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One Tough Feline Who Has Overcome So Much

Bumblebee is a sweet cuddly cat who has endured extreme pain and abuse. His soft purrs hide his painful past.West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue received a young cat who had serious head injuries. Upon investigation, they discovered the fragile kitten, just one year old,...
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How To Help An Emotionally Traumatized Dog Learn To Play

Go to any dog park and you’ll see man’s best friend engaging in all types of play. They’re fetching, chasing, tugging, and tackling, but what about the emotionally hurt and traumatized of the group?

For those dogs, the simple act of letting loose and having fun is a foreign concept. Not knowing how to play and not having the confidence to engage with others is something that affects dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. It’s true that some dogs are naturally less energetic than others, but every dog deserves the chance to embrace their playful side.

Emotional Trauma in Dogs

When thinking about the hardships many dogs face, physical abuse is always first to mind. But when those bodily wounds heal, the bruises of emotional trauma linger. The psychological suffering continues long after the dog is rescued. Many formerly abused and neglected dogs shut down emotionally, and they need to learn basic behaviors, like playing, all over again. In other cases, adult dogs don’t play because they were never taught how. There’s no chance for socialization when they’re living in neglect, and they grow up not understanding the concept of fun.

Even dogs that grow up well cared for in happy homes can suffer emotional trauma. An unpleasant experience at the vet’s office, an altercation at the dog park, or the loss of a person or animal they were particularly connected to are all potentially traumatizing experiences. It’s not up to humans to determine what’s traumatizing and what’s not. Something that seems insignificant to the dog’s owner could have a lasting psychological impact on the dog. Paws Abilities says,

“Too often, we get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves about our dogs’ pasts, and forget to pay attention to the animal in front of us. While trauma can have lasting consequences due to its huge impact on the way the brain develops and processes information, patient behavioral modification and an environment of safety can have equally powerful effects.”

Why Play Is Important

Play is a valuable skill set that benefits dogs in more ways than one. Not only is it an opportunity to improve the dog’s quality of life by adding fun to their daily routine, it also teaches proper socialization. Dogs need play to show them how to interact with both people and other animals. It’s mental stimulation that keeps them engaged in their experiences, and it’s an excellent bonding opportunity. Ten minutes of tug-of-war is 10 minutes spent strengthening the human/dog relationship. Not to mention, all forms of play are great exercise.

Tips For Teaching a Dog How To Play

1. Start Slow

Dog owners know playtime is a positive thing, but their pooches need more time to catch on to the concept. Jumping in too fast and too soon could be an overwhelming step backward instead of progress moving forward. You don’t want to scare your dog, and it’s best to slowly ease them into the idea of playing. Try putting yourself in their paws and consider what they would deem safe versus threatening. Dog behaviorist Victoria Stilwell says,

“You cannot build a strong bond with your dog unless you truly understand how he perceives the world around him, but to do this effectively you must first learn his language and appreciate his sensory experience.”

Start by leaving toys around the house. Place them in their crate and on their bed to safely gauge their reaction. As long as they aren’t obviously spooked by the object, you can move forward with encouraging them to interact.

2. Positively Reinforce Their Interest

Positive reinforcement is one of the most valuable training tools available to dog owners. When your dog starts to show interest in toys, quickly mark the behavior with something positive. Toss them a treat, give lots of praise, and scratch their belly in that way they love. Do it over and over, and they’ll soon start to associate toys with all the best things in life.

3. Get Involved

You can’t expect your pup to pick up a toy and start playing by themselves. You need to lead by example and show them that whether it’s past abuse or a lost loved one that’s holding them back, playing is a fun way to get attention from their favorite person.

Don’t scare them by moving too fast, but start engaging play with the toys they feel comfortable with. If they’ve shown interest in a ball, gently roll it in their direction. If they’ve grown accustomed to seeing a rope toy around the house, start tossing it around in your hands while making happy facial expressions. The goal is to spike their interest so they want to figure out what you’re doing. Entice them to come over to you, but never force them. It needs to be their choice to do it all on their own.

4. Pick the Right Type of Play

Dogs don’t all play the same way. Some are crazy about fetch while others prefer the thrill of tug-of-war. If you really want your dog to learn to love playing, help them find the right game. It will take trial and error, but always follow your dog’s lead. Fetch, tug, chase, agility, disc jumping, lure-coursing, nosework, hide and seek, and puzzles are all games worth trying out. Your dog might even want to make up their own game, and that’s okay too. Blue Cross suggests,

“It depends on your dog’s personality. Watch what your dog does when excited. Does your dog chase, grab or pounce on things? Experiment with a few different toys and, using a toy, mimic your dog’s natural play behavior.”

