Cool Dog Games to Play with Your Shetland Sheepdog

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Playing games with your dog is really good for your relationship. Remember that while dogs are not humans in fur suits (well, OK maybe Shelties are :P) they are social creatures and playing is an important element in developing social relationships.  Our Shelties have taught us some cool games to play over the years.

Every day, Toby & Tyler play the game of “you chase me, then I’ll chase you”. They think it is probably the best game in the world invented by anyone, ever.  Games of fetch seem to be a mixed bag among Sheltie personalities.  The chase part usually isn’t the problem. It is the ‘bring it back here so I can throw it again for you’ that is sometimes a challenge for some Shelties.  :)

I’m going to catch you!

If we throw a ball for our Shelties, Tyler would retrieve it…for hours. Toby generally would perfer to play ‘keep away’. That’s Shelties for you :)

The Psychology of Dog Games

There are many reasons to play games with your dog. It will strengthen your relationship. It will keep the dog from getting bored, which will keep them from things you don’t want them doing, and make them healthier.  And finally, most people get a dog for companionship — isn’t playing with your dog the whole point?  One thing to keep in mind is your attitude while playing.  Most dogs will have fun if it’s clear you’re having fun, too!

Whether chasing a ball in the yard or going for a walk, exercise or play is vital in helping dogs expend pent-up energy. Without that outlet they may show behavioral problems that can range from destructive tendencies to attention-seeking behavior.  Just as surely as a couch potato would benefit from a trot around the block, a dog prone to chewing the couch or digging up a garden will find a much-needed release valve in play and exercise. Often, physical activities play an important part in resolving behavioral issues.

These are some of the cool dog games our Shelties have taught us – and how you can adapt them to play with your own pet Sheltie to have fun and burn off some of that boundless energy!

The Invitation: Play Bow

Daphne says: “butts up!”

A play bow is when a dog brings their front legs out in front of them and their chest low to the ground as if about to lie down, but their rear end remains up.  They may also wag their tail and bark. This signals that what follows – chasing, light nipping and lunging – is done only in fun and should not to be taken seriously.

To instigate playtime with your Shetlie, try this: go down on all fours, so you are standing like a dog.  (If you want to add effect, you can waggle your rump as if you had a tail! :)) Then suddenly sprawl your arms forward and outward, lowering your chest towards the ground. For added entincement, turn your your head to the side and “huff” at your dog.  Pretend that you are going to dart to the left or right – wobbling your upper body in either direction.

If you can perform this bow, your dog will probably get excited and start to play with you right away.  The play bow is an unmistakable, universal canine signal for a desire to play.  When I would bow to our Sheltie Trevor, he would bow back & start barking excitedly.  This would usually evolve to a game of “you chase me, then I’ll chase you”.  Fun, fun!

Cool Dog Game #1: Hide and Go Seek

In our house this game is otherwise know as “Where’s Jim?’

When Trevor was younger, my husband Jim would hide in different places around the house while I distracted Trevor.  He would pick different places like the pantry, bedroom closet, bathtub, behind an open door or hanging curtain.  I’d then say excitedly “Trevor, where’s Jim? Let’s find him!”  He would run from room to room looking for him.  If he couldn’t find him visually, he would then start using his nose.  Occaisonally he would need a hint & Jim would make a small noise.

It was a lot of fun to watch Trevor problem solve & he loved finding Jim.  We would lavish praise on Trevor once he discovered his whereabouts.  (Trevor was very priase motivated, but some dogs might require a treat or toy.  Find what motivates your dog & use that to inspire him to keep looking. )

Cool Dog Game #2: Puppy Wrestling!

Puppy wrestling starts with you quickly (and gently) putting your hand on the top of your dog’s head or the back of their neck – pushing it gently downwards.  If you do it quickly enough, it mimics a domination pattern that dogs perform on one another when playing.  You must keep your hand at a reachable level so that your dog can try to use their paw to bat your arm away.  My Shelties respond  to when we gently palm them around the ears & the back of the neck.

Never let your dog use their mouth around your own head.  Use your hand like a dog’s mouth.   If your dog accidentally scratches you or nips too hard, you can cry out “YIPE” and stop playing.  This is a clear signal to your dog that it hurt and is the best way to stop your dog from biting as hard.  The last thing they want to do is hurt you.

Cool Dog Game #3: You chase me…

This is THE game that two dogs play when they have room to run around.  The rules appear to follow the pattern of chasing a dog for a bit, then that dog chases you for a bit.  There seems to be no set rules as to when the exchange takes place.

To play this game, lower your stance and stare at your dog. Creep slowly towards them like a cat.  Keep your eyes fixed and reach out your arms.  Have your fingers out in a “ready to grab” position. The longer you can draw out this phase, the more effective it is.

If your dog wants to play, they will wait until you are close enough to touch them – then then dash away suddenly, at which point you should give chase.  Do a few rounds, then stop to nonchalantly look at something you might find.  Then, when the dog looks at you or comes closer to investigate, try to run away. This wont last long as the dog will easily catch you, but you can prolong your capture by doing the bob and weave or by hiding behind objects in your yard.

These are just some suggestions for fun games you can play with your Sheltie. The best advice is to keep trying to come up with new play ideas with your dog, as each will develop thier own favorite kind of game.  It can be a lot of fun working with your Sheltie to create new exciting activities you can do to strengthen the bond between you!  Have fun!  :)

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