Ending a Play Session with Your Dog
Playing dog games is sure to get your pup excited and feeling very playful, which is of course the entire point of engaging in these games. However, as noted by Dr. Ian Dunbar, it is important to ensure that towards the end of any play session, you teach your dog how to settle down and relax. Here are four techniques you might want to try to help your dog to ease out of his or her excited energy and begin to relax:
1. Repetition and Consistency. Say the same phrase each time that you are about to end the play session to signal to your dog that it’s time to relax. Use a phrase that feels natural to you. For example, you might say, using a calm, quiet voice, “Ok, that’s enough buddy. Let’s relax.” Or “Ok, time to rest now.”
2. An inviting space for your dog to rest following the play session. Once you’ve signaled to your dog that it’s time to slow down and relax by using this phrase, invite your dog to a comfortable space where he can settle. Depending on the rules of your home, this might be his favourite blanket on the couch, or his dog bed. Gently patting your dog’s bed while you tell him that it’s time to rest will invite your dog into this space in the same positive manner in which you just played, which will likely be more appealing for him.
3. Cuddle time. Once your dog settles into his bed (or at the very least, once he reluctantly follows your request to slow down and lie down) you can make the end of the play time that much more enjoyable with a little belly rub and a gentle ear scratch for a few minutes as your dog begins to unwind and rest. When Sparky just isn’t ready to settle down, once I’ve encouraged him into his bed, continuing to gently pet him will usually lead to him flipping over onto his back to get a belly rub – and often to eventually falling asleep.
4. Soft, plush toys. If your dog doesn’t seem to be buying into this ‘it’s time to rest’ idea, I will often offer a soft, plush toy for him to snuggle up with in his bed. Sometimes, when he’s not ready to end the play, Sparky will take his toy with him to his bed and gently mouth the toy as he settles.
5. Lullabies?! Finally, if all else fails, maybe you can sing to your pup to help him or her to settle down and relax. Check out this adorable video of how one man helps a litter of puppies to settle and eventually fall asleep by singing “Goodnight Sweetheart”:
It’s important to remember that playing dog games isn’t just about solving challenges for your dog – it’s also about opportunities for your dog to spend really fun, quality time with you. Therefore, it’s understandable that your dog won’t want to end this wonderfully close contact and engagement with you. What a wonderful end to a great play session!