If you’re having trouble finding a game your dog likes, take hints from their breed. Collies, for example, usually aren’t up for chasing a ball and bringing it back, but they excel at agility and plucking flying discs out of the air. Labs and Golden Retrievers are famously ball crazy, but sight hounds tend to prefer playing with prey sticks and letting loose during lure coursing.

5. Keep It Fun

The first time your dog engages in a full-on play session will be a great experience. You’re over that first hurdle, but it’s important to not give up on training efforts. If you want them to continue playing, make sure every play session is a positive experience. Don’t get upset when they “break the rules” of fetch by not bringing the ball back. If they sense you’re mad, they won’t want to play again. You can teach them “rules” as you see fit, but do it with positive reinforcement. You want every play session to end with your dog happy and tired, not confused or frustrated.

Remember to be patient and understanding of the mental barriers you’re asking your pup to overcome. Playing might seem like no big deal to you, but for a dog struggling to move on after a traumatic experience, it’s everything. Be patient and compassionate as you gently guide your dog toward a better quality of life through play.

H/T: Paws Abilities, Victoria Stilwell, Blue Cross

Tags: dog behavior, dog training, dogs, playing with dogs, tips and tricks

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Healthy Dog Central: Social Pups

Need some advice on how to keep your pup healthy in 2018? Visit Healthy Dog Central for tips, tricks, and recipes to help your pup stay fit and furry for life. All Dogtopia locations work hard to encourage healthy choices at daycare:

North Austin:

& the winner is?! Monkey! Now that’s good play…it must have been Massive Monday!

Posted by Dogtopia on Monday, March 7, 2016

San Marcos:

Splish splashing, having their own little party because it is Friday! You go little ones 🙂 !

Featuring: Sadie, Romeo, Rocket, Teddy, Sasha, and Rozzi!

Posted by Dogtopia on Friday, March 4, 2016

Temecula:

Trick Training w/Cal Dog U

The Charity Trick training class was a big success! Check out Miss Rudy Janda’s best tricks with California Dog University’s trainer, Brooke McKinney!

Posted by Dogtopia on Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Omaha:

Playing at Dogtopia

PASS SPECIAL – Now Until Tuesday, January 24th. FREE bonus days! Daycare/Boarding (day rate)

Like, Share, & Comment for all to see this rare offer! Click the link below for all the details on FREE bonus days.

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/PASS-SPECIAL—Now-Until-Tuesday–January-24th.html?soid=1102350855186&aid=hD6fqtaRAAU

Posted by Dogtopia on Wednesday, January 18, 2017

San Marcos:

Splish splashing, having their own little party because it is Friday! You go little ones 🙂 !

Featuring: Sadie, Romeo, Rocket, Teddy, Sasha, and Rozzi!

Posted by Dogtopia on Friday, March 4, 2016

Richmond West End:

Honey does the long jump while Bella and Cody wrestle

Posted by Dogtopia on Saturday, April 8, 2017

meet our

dog experts

Our doggie experts are here to answer your questions about health, safety, nutrition and behavior.

ask a question
  • Colleen Demling

    Dog Behaviorist

    With over 30,000 hours and 15 years of HANDS ON dog training experience, Colleen Demling is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviorist. She is a frequent contributor to local and national ...

  • Dr. Antje Joslin

    Veterinarian

    Dr. Antje Joslin brings 14 years of small animal experience in both private and corporate practice. Her love of animals is not just professional; along with her husband and four children, she shares ...

  • Lorraine Rhoads

    Environmental Biologist

    Lorraine Rhoads is an experienced animal biologist and environmental scientist with a background in environmental safety testing and biological surveys. Additionally, Lorraine has more than 6 years ...

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Military Dog Gets A Hero’s Farewell From Fellow Airmen

Rico, a military working dog with the United States Air Force, served for eight years with his handlers, Tech Sgt. Matthew Salter and Staff Sgt. Jason Spangenberg, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. He completed more than 100 combat missions and even earned the Bronze Star with...
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5 Tips for Taking Your Dog in Public

Taking your pup to the local dog-friendly restaurant or for a ride in the car can be a lot of fun, but, to ensure safety there are a few simple rules to follow. Check out these five tips before you take your dog out in public:

Follow Directions

Before you head to any public setting, make sure your pup can follow a few simple commands such as “sit,” “down,” and “stay.” It is also important to make sure your dog knows how to take directions while on a leash. Practice these commands at home before you take your furry friend out in public.

