Puppies are allowed interative play with their raisers without toys, by playing a tug game, and by playing hide and seek.

Teach your puppy to play interactively with you (without using a toy)

Play is a crucial element in developing a well-balanced happy puppy. Puppies learn about their world and how to interact with a human being through play. It is therefore important that you teach your puppy how to play appropriately. He needs to learn how to play gently and in a controlled manner, to play with you using a toy and also how to play with you when there is no toy present.

Appropriate play can be used to entertain the pup when he becomes bored, to mildly exercise him and to build his trust and self-control. Play can also be a great stress reliever. Puppies who have learned how to play appropriately and interactively (with you, but without using a toy) will have a great advantage when they enter training and when they go on to become guides. Their partner will be able to help them relieve any stress they may be feeling by initiating play even when a toy is not present.

Use these general rules when playing with your puppy

  • Teach your puppy to play "interactively" (WITHOUT a toy) with you as well as teaching him such games as tug and hide-and-seek.
  • Frequently play with your puppy on leash.
  • Provide only Guide Dog approved toys for your puppy.
  • Do not use discarded human clothing or linens when playing with your puppy.
  • Do not play retrieve games with balls, sticks, frisbees or stones.
  • Refrain from wrestling or rough housing with your puppy. It will teach him a behavior that is not appropriate and that he may attempt with strangers or children.
  • Do not play chase or keep away.

To play interactively with your puppy:

  • start on leash
  • stand, sit or kneel on the floor
  • encourage the puppy to push back, dance or dart, be happy
  • encourage the puppy to play by using an enticing tone of voice and light, playful touches
  • stop play by using the That's enough command 
  • to prevent the puppy from getting out of control, start and stop play when you want to, not when your puppy wants to start or stop.

Interactive play should not include:

  • roughhousing
  • wrestling
  • the puppy chasing you or you chasing the puppy
  • holding the puppy down on the ground or in the "alpha roll position"
  • "pounding" or slapping vigorously on the puppy
  • ear pulling

When you and your puppy play, do not encourage or permit your puppy to:

  • become excessively excited
  • vocalize
  • mouth or grab at you or your clothing
  • snap
  • bark
  • leap up onto you or hard against you
  • race behind you
  • mount you or objects

When playing interactively, be sure to use an encouraging, but not loud, tone of voice and only gentle pushing or pats.

Controlling play with your puppy

Even when playing, be a leader and use the rules for controlling play. Controlling play will help teach your puppy self-control It is important for you to teach a Guide Dog puppy how to play carefully with people.

You do that by controlling:

  • who initiates play
  • when a puppy gets to play
  • how he plays
  • the level and intensity of play
  • who ends the game

When you initiate and control play, you assert yourself as the pack leader. When you assert yourself as the pack leader, it is easier to keep your puppy calm.

Control when play starts and stops

  • Start play at a time convenient for you.
  • Do not give in to your puppy's attempts to get you to play when he's excited or when he brings his toys to you.
  • Start play with your puppy at a time when he does not expect the invitation.
  • Stop play when you desire and before the puppy is ready to stop.

Control the intensity of the game

  • Remember to be an example. When you see him becoming overly excited, STOP THE GAME.
  • Play with the puppy at a controlled level. Do not intensify the play or let the puppy escalate the play into a frenzy. Make sure he stops playing when you are ready to stop
  • To stop play, tell the puppy That's enough in a calm, firm voice. If puppy has a habit of not stopping, have puppy on a long leash when playing.
  • Highly excitable puppies may need to be made to sit and stay beside you for a minute or so until they calm down. This will help them achieve self-control.
  • If a toy is used, take it away, praising the puppy as he releases the toy. Then place the toy in a place out of the puppy's reach (such as on the top of the refrigerator).
  • Correct your puppy if he pesters you to continue play. Then use a command such as
  • Sit and make him do it.
  • Correct the puppy if he jumps against the refrigerator in an attempt to get the toy.
  • Quietly and calmly praise the puppy when he calms.
  • Leave the toy where it is until you initiate play the next time.

Tug game procedures

Tug can be a very fun, interactive game to play with your pup. When taught properly and played within the guidelines given below, it does not promote aggressive behavior. As with anything, moderation is the best policy.

Approved tug toys are listed in the“Puppy toy and play policies”in the Policies, forms and resources section at the end of this manual. Do not leave tug toys out for your puppy to chew on!

When playing, keep the tug toy down at dog level. This will help discourage jumping up to get the toy and possibly missing and getting your hand instead.

"Play growling" is okay but watch the body language and intensity of play. With any sign of hackling (hair rising along the back of the neck or down to the tail), high intensity, reckless biting, or other inappropriate accelerations, say That's Enough and stop the game. Put the toy aside while you do some calming exercises and/or obedience work with the pup.

Do not play "helicopter dog" (swing the dog around while he is holding the toy). This is unsafe for the puppy and may cause injury!

  • You should initiate the game. Don't let the pup dictate to you.
  • You choose when to stop the game; don't let him run off with the toy.
  • The tug toy should be put away when done, do not leave it on the floor.
  • The tug game should be taught on-leash so that you can control inappropriate behaviors and actions of the pup.

Say that's enough and stop the game for these behaviors:

  • jumping at or on you
  • putting feet on you
  • mouthing your hand or clothing

Practice starting and stopping the game once or twice per session. 

Don't hide the toy when you stop, but teach him to behave when the toy is within his sight.