Juno’s style of play is yet again different from Cisu or Raika; her style incorporates elements of each of the other dogs.
Juno’s natural style of play with other dogs is chase; chase and be chased. Since I choose not to chase dogs, Juno has to chase me. She is also very happy to grab hold of whatever is being chased and drag it to the ground – not my idea of a good time, so I modified that in her play by initially allowing her to hold objects when we played together. At this time, she can chase me and body slam without biting. I’m ok with that, but if that doesn’t work for you then redirect your dog’s energy back into work before the impact.
Juno tends to bark in play, but only if I run away from her. I would never do that in competition, so it’s not a concern and I make no effort to change this response.
This video shows several specific play based games that I use with Juno:
1) I give myself a head start and then allow Juno to chase me down. If you aren’t comfortable with the body slam, ask for heeling when your dog arrives. An easy way to set this up is to ask for a high hand touch and then take off running while the dog is still in the air. You can see that Juno loves this game.
2) I use opposition reflex after I ask for heeling – this keeps her driving along next to me. Basically, you are pushing the dog out of heel position so that they can drive back into it. This is most successful with dogs that already love to heel, but if they are not there yet then use a cookie when they catch up. If you do too much of this, you will induce crabbing and wrapping in heeling, so be careful. Some dogs bite when they get back to you – be prepared to redirect to a toy while teaching the game.
3) I use a “race to the object” game. In this example, I’m using her dumbbell. As soon as it is clear that she will arrive first, I back up and call her in. This is a great way to increase speed and drive to objects, as well as to play with your dog. Notice that I encourage her to drive back into me by turning my back on her as she returns. This should remind her of the chase games we played earlier.
I ended this session with more structured play; chase and hand touches followed by heeling work.
If I were to use a toy or food in her training session, I would have added that in as part of the play, rather than using the toy to reward specific exercises. Juno is fluent on most of her obedience exercises, and I no longer want her thinking in terms of toys for correct work. I want her to expect interaction for correct work,which may or may not include a toy. Juno has not had a toy in training for several days, but as long as she will play without one, I’m comfortable reintroducing it at this time.
If Juno had her way, she would work strictly for the ball – I think that is somewhat typical of young dogs. But as a dog destined for competition, she has learned to accept that play is a fair substitute for hard work, and in about half of her working sessions she does not receive any other form of reward (ball or food).