It’s not a secret that I have a lot of dogs. But it may be less known that I am very particular about how puppies in my care interact with those dogs. Since my main focus is to create a good sport/performance foundation, I need to be careful how puppies learn to utilize and conserve their energy. I want them saving that energy for training, playing and interacting with me. I want to be the thing they get the most excited about.
Don’t worry though. Puppies in my care get their fair share of free play time and hang out time with other dogs. I have a household full of dogs who are fantastic social teachers and you bet I’m going to take advantage of that. They can communicate to the puppy about social rules, boundaries and doggy protocols better than I can. They can easily tell the puppy when they’re biting too hard or playing too rough. I would much rather have a dog teach that than me fumble around in a language I can’t execute.
I think about my puppies daily allotment of energy as a fixed value. I also think about it as something that they can learn to conserve and save for their favorite activities. Think about it like money, a weekly budget for example. If you have a set date to go out with your friends every Friday night, you are more likely to save part of your budget for that predictable activity. If you didn’t have that adventure planned every week, you’d be more likely to spend your money in other ways, perhaps on a hobby.
So then if my puppy has a limited amount of energy to use, I would want them saving that energy for training or playing with me. How do I do that? Well, I make the predictable activity be those things, they happen every single day, multiple times a day. Play with other dogs happens spontaneously, it can’t be counted on as an energy outlet, it’s availability is unpredictable. I also make sure I use up as much of my puppy’s energy store before they get the opportunity to play with another dog, that way they don’t have much to devote to that activity.
However, there is a fine balance between allowing dog to puppy interaction often enough to prevent it from becoming a novelty and funneling the puppy’s energy. If I only let my puppy interact with other dogs on a limited basis, it will become a very exciting event and that could result in over-excitement around other dogs. So, what my puppies do get on a regular basis, multiple times a day is the chance to relax around other dogs, dogs that aren’t likely to elicit play, dogs with a good off-switch and manners to model for the puppy. If I don’t have a dog that can do that, then tethering the puppy and giving them a good chew to keep their attention is a great way to teach this same lesson.
So Mud gets a full on play session once every few days with other dogs. But he is around other dogs a lot. We play around them, we train around them, he crates near them, he hikes with them and he takes naps with them. He’s learning that other dogs are boring and that he should save all his energy for the fun games that he does with his handler.