By Charlene Dunlap

Their intelligence, natural curiosity and lively sense of fun make Poodles extremely compatible playmates.

When was the last time you played with your Poodle? When was the last time your Poodle really had fun -- and I mean fun from your dog's viewpoint? "Who has time for fun," you ask? Far too few of us. Playing with the dog is usually not a priority in most homes. Yet, the rewards of playing simple games with our dog satisfies the desire to interact with each other in stress releasing ways. It is the simple games you play at home with your dog that is the glue that bonds your dog to you in special ways.

One of the reasons that Poodles truly enjoy playing games with people is because they seem to think much more in a human fashion than do other breeds of dogs. Their intelligence, natural curiosity and lively sense of fun make them extremely compatible playmates. Their engaging sense of humor is actively demonstrated if they are not made subservient by too much control or dull by too little positive attention.

Games are also a great equalizer. Poodles know they are faster than humans. They know about our limited sense of smell and hearing. We think we are more intelligent than our dogs -- plus, we have thumbs. Honore de Balzac said, "Friendships last when each friend thinks he has a slight superiority over the other."

aside time for games and it will be one of your best investments. 

BE CREATIVE. Look for new approaches and variations. Be observant and recognize when your dog is introducing variations that you should use to improve the game.

BE PATIENT. It takes time to build anything of value and a good PLAY relationship with your dog is no different. Accept the fact that your Poodles may not enjoy some games to the same extent that you do. Or, they may like some games that you do not have the time or inclination to play. Compromise so that you both enjoy each other's favorite games.

BE ENTHUSIASTIC.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  It has both a mental and a physical effect that helps invigorate our lives.  You can change your dog's outlook (and your own) with a joyful

attitude. Most of our Poodles are enthusiastic with us -- try returning this enthusiasm and see how much better it makes you feel.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. This is supposed to be fun, remember, not work. A game can be as simple as catching your dog's eye, assuming an alarmed demeanor, and suddenly ducking behind a counter. Some dogs explode with excitement and some approach cautiously lest the people-eating counter swallows them too. Give your Poodles a big hug when they come to check on you so they know that their participation is the objective of the game.

BE SILLY. The sillier you are the more interesting your dog will find you. At a Ted Turner (from Sea World of Ohio) seminar, we watched a video of some of the trainers playing games with two killer whales. The trainers ran around the perimeter of the pool jumping over big plastic buckets and hiding behind huge balls. They would dash out and throw objects into the whale's pool and run and hide again. The two killer whales were half out of the water and turning on their tails in their excitement to see what the trainers were going to do next. Begin silliness slowly. Don't scare your dog by suddenly doing something so crazy that he considers pawing in 911 !

GO AROUND -- This is one of Keila's favorites games. When we're out in the yard, she dances in front of me until I point to a tree and say, "Go around." Off she races to circle the tree, beautiful face beaming, enormous ears flying. It's a bittersweet moment to see her so spirited because, due to her epilepsy medication, she is infrequently animated.

FOLLOW THE LEADER -- I teach my dogs the word "Follow." Sometimes I lead and sometimes I walk in their steps. When teaching this game, I select a path that must be negotiated in single file so the Poodles learn the concept of following. The first time it's their turn to be the leader they seem surprised and even confused. With proper encouragement they soon learn the game and take great pride in being the leader.

Call "Find me!" -- and the game begins. If your dogs are not obedience trained, you will need two people to play this game; one to hold the dogs and one to hide from the dogs.

Some of our hiding places include; under desks, in closets, behind chairs, on top of the washing machine, behind the shower curtain, under blankets. Use your imagination and frequently change your hiding place.

CHASE THE RING -- We use a six-inch Cressite rubber ring. The game can also be played with a ball or anything that rolls. The rolling object triggers a prey-drive in most dogs. Poodles quickly learn to race along and pick up the ring "on the roll." This type of game has a great advantage for humans. We throw the ring -- the dog chases the ring. Guess which takes the most energy?

HIDE AND SEEK -- Everyone plays this game with puppies, but it is also one of the favorite house games of many adult dogs.  Obedience trained dogs can be put on a Sit/Stay while you find a suitable hiding place.  

VENTRILOQUISM -- Dogs find unusual sounds interesting. Here is one game that appeals to this interest and curiosity. I use a piece of cardboard or plastic pipe about two to four feet long. Usually, I'll sneak up where I can hide and put the pipe close to the dog. I make peculiar noises into the end of the pipe and the sound comes out the end next to the dog. The sillier the noise, the more interesting the dog will find it. This is a ten-second, once-in-a-while game. More than that and the game loses its novelty.

YARD INTRUDER -- This is another novelty game to be played only occasionally.  We

shaped object.  We go back into the house and after a few minutes, turn the Curly Crew loose to discover, THE INTRUDER!!

This game can also be played inside by covertly setting up the "The Intruder" in the house after we have put the Poodles in the car. We go for a short ride and when we return, I innocently open the door and the dogs discover "The Intruder!" In this game you can be a passive bystander or you can actively participate in the discovery.  The objective

sequester the dogs inside the house while we go outside and set up the "yard intruder." The intruder can be anything strange to the dog such as a large stuffed animal, a scarecrow, a cardboard or wood cutout of an animal, or even a sheet covering a

Originally published in
 Poodle Variety magazine
Dec-Jan 1995

When we introduce our dogs to games, we are fostering activities that can provide both of us with a sense of kinship and belonging - a pack unity, if you will. Recognize that while a game is fundamentally a competitive activity, the "prize" is for BOTH dog and human to enjoy each other in playful and entertaining ways.

Here are some suggestions for putting more fun into your relationship:

DO THINGS THAT YOU AND YOUR POODLE BOTH LIKE. The more you BOTH enjoy the activity, the more fun you BOTH will have.

PLAY GAMES. Eberhard Trumler in Understanding Your Dog said, "By studying the games played by dogs, not only do we gain valuable information about canine behavior but, even more important, we can discover how we ourselves can enhance our social contact with the dog by playing with him."

MAKE YOUR POODLE THE ENTIRE FOCUS OF YOUR POSITIVE ATTENTION IN YOUR GAMES. There is nothing that can make a dog (or a person) feel more loved or important than being the entire focus of a friend's positive attention.  Set

Stoney stealing my hat 

BUMPER BALL -- As Poodle owners know, our companions are energetic and athletic. Stoney loves pushing a huge inflated rubber ball around the yard. We try to keep it away as he butts it with his head and punches it with his feet. If you have more than one Poodle (and Multi-Poodle Syndrome is real) this game can get pretty rowdy with Poodles and people trying to punch and push the ball.

Keila playing chase. 

Follow the Leader 

"Herding" the ball 

Hide and Seek 

A curious sound

 is for your dogs to have fun and this is only achieved if they feel "relief and victory" after the shocking discovery.   

POODLES DELIGHT IN PLAYING GAMES once they have been given the chance to do so with a loving human companion. And, when they understand that we humans also enjoy it when dogs invent their own games, they often do surprising things. A young veterinarian friend of ours was sitting comfortably on our sofa with her legs stretched out across the floor. April walked by and in one flowing motion reached down, untied our friend's shoelace, and continued on her way. I swear I heard what sounded like a doggy giggle!

Shocking discovery in the back yard

Poodles are intelligent, playful, extraordinary companions who are always there for us. Playing their favorite games is a gift we give to our dogs and to ourselves. Samuel Butler said, "All of the animals except man know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it." Let us enjoy our Poodles and, just as importantly, let our Poodles enjoy us.