Boy play can be hard work.

There is an international organization (Right to Play) to give children world wide a chance to play. There is Laughter Yoga –  based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. Apparently one gets the same physiological and psychological benefits no matter if the laugh is real or forced. (Who knew? Not me! Laugh more!) Radio shows play clips from Comedy Festivals regularly. And we, as adults lose our capacity to play. 

I have always thought of the training I do as play. Some of you already knew that.  Our  world won’t collapse if something goes wrong and I am fortunate enough to be able to play with my dogs for pleasure. Teaching a new trick, learning a new activity, going for a long quiet walk at the farm, doing agility are all things we do for pleasure. Learning around here is fun. 

That said,  Denise Fenzi’s blog has always had a strong draw for me. She is in California, and understandably  not keen on traveling to Ontario but I have long admired the joy her dogs have in working with her. She balances work/joy in a way that I strive to. Other people have blogged about doing workshops with her and how they have learned from her to find joy in their dog. 

I have plenty of joy with the dogs around here but really wanted to learn more about the magic that I see when I watch Professor Fenzi at play. She is adamant that play is a mechanical skill that can be taught. Well my mechanical skills can always use fine tuning so imagine my excitment when Agility university offered a course called …da da da dum…

Building Relationship through Play, with Denise Fenzi as the instructor. 

With 10  or 15 working spots I jumped fast! So fast I didn’t think about the fact that all the auditors and observers would be able to watch my struggles with whoever I chose to work for the course. 

I agonized over who to play with in the course. Then I realized I can do all the work with all the dogs. Eventually I decided that feedback about Yen would have value as well as force me to do things with her. A month into her new life the poor thing finds herself being tortured with all kinds of play. What stresses her out? I didn’t know.  What does she do when she is unsure? I didn’t know. Does she prefer toy, food or personal play? Well that’s why I picked her – let’s find out!

We are a week in and already I have to say I’m thrilled both with the feedback and with the information I’m discovering for myself. I wish I could have taken multiple working spots. I am going to video Yen for each assignment but I am going to video a second dog every week as well. 

First up is Wyn, engaging in a little personal play. This location is new to him, and you can hear Yen hollering for MORE ATTENTION now. At the time I thought it was awful but watching it now I think for a young puppy working on play  he did pretty well. If you have specific feedback good or constructively critical I’d love to hear it!  When it looks like he’s gripping my arm he’s actually latching on and nursing for a second. The crook of my arm and pillows still get that reaction sometimes when he’s tired or thinking deeply. 

So thrilled to be using my sabbatical for learning!!