| For a year (2010 - 2011) LabradorNet's
founder Jack Vanderwyk has experimented with his Dog Play Party© (DPP©).
A Dog Play Party is a party for the dogs as well as for everyone who loves
to see dogs enjoying themselves. Apart from that, a Dog Play Party is a
therapy for all dogs that are frustrated with their lives of boredom and
DPP - Dog Play Party -- by Jack Vanderwyk
A dog is a social creature, but we shouldn't forget that the social part primarily refers to the species itself, and not to humans, no matter how much we like to think otherwise.
When humans first came in contact with dogs, they started selecting the dogs. Those who were friendly to people could stay (and breed), the others were killed, or culled, like our conservative-liberal government prefer to call it when they are massacring badgers. As a result of our selection we bred infantile dogs, who always want to play, and who will always be depending on us, humans, to give them the opportunity to play with other dogs.
But we people are selfish. We want our dogs to play with us, and when we walk our dogs we don't want our dogs to be a nuisance to other dogs, or rather to their owners. So we keep our dogs on the leish, we avoid other dogs as much as we can, and doing so we deprive our dogs to have fun with their own species. Deprivation leads to frustration, and frustration leads to behavioral problems. Some of us may think that the dog's obsessive compulsive behaviour in regard to balls and sticks is normal, but it isn't. It's a way for the dog to handle its frustration.
We take our dogs to classes to control their frustrated behaviour, but that's just about the same as trying to control masturbation in prisons. We expect too much from our dogs. An ex-girlfriend of mine wanted to be able to take our dog to the pub. Our dog is a friendly, easily excited chap, who wants to jump at people who seem to like him. And when people in the pub, especially the ones who are a bit tipsy, approach him, my ex-girlfriend expected the dog to sit still and let the drunken bastards touch him without even moving his eyelids. And when our dog wasn't able to live up to her ridiculous expectations, she blamed me that I didn't train the dog. Of course, she could have told the drunkards in the pub that our dog is easily excited and that he will hug them to death if they approach him, so that it's their responsibility and not hers, but that seemed to be out of the question. Personally I think that people should ask a person with a dog if it's alright to approach the dog. Anyway, I advised my ex-girldfriend to get herself a stuffed dog and take that to the pub. (Eventually we split up because of her ideas about the way dogs should behave.)
Play is the most important drive of our domesticated dogs, who will always be puppies, no matter how old they are. So we need to give them the opportunity to play. Years ago, when I was a trainer in dogs obedience classes, I always used to end the trainings with ten minutes play, in which the dogs where free to do whatever they wanted. And it was great fun, for them in the first place, but for their owners as well. For years I have tried to find a group that offers this possibility to dogs, in Holland, in France, and in England, but I didn't succeed. So for my own dog's happiness I created Dog Play Parties.
The best place to organise a DPP is a field half the size of a football field which is secured by a fence. We need a group of 6 to 12 dogs, preferably of the same size and breed. All dogs will enter the field on the leash. Bitches in heat are not allowed to enter the premises.
We start with the greet and meet procedure. The most dominant dog in the group is set free and is able to explore the field and the other dogs. The DPP leader studies his behaviour and watches the respond of the other dogs. If there is a dog who challenges the top position of the dominant dog, we let him off the leash as well, to see what happens. Pretty soon the hierarchical position will be settled between the two, so then we distract them by throwing a ball and let them play.
Now we release the most submissive bitch in the group. She will throw herself to the ground and let the dogs sniff at her. There may be some friction between the two dogs running free, but the submissiveness of the bitch will draw their attention. Soon all three of them will be playing. Now we release the rest of the dogs. If there are struggles, we do not intervene, unless there is abnormal aggression. Any dog that shows abnormal aggression, which is dominance aggression or fear aggression that goes beyond the normal behaviour of settling the hierarchical position, will be removed from the field and not be able to return to it, ever.
Once all the dogs have learned to know each other and are comfortable with each other, they will start to play. Running and chasing each other is the most popular game. If some dogs need extra stimulation, their handlers can throw some balls into the game, whch triggers another drive: possession.
After about 45 minutes of DPP most dogs will be exhausted and ready to have a nap. We will take them to the car and discuss their behaviour with the DPP leader in their absence, so that the next DPP will be even more fun.
DPP's should be organised at least once a week. I urge dog clubs, who usually have suitable fields for DPP's, to start organising DPP's. Really, this is just another thing our dogs desperately need.