Continuing from last week’s blog post, Work is Work and Play is Play, let’s talk more about what makes work, “work,“ and what makes play, ”play“ (in dogs).

To understand this, I need to provide you with some context for how our our team makes decisions.

Doglando is a systems-based operation – each of us have specific roles we fill, with role-specific outcomes we aim for. This makes it easy for us to create a rich learning experience for each dog; one in which every dog receives our undivided time, attention, guidance, support, encouragement, and feedback.

When a dog transitions from one Play Professor to the next, they receive the next “layer” of learning. When a dog is not ready to move to the next layer, it’s an easy call to meet the dog where the dog is, so that we can be successful in our transitions when they do happen.

In the dog’s first layer of learning, the dog is “worked” in a way to that promotes engagement, cooperation, and connection between the dog and the Play Professor.

The second layer of learning allows the dog to make a choice. Do you want to go off on your own, and play, or do you want to continue engaging with me?

It is at this phase of the “transition” that our Play Professors are able to really assess what the dog needs to be successful. For certain dogs, turning the dog over from working to play appears to be like a “free for all,” and this kind of a dog looks as though they are violating all the rules of play.

When we are working with a dog, there is a clear objective, end goal, and behavior we are aiming for. The human counterpart gets to make the calls and/or the rules that the dog must conform to.

When two dogs are playing, their rules of play are determined by them. Being the observer can be challenging at times… “Should I stop what’s happening? Do I just let it go? When should I step in?”

But when you know how to differentiate between their needs for purpose, and their needs for free will, serving them becomes much easier to do.

Both work and play require cooperation, connection, and engagement. The outlook related to work translates to “it has to be this way”. The outlook related to play translates more like “going with the flow.“ This, of course, is very simply put.

To protect the integrity of play and its players, it is important to eliminate stress. This is vital for players to experience the brain state required for play.

At Doglando, we have sought the help of Nature to eliminate stress and evoke happiness. I’m sure this can be achieved in many other ways. We don’t have enough time in a day to do what the great outdoors does for us and our dogs. She’s been truly like the mother we’ve needed to help raise our dogs. To know when work is work, and when play is play.

There have been instances where we’ve seen a massive behavioral shift in dogs who started off flexible and then gradually became more focused, seeking a deliberate outcome and therefore becoming steadfast in their success of attaining that desired outcome.

Having a system that incorporates elements of both work and play has proven to be a safety net for early detection of aggression: conflict, fights, scuffles, and unwarranted stress; it has increased our ability to provide dogs a rich landscape for play, separate from those dogs who need a job!