Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The chase game: a dog’s perspective

My belief is that games of chase, just like tug, can be a very rewarding energy-outlet for your dog, if played properly.
Of course, I have to preface this blog by stating that you need to know your dog. The game of chase stems from the wolf’s hunting of prey in the wild, and certainly, it is not a good idea to let your dog chase a child, other small animals, or even you if you think such a game could inspire your dog to move from the act of chasing to attacking.
Secondly, it’s always good to train your dog that there’s a difference between chase and keep-away. I don’t like keep-away. It’s pretty simple to nix the keep-away aspect; just stop playing whenever your dog insists on keeping the toy away from you and more than likely, he’ll learn and learn quickly that keep-away is a surefire method to stop the fun.
No dogs like to stop the fun!
When I began playing chase with Sensi, it was generally in small, indoor areas. I’d chase him around a bit, then ask him to bring the toy to me and drop it, then throw it for him and switch the game to retrieve for a little while.
He likes to do the circle thing, where both parties end up doing half-circles because they keep meeting each other and having to turn around and go in the opposite direction.
The half-circle thing gets boring quick, so every once in a while, I’d head off in the opposite direction, running into a bedroom or down a hallway or just somewhere else to give the game some diversity.
What did I find? That even if my dog is the one with the toy and I have nothing, if I turn around and run in the opposite direction, he will follow.
The other day, I even picked up a toy and took off running from him. He had a toy in his mouth too and never dropped it. We were just two idiots running around together while hanging on to dog toys.
So here is what I think — Chase does not necessarily mean that the dog is prey and you are chasing it, or that you are prey and the dog is chasing you. As I warned before, if you think your dog may assume you are prey if you run, then don’t play this game and even better, address this behavior and change it before your dog attacks someone.
My thought is that to the dog, the game of chase is more about you and the dog working together like a pack to get the prey. It doesn’t really matter who has a toy or if you both have a toy or who’s leading and who’s following, it’s simply about the action of running around chasing something like members of the same pack.
Many behavior experts have the same view of tug — it’s not you verse the dog, but rather you and the dog working together to rip apart “dinner,” which, in this case, is a tug rope.
I can’t stress enough that you really need to know your dog, though. Many dogs will move from chasing prey to attacking prey. If you’ve got one of those dogs, I recommend working with your dog to establish what is an acceptable prey to chase (the ball) and what is not (humans, cars, etc.).
If not, chase is more than just a game to your dog and is instead a behavior that could eventually lead to injuries, both for the human and the dog.

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