What does your dog do for fun? When left to their own devices, what activities or behaviors does your dog initiate for enjoyment, relaxation, silliness, fun?
Why does it matter?
I think it matters what our dogs do for fun because it can help us better understand our dogs, allow us to better form a relationship with our dogs that takes into account our dog’s desires and also give us more information on how to help our dogs have increased fun while staying safe. We can use this information to also help our dogs in new situations build their comfort level.
For example. What do Tom and Zora do for fun, enjoyment, relaxation, silliness when left to their own devices? (and by that I mean I or someone else hasn’t initiated a specific behavior or sequence of events).
Tom: rolls around on his back squeaking toys, he chews on nylabones, he snuffles in the yard, he shoves his head under my arm or leans against me wanting me to pet him, he asks me to take him on walks and outings, he tells me where he’d like us to go on our walks, he sits on people so they’ll pet him, he plays bitey face with Zora, he does silly run around circles in the yard and house when he’s very excited. Majority of Tom’s fun activities involve him playing with toys and/or getting others to engage with him, and walking, he really does like to walk.
Zora: rolls in smelly/dead stuff, runs around the yard and woods, trains humans to do stuff, squeaks her toys, shoves her ball around the backyard, plays bitey face with Tom, surveys the neighborhood, hunts chipmunks, initiates training games, sitting on people. Majority of Zora’s fun activities involve engaging others in mental actives (training games, her training us), and exploring her environment (running around, surveying, hunting, rolling around).
Knowing these things about my dog allows me to better engage and deepen our relationship. Though I will say at times it is challenging since both of my dogs enjoy different things. Zora loves to run around off leash in the woods, Tom loves walks on the street (hence on-leash). Tom feels woods walks are boring, Zora feels street walks are boring. So our life includes both of these activities throughout the week.
Zora seeks out the mental engagement of training with me (or others) and physically engaging her body in different ways, so agility is one activity she really enjoys as well as any creative training exercise. Tom on the other hand prefers petting and free form silliness with a squeaky toy.
Some of Zora’s fun activities, moreso that Tom’s, are ones that have the potential to shift into unsafe (or highly annoying) like her hunting chipmunks or watching the neighborhood (which can lead to barking), so knowing this about her allows me to better structure our environment so she can practice similar behaviors that are safer. Like find it games with hidden treats or toys or people. Or letting her watch the backyard but not the front.
So, what does your dog do for fun? And how can you take that knowledge to deepen your relationship and understanding of your dog?