My last blog showed Cisu and Ali playing; these are physical dogs who like physical play with a lot of opposition reflex. For dogs like Cisu, play is both physical and reflexive (not thinking).
Raika has a completely different play style. For Raika, play is a contest. It is both physical and mental, and there is a winner and loser. From her perspective, I should be the loser (which is fine; my ego remains intact). If I do a lot of opposition reflex games with Raika, and if she does not have a focus point, she tends to start snapping at my face. After trying to modify this behavior for a year, I gave up and modified the play instead. We are both much happier now.
In this video, you can see the various forms this play might take.
In Game #1, Raika tries to stay between my legs (place) and I try to remove her. Note that the harder I try to escape, the better she likes the game and the more intense her body language becomes. Watch the extreme physical tension in her body and the absolute concentration she gives.
In Game #2 (with the glove) she has to listen very carefully to my commands. It might be “fetch”, “down” or something else. In this example, I use a “down” followed by a release to the glove. Then we play tug. This game requires mental concentration.
In game #3 (with the glove) I pump her up and then race her for the glove. She’d rather die than let me win. I can do this from between my legs or leave her in a stay and give myself a “handicap” by moving closer to the glove – I show both of these. This particular game tends to incite barking, especially if she thinks I have a chance to win.
In our final game, I use a combination of heeling, very high hand touches, and returning to the place between my legs, all in rapid succession. She has to listen and watch my body very carefully to be correct. Raika lives for speed, which is what makes the game fun for her.
Raika’s games cannot be taken into the obedience ring, but they are very useful for getting her animated before competition. The hand touches do come into the ring with me, as do the ring objects (dumbbells, gloves and articles) which she has learned to love because of their association with our games.