Thinking about taking your dog to a dog park or daycare? Do your neighbors want to get together to let dogs play? Perhaps you will be adopting a dog in the future and want to be sure your dog will accept it.
To be sure that you and your dog stay happy and healthy in group play activities, it helps to arm yourself with knowledge about good play behavior and basic handling skills. In a new series I’ll explore ideas about preparing dogs for play, safe dog to dog introductions, the different play styles, health concerns and problem behaviors, as well as successful group play management.
Daycare, and public and private dog parks are relatively new phenomena, only a few decades old. With the trend toward urbanization and smaller human families there has been an increase in attention and spending on the family pet. Dogs have become the children. We take our children to group activities; why not our dogs?
Additionally, long working days, particularly with the commutes common in this area, can leave dogs home alone for hours. Dog owners sometimes feel guilty that they are not spending enough time with their dogs. Home-alone puppies, particularly, may lose out on opportunities for socialization, training and relationship building.
In places where dogs are respected and loved, doting owners have flocked to dog parks, daycares and playgroups to entertain and exercise their pets, not to mention become part of the dog owning community. Watching puppies and dogs having fun playing together can bring a smile to even the most jaded among us.
It begs the question, of course, whether group dog play is essential to a dog’s social and emotional health. Some experts, like John Rogerson, believe that young dogs should not play with other dogs until their bond and responsiveness to the owner is established. Others, like Dr. Ian Dunbar of Sirius Dog Training fame, is a proponent of beneficial learning and socialization activities.
However, dogs don’t need to play in a group or live in multiple dog households. Dr.Vilmos Cysani believes that through tens of thousands of years of selective, and not-so-selective, breeding the dog’s natural inclination is to bond with humans. They can live well and happily being the center of attention in a single dog home. In fact, some dogs who live in multiple dog households exist with the other dogs but rarely interact. They prefer humans as their main companions.
Robin Bennett and Susan Briggs, experienced daycare business owners and educators of professionals involved in group play and daycare, believe that group play can be a valuable social activity for dogs that enjoy other dogs. The dogs need to be social and enjoy playing or standing around with other dogs. They stress that the dogs must be well matched to a group, or the group must be modified to fit the dogs.
Even when the experts are advocates of group play, none are proponents of unfettered, poorly managed, free for alls that go on for hours. All believe that each dog to dog interaction whether in a formal daycare, informal neighborhood or dog park setting should benefit the future behavior and health of the dogs.