Cisu - Play as Physical Interaction

Here is a video of personal play with a physical, interactive dog - she has strong opposition reflex and likes "hands on" play.  This video shows my dog Cisu playing with me; we play a ton in the ring between exercises.  The only thing in this video that I would not do in the ring is push her with my knees or stop moving.  Always move to your next exercise as you play, unless the judge in not ready for you.

Note that Cisu always comes to me; I do not pull, prod, grab, or restrain to keep her attention.  If it is painful or irritating to the dog, it is not play - it's a person being annoying.  To use these skills in the ring, make sure you keep your body relaxed with your hands open, high and visible, so the judge can see that you are not grabbing your dog.  You may need to tone it down depending on your dog's behavior.  Before you try playing in the ring, videotape yourself with your dog so can gauge the appearance of your play.  Never never never grab your dog's ruff or collar in the ring, no matter how much fun your dog might find that interaction.

I teach my dogs that open hands are an invitation to play.  To encourage a jump up, my hands are held high.  To encourage movement, I move the dog from my left to my right side, simply by varying which hand is available and changing my body postion.  To encourage the dog to push back at me, I place my open hands against the sides of their muzzle or neck.   If I need the dog to be quiet and contained, I hold my hand close to my side with my palm facing me - my dogs are trained to come into that space between my hand and my body, but they don't' have to heel.  They can jump if they wish.   Sometimes I pull Cisu in close to my body so I can pet or hug her, but most of the time I encourage her to move around so she can release any nervous energy that has built up during work.

Cisu is always either working or playing; there is no dead time.  This is how we trial - 100% structure.  Play is highly interactive and fun for the dog, but it is still focused and structured.

When training the beginnings of interactive play, remember to always move away from your dog.  If your dog turns away from you, your job is not to follow but to back away.  Most dogs will turn back when you do this and you can praise, cheer, and offer another opporunity to interact.  If your dog is prone to running around when excited, you'll have to keep this sort of play toned down and highly structured.  Try teaching in a small space so "zooming" is not an option.  Feel free to use food in the beginning to keep your dog close, unless your dog begins to focus on the food - then practice short bits of play simply for the fun of the interaction.

Here's a video of Ali in his first play session.  For those who are interested, Ali is the grandson of Cisu, the dog shown above.  He is also Lyra's sire.


Laura Norie

Argh, leaving me in suspense….good thing I’m going on vacation in two days, so I can forget about it for now!

Carla Baker

I loved seeing this in action and will definitely try this with my little girl, but it’ll have to wait since she’s already quite tired tonight. I am curious though, by what you mean when you say “open hands”. Is that both hands palms together, but spread a bit apart – or is it spread/splayed fingers? That’s not clear to me.

I have to brag that between your blog, my other reading and the clickcompobed list, I’m getting some wonderful results with my 17mo Dalmatian girl, Gimme. Twice now, when she realized I was about to end a training session, she drove into heel position and I couldn’t peel her off me. Somehow I’ve made heel a preferred activity – who knew….

Laura Norie

Loads of fun following your trials, tribulations and thought processes, Denise and I can’t wait for the seminar in May in Nelson, BC!

I’ve got mother/daughter Duck Tollers….both very play oriented, both like to roughhouse, both use their teeth….a lot! I’m thinking it’s a fine line between turning them off play for using teeth and keeping them motivated to play. Mother is nearly 8, so has some very ingrained stuff, daughter is 11 months.

Suggestions? They both loved the physical play tonight and I love it because I don’t have to have toys on me.


that takes too much discussion; this will come up at the seminar!


ok, i just tried this with my mouthy and talking dog (never stops talking) Loki. he responds to it wonderfully EXCEPT, he is always mouth open and always “aarrrggh”… which can seem aggressive but i know with him it’s not, he’s jus playing and he loves to play loudly. since i’m not competing in a ring it’s no big deal, but how do you teach a quieter form of play for a loud and open mouthy dog like him? i tell him he’s good when he plays back when quiet? for now i just want him to push back at me and play back. but over time fade the loud mouthyness? how? the only thing i can think of is by calming myself a bit and he’ll match it. for example when we’re downtown and i notice he’s a bit tense for whatever reason (a big dog stared hard or anothe running amok unleashed) I always give him a jump and few fun “get in” turns and then a few more jumps to release tension and he’s very quiet when we do it. so i know he can “play in public” quietly. it’s probably just my own body language. i’m louder at home i think!

i also tried the “down or sit” while in the air during a touch from the last post. OMG, he got it in like 2 seconds. he’s faster on sits but slower on downs but does do them for me. he loves that kind of speed in working. I’m so happy your blogging! in fact, he’s happy you’re blogging! his mind is back to being a bit challenged!

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