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Appropriate Play

by Vicki Chaney

Playing with our puppies is one of the most enjoyable times in which we bond with our puppies and get to know more about their body language. During these times we will see body language that tells us the pup is excited, happy and also that the puppy is practicing a form of aggression. This type of play is instinctive and is necessary to help the pup learn to defend himself if the need should arise. This is also the place where we have to be careful to guide the puppy towards what is appropriate with people.

Allowing a puppy to bite you is never appropriate. While the puppy is young (7 to 12 weeks) biting should be diverted by placing a toy or chew bone in the puppies mouth whenever it begins to bite or mouth you. After 12 weeks of age a bit more aggressive message from you is needed. If the puppy is biting at you by this age, take the puppy's mouth off you and holding it while you look the puppy in the eye. Tell the puppy "don't bite," and then offer the puppy an alternative such as a chew toy or ball.

Small children should be watched carefully with puppies. An adult should supervise all play. Puppies will look upon a child as a littermate and will treat the child as such. This can start some dangerous habits as the puppy gets larger. Remember the puppy only knows what you teach it, and responds to this information along with what is instinctive. As a puppy gets older its play becomes increasingly more rough and if you have allowed the puppy to think of your child as a littermate this play can become dangerous.

Teach your children to play ball with the puppy or to sit quietly with the puppy while the puppy plays with its chew toys. Adults and older children can engage in games of tug-of-war as long as you or the child win most of the time. However, allowing the puppy to win at least 1/3 of the time is important to the puppy's confidence.

Always remember never to let the dog be the ALPHA in any activity or circumstance that involves you, your family or children. NEVER PLAY KEEP-AWAY with the puppy, and tell your children not to play this type of game with the puppy either. NEVER CHASE AFTER THE PUPPY TO GET AN OBJECT BACK. This type of game only sets a pattern for the puppy to grab and run, and it may be something you don't want the puppy to have.

Instead, always encourage the puppy to bring you items. Sit on the floor and roll a ball for the puppy to chase. Then encourage the puppy to bring it back. If the puppy doesn't want to bring it back then stop the play. This discourages the puppy from this type of behavior because he really wants you to participate.

Whenever the puppy is displaying inappropriate behavior in play, ending the play is the best rule. If you stick to this rule, not only are you establishing yourself as the ALPHA in this relationship, but you are teaching the puppy the most appropriate way to interact with people. Always remember to praise the puppy and show your pleased with him when his behavior is appropriate.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).