Be Prepared

Always, always, always have water and waste disposal bags with you when taking your dog out in public. There is nothing worse than trying to find a way to clean up after your pup and having nothing to use! Don’t forget to make sure your dog’s collar is all set up with your name and information in the unfortunate case of separation. It might also be good to bring a towel or blanket to clean slobbery mouths or use on hard floors in case they want to rest.

Keep Contained

If you take your dog to a restaurant or shop, make sure they are under the table or out of the main aisle to avoid tripping situations (and potential injuries for your pup). Save your dog the pain of a stepped-on tail or foot by keeping them close to you and out of the way.

Ensure Good Behavior

All locations outside of your home are going to be a frenzy of scents for your pup. Add the delicious smells of a dog-friendly restaurant and suddenly, your furry friend is very excited! Make sure your dog knows good behavior and isn’t looking for scraps or whining for treats. This is a great time to use a blanket so they can rest under the table.

Be Considerate

Bringing our dogs to local establishments is an exciting privilege, but not everyone wants to see or hear your furry friend when they’re enjoying their personal time. If your dog is barking or acting unruly, remove them from the situation or leave them at home. The biggest compliment you can receive from a stranger is that they didn’t even know you had a dog with you!

Remember: Not every dog is outwardly social. If your pup is fearful or protective in public, it might be best to leave them at home. Then you can work on bettering their public manners and behaviors when you don’t have to split your attention.

Need to work on your dog’s social behavior? Dogtopia’s doggie daycare provides dogs with all the tips and tricks they need to get along with other furry-friends. Learn more!

-Written by Colleen Demling, Dogtopia’s Canine Behaviorist. With over 30,000 hours and 15 years of HANDS ON dog training experience, Colleen is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviorist. She is a frequent contributor to local and national media including Yahoo, The Huffington Post, Woman’s Day and many more. Colleen was a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year by Women in the Pet Industry Network. She was also named a 2015 Woman of Influence and one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Pet Age Magazine. Learn more: https://www.dogtopia.com/meet-our-experts/

meet our

dog experts

Our doggie experts are here to answer your questions about health, safety, nutrition and behavior.

ask a question
  • Colleen Demling

    Dog Behaviorist

    With over 30,000 hours and 15 years of HANDS ON dog training experience, Colleen Demling is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviorist. She is a frequent contributor to local and national ...

  • Dr. Antje Joslin

    Veterinarian

    Dr. Antje Joslin brings 14 years of small animal experience in both private and corporate practice. Her love of animals is not just professional; along with her husband and four children, she shares ...

  • Lorraine Rhoads

    Environmental Biologist

    Lorraine Rhoads is an experienced animal biologist and environmental scientist with a background in environmental safety testing and biological surveys. Additionally, Lorraine has more than 6 years ...

Read More

Blue Was Given A Second Chance Because Of Your iHeartDogs Store Purchases!

Part of each sale through the iHeartDogs store is donated to Greater Good, which helps support various charities. Thanks to customers like you, happy endings, like the one below, are made possible. 

BLUE was in danger at the Riverside Shelter after having no rescue interest. He’d obviously had no training, was cumbersome and strong. With all this against him, he was looking at becoming another statistic.

Image Source: START Rescue

Yet, he touched the heart of Nikki T., who brought BLUE to START Rescue’s attention and with a few small miracles, BLUE made it out!

“After spending some time in a boarding facility in L.A., BLUE went up North on transport to Jeremy of Beloved Rescue who is foster-based and trains some of our harder to adopt dogs.” – START Rescue

Image Source: START Rescue

After lots of exercise and socialization, BLUE received something he never thought possible… he got his very own loving forever home! BLUE now has a new daddy and a new 4-legged brother!

Image Source: START Rescue

START Rescue is just one of the many groups that benefit from Greater Good’s Second Chance Movement. Every time you make a purchase from the iHeartDogs shop, you’re helping fund projects just like this!

This Product Provides 4 Miles of Transport From High Risk Shelters to Safety!

Tags: dog rescue, pit bull, pit bull mix, Second Chance Movement

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Do Some Cats Respond Quietly to Catnip?

Young kittens don’t have an active response to catnip. But if you think your cat does not respond to catnip, maybe it’s just a quiet response, according to a recent study. Photo: Prasom Boonpong / Shutterstock It is widely believed some cats respond to catnip...
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