Recess IS Good. Duh!

It often is the case that “bad” behavior is punished. Example:
A dog gets angrily put in a crate for getting into the trash (I say shame on you for leaving the trash accessible and NEVER use a crate to punish, only manage).

The 4th grade kid who acts out in class gets punished by losing recess privileges. Instead he gets to sit somewhere to think about why he lost recess, often near the Principle’s Office.

In both the examples above, these things actually INCREASE the “bad” behavior. A recent study published last week in the Journal PEDIATRICS indicates that children who received even 15 minutes of recess scored better on behavioral ratings scales than the children who did not. Duh.

Recess is the time to work out one’s ya ya’s – puppy, dog, kid or adult. Time to get a break in-between bouts of focus and activity and have fun playing. Focused learning requires a lot of internalization of self control and in children AND dogs it takes a very long time to acquire that skill. Why don’t people understand that?

The acting out of the child or puppy isn’t what’s making them bad, it’s a symptom of a much deeper problem. What’s making it hard for the trouble maker is the behavior that’s “bad” isn’t acceptable in the environment (s)he’s in (trust me, I empathize with teachers who are challenged to wrangle a large group of students and one individual can really sabotage an otherwise potentially successful class. This is why I now screen group class before giving permission to register because I’ve had to deal with that very issue. School teachers don’t get that privilege much!).

To my mind it speaks towards something broken or missing on one or more of The Six Pillars. The purpose of education and training is to put it all together. Take into account The Three D’s and SMT.

Last night was the 1/2 way point in my current dog group class (Night 3 of 6). During play time, or recess, handlers are encouraged when and how to recall their dogs. The reward is permission to return to play. It works on several levels including the introduction of a “go” cue and always helps create an awareness in owners of how connected their dogs are to them when not literally connected by a leash. Actions speak louder than words. I couldn’t imagine working dogs in a high stress environment like class (and I’m not saying that stress is bad, it’s just stress — after all these are demanding circumstances in group class!) without a play period.

I like to point out that often when owners are coming in with their dogs, a cacophony of sounds emerge, not to mention lunging and posturing. Despite my repeated efforts to quell dog owners’ desire to FORCE their dog (i.e., yank the leash instead of taking a proactive approach like happily calling the dog to you and making that BETTER than lunging and barking), people are people. They get defensive. They act out of instinct. They don’t want people to think they have a “bad” dog. But when the dogs are off leash and playing, it’s quiet, the dogs have fun, and any squabbles are handled by the dogs and usually last less than 5 seconds. I share observations about what normal dog play actually looks like. Each encounter the growing dogs have is one step further in learning appropriate doggie play and doggie socialization skills. If a dog is too exuberant, it might get a time out, but it’s less than one minute and the dog is given permission to go play again. If it needs another time out, the pattern is repeated, but that is more the exception than the norm in my group class experience.

So go out and give yourself a little recess. And if you’re looking for a really good dog training class for your developing young dog, make sure it includes off leash play time. There is no substitution.

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