives 2 and The Power of Positive Dog Training.
Published 2008 Dogwise Publishing
“…In Play With Your Dog, Pat Miller shares her observation that almost every dog-human interaction is an opportunity to have fun while building a stronger relationship. Rich with photos of dogs at play (by themselves and with each other, children, and adults), this book sets the stage for playtime with lively descriptions of a wide variety of dog play styles, including “body slammers,” “chasers,” and “wrestlers,” personalities I recognize in neighborhood dogs. Having identified you dog’s style, you’re well positioned to match compatible playmates or introduce a new dog to you family pack. For those nervous about loud and energetic play, including growling, snarling, and biting, Miller demystifies mock aggression and explains for to tone down exuberant play before it escalates. She briefly samples dozens of play opportunities that allow you to subtly reinforce obedience commands, which will help ensure that your dog remains a welcomed participant in family and public outings. Devoting and entire chapter to play between children and their dogs, Miller emphasizes ways that are safe and fun for all. (The chapter on “Rehabilitating the Play Deprived Dog will come in handy at my house for Sport, our senior rescue, who is still learning how to play.) So, when the weather outside is frightful, take your favorite doggie cookbook off the shelf, whip up some tasty training morsels and surprise your best friend with your special attention, yummy treats, and great new games inspired by this creative and experienced author.” Jo Haraf
“Collectively, dog owners spend millions of dollars on toys that their dogs ignore. Instead, the dogs repurpose clothing and furniture into playthings, and nurture bad habits to alleviate boredom and burn excess energy. In Play With Your Dog, Pat Miller, certified professional dog trainer and author, explains the importance of play in the human-canine relationship. Although it sounds counterintuitive, Miller informs us that play is serious business. It’s crucial to a puppy’s mental and physical development, and dogs and humans are among the dew species that retain a lifelong desire to play. Miller’s description of canine recreation is enhanced by an inventory of breed-specific preferences. For example, she notes that herding breeds…often prefer to be cheerleaders, remaining on the sidelines to encourage playing dogs with excite barking…Frustrated owners with problem dogs will appreciate Miller’s ideas on incorporating play into training and behavior modification… The book is also filled with suggestions to encourage a dog’s natural love for running, chasing, and tugging on toys. Miller does her part to supply plenty of valid advice, but this book raises a troubling question: Why do we need reminders or instructions on how to play with our dogs? Perhaps the book is a useful tool for owners who did not grow up with dogs and thus don’t instinctively know how to provide stimulating, energy-burning play for their dogs.” Amy Fernandez
APDT CHRONICLE OF THE DOG
“Dog play has become a popular topic in recent years and Miller’s book is right on time. This easy-to-understand book begins with an in-depth explanation of what play is, along with the social and developmental importance of play and how it contributes to the human/animal bond. Early on, Miller offers readers insight on the language of play and how to successfully read the various types of body language commonly exhibited by dogs during play. This section flows wonderfully into a chapter on canine play styles, where the importance of finding compatible playmates is stressed. Seven different play styles are defined and explained, along with photos, which should prove helpful to dog owners in determining appropriate play among their own dogs. I have recommended the book to several students for the benefits of this section alone, and wish the photos and descriptions were available as handouts or a display poster. The Canine Play Styles chapter ends with sub-sections on safely introducing dogs, using a story about when the Millers’ then eight-year-old Australian Shepherd, Missy, came to join the established family pack of four adult dogs. She gives a play-by-play account of how Missy was individually introduced to each dog, noting body language and ending with conclusions ranging from, “All systems go—no anticipated problems,” to “Promising with management—potential for complications.” It is my hope that this detailed account of her own dogs will serve as an important reminder that not all dog friendships are instantaneous and that management is often needed to ensure that things progress smoothly and safely. What was missing, in my opinion, was a discussion about guidelines for appropriate play between dogs in different age groups. I would love to know how she introduces and handles a young, boisterous puppy with an older dog. So often, I see or hear stories of young puppies who are allowed to relentlessly pester older, non-interested dogs. Opinions vary regarding if and when to intervene, and I would loved to have read her take on the matter. As part of the chapter on introducing dogs, Miller touches on ways of breaking up a dog fight, including the use of aversives such as citronella or an air horn, as well as the “safer” ways of physically intervening when absolutely necessary. Much of the book is dedicated to the various types of play and reasons to play with dogs (object play, mind games, chase games, contact play and play to exercise vs. play to train, etc.) and does a lovely job detailing play as reinforcement for obedience behaviors such as sit, down and heel, as well as for teaching an alternative to jumping on guests who enter the front door. There’s a detailed sub-section on interactive toys, suggesting the tried and true options such as the KONG®, Buster Cube™, and the Molecule Ball™, as well as the lesser-known Nina Ottosson puzzle collection. Being familiar with the Ottosson puzzles, I found myself wishing Miller had offered suggestions on where to order them (they can be difficult to find), as well as suggesting that they be specifically limited to “supervised” interaction since they’re made of wood, can easily be chewed apart, and at least the last time I looked into them, aren’t cheap! I read each puzzle description with a mental image of a dog happily self-entertaining by spewing chewed bits of Dog Spinny™ around the living room! I’m pretty sure the puzzles themselves suggest supervision for that very reason, but another solid reminder never hurts. A nice feature of the book is its detailed descriptions of specific games to play with dogs. Miller queried a wide range of trainers in search of fun play ideas, and compiled a list ranging from simple activities such as running alongside each other, to training games with specific behavior goals. There’s also a section on group games. The chapter on children and dogs emphasizes the importance of adults learning to understand dog body language in order to keep both kids and dogs safe, and stresses the fact that under no circumstances should children be allowed or encouraged to verbally or physically punish dogs. The latter is a refreshing alternative to the “make sure your dog sees your child as a pack leader and not a littermate” advice that can, in my opinion, place children in danger and set dogs up for failure. The book wraps up with a few reminders of specific things humans should avoid doing during play with dogs, as well as tips for encouraging and building play skills in play-deprived dogs. At just 130 pages, Play With Your Dog is an easy read that should prove enjoyable and educational for both dog owners and trainers alike.” Stephanie Colman
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