Group Play: Is it Right for My Dog?
Every dog owner knows what it's like to have a bored dog with energy to burn, and the resulting aftermath. Excessive barking, destruction, and other bad habits come out in full force, and can try even the most experienced owner's patience. The solution - a tired and happy dog - seems simple enough, but it can be hard to find enough time in the day to ensure they are getting the exercise they need. What's more, dog obesity rates are on the rise, and a game of fetch or a couple walks around the block aren't always enough to help your dog stay trim and healthy. Group Play, where dogs get to spend time playing and socializing with other dogs, kills two birds with one stone, but it's not for every dog. So how do you know if your dog would be a good fit?
While I never want to anthropomorphize dogs, it's important to remember that every dog has it's own unique personality. Some dogs are friendly and outgoing, while others are quiet and reserved; some dogs dance to their own beat, and some are furry troublemakers. It's important to acknowledge your dog's personality to see if a Group Play setting is something that is really going to make them happy, or just freak them out. While there are few things better than a tired dog, it's not worth it if it means they are burnt out from being stressed all day. Some dogs haven't been socialized properly, or at all, and sticking them in Group Play is not the way to do it. Socialization is a slow process, culminating from repeated positive exposure to new situations and experiences over a period of time; throwing your dog in the proverbial deep-end can cause fear aggression, fear of other dogs, and a slew of other problems. It's also important to remember that while dogs are pack animals, you can't just chuck a group of dogs in a room and call them a pack. Packs are a like family, and have their own hierarchy; dogs that are too passive can find a pack stressful, while an overly aggressive dog may cause issues over dominance.
Okay, so what kind of dog does benefit from Group Play? If your adult dog is confidant, friendly and outgoing, and enjoys wrestling and playing with a bunch of furry friends, then they will love the never-ending madness that is Group Play. They should be well-socialized to other dogs, people, and new situations, so that they feel comfortable and safe. They should also have a strong recall command (they will respond when called), as well as a solid grasp on other basic obedience skills, making things safer in case there is a problem. When in doubt, it's always a good idea to consult a professional trainer who can work with you and your dog to find the best way to get them tired and happy by the end of the day.
There are few things better than coming home to a tired pup, and Group Play is a great tool that, when combined with training and lots of love, helps to shape happy and healthy dogs.