‘Play is a phenomenal outlet for a dog’s natural behaviours..Dogs very often don’t get an opportunity to express what comes naturally to them’
(Gail T Fisher – author, trainer and owner of alldogs gym )
Play dates are an arranged off-lead meeting, activity or walk with suitable doggie friends. There are many types of doggie play dates to accommodate our doggie interests and abilities. From young to old, playful to shy, there are play date opportunities for every dog and human who realise the importance of socialisation and play with canine peers.
As you know I am a lucky girl to have such nice friends of all different ages, breeds and sizes. Even luckier that Vikki thinks it important to arrange my play dates with them. She believes that play dates with my doggie friends are a good mental break, great physical activity and an effective stress reliever. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it’s healthy for me.
A refreshing dip with my beach play date friends
Play dates give us dogs (and their humans!) a great opportunity for entertainment and exercise. Leading experts, such as Dr Ian Dunbar, have helped to raise awareness of the positive and beneficial effects of play dates. The general concensus among authors of the most popular and respected postive training and clicker training books stress that such playtime is crucial and essential for a dog’s development and well-being:
Play dates provide socialisation with other dogs and other people. Socialisation is a key ingredient in raising a well-mannered, polite dog. Spending time with other dogs and people allow your canine the opportunity to share toys, become comfortable with you giving attention to other dogs, and learn appropriate behaviors around strangers and unfamiliar pets.
Learning how to share:
One of our favourite reference websites is Dr Dunbar’s ‘Dogstardaily’ – click here to read his section on DOG PLAY
Dogs learn about each others signals and body language through play. Through play a dog learns how to respect and understand other dogs.
For example the ‘bow’ is one of my ultimate favourites (also a great wake up morning back stretch). The doggie “play-bow” is a powerful signal, a ‘canine diplomatic protocol’ that most of us dogs learn to understand very early on. When a dog invites another to play, they bow with the front paws outstretched and the hind end raised. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked.
The dog may also wag his tail and sometimes bark. This signals the fun stuff that is to follow normally chasing, jumping, lunging, leaping about, playing chase.
Bow time means ‘Ready to play?’:
For us Ridgebacks, this would mean using our natural agility and change of direction, circling and sometimes dancing round another with jump overs:
You can still see our history in this agility when watching a Ridgeback playing with other dogs:
A hang out play date with my super friend Toffee. We play in his garden and then relax by the pool..
Here in the South of France, it’s the season for beach play dates. My best beach friends are Clio the Poodle and Othello the Weimaraner and we have three beach date mornings a week. It’s so much fun on the empty beaches especially at this time of year. From November until April, seaweed washes ashore to form springy mogul hills, excellent for trampolining off during a game of tag or chase.
Perfect bounce action for soft landings and extra long leaps!
Extra spring speed action. Clio is a good sport and is always up for a chase. She’s a great nutty girlfriend and my beach dates wouldn’t be the same without her..
Clio loves her red frisbee:
Most Rhodesian Ridgebacks aren’t mega frisbee enthusiasts unless, of course, there are added jokester elements involved, such as the guarantee that a frisbee mad dog friend like Clio will be running after me when I have it in my mouth…or maybe if Vikki is holding it for me to jump up and take.
Both Clio and Othello are good runners and they too can make the sharp turns and speedy mid air twists. Its super fast action and our humans normally just stand and stare in amazement at our gymnastic antics!
Beach play dates allow us to have the big chase plays which helps us improve our physical fitness, movement skills and paw-eye coordination:
Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs.
In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. For us dogs, however, play is not something we outgrow. It is an activity that is keenly pursued throughout our lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play also serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed.
Play dates can be the perfect relaxation for our humans too:
So, along with the canine companionship, these activities also provide our humans with new friends who share a love of dogs and a sense of fun and adventure:
It has been proven that humans who spend time with us dogs (admittedly, err..cats also…arghh!) will normally have a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels.