I can't play with you right now lil doggo.
January 12, 2017 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I work from home, have a three year old male pembroke corgi who ALWAYS wants to play. I play with him throughout the day when I can, but he is always popping up alongside my chair begging to play and it breaks my heart. When I can play with him I do. What do I do here? I want him to stop begging me all day to play but not necessarily never ask me to play because that seems sad? I don't know, can anyone help with ideas or guidance.
posted by long haired child to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like he need a run. Does he get real exercise every day? My dog bugs me on days he doesn't get a half hour/hour run or hike. When he gets it he's a happy lump (and it makes me seriously happy to see him so relaxed and content).
posted by beccaj at 4:30 PM on January 12, 2017 [22 favorites]

A couple of ideas:
1. Longer/more physically challenging walks/runs/play sessions in the mornings before you start work and maybe at lunch to wear him out
2. When you need to focus on work, physically separate w/ a closed door or baby gate
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:32 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

We have a 2-year old PWC, and on days where we can get him 20 minutes at the off-leash dog park, or a good 30-40 minute walk, he usually is passed out for most of the rest of the day. It helps me get my brain going as well. The morning walk is more important than the evening walk, but having both is outstanding and does a lot to help them use all that energy up.

Last week I caught the stomach flu, so that wasn't an option, poor guy. Having lots of puzzle toys that he can work at will help, although they're such a gosh-darn smart breed. We have lots of toys where he needs to work at it to get the prize (smaller toy, treat, etc) inside, and that can keep them busy for a bit. Be prepared to up the difficulty quickly.
posted by chillin411 at 4:34 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is what kongs are perfect for. Have a few in rotation, put interesting things in them. Freeze them to increase the difficulty level so keep them distracted for longer. In a perfect scenario you'd take him for a nice walk/ball play/tiring activity then give him a kong to settle down with while you get on with boring old work.
posted by wwax at 4:45 PM on January 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

My dog is like this! When we had a behaviorist come to the house, she said that tiring her out was a fool's errand. She (my dog) has so much energy. I can take her to the beach and walk her up and down sand dunes until I'm physically exhausted, and she's ready to go five more miles at least. What worked for me was to ignore her. Right now the problem isn't really that your pup wants to play. The problem is that he knows if he bugs you, he'll be rewarded with play. Our behaviorist basically said throughout the day when the dog is relaxed (or maybe even napping), get them to come play with you. Teach him that playing is up to you and a reward for being chill and not bugging you. When he comes to get you to play with him, ignore him or redirect him with a toy or a treat. That teaches him that it's his job to entertain himself while you're working. If you keep redirecting, eventually he'll figure out that you won't take the bait, and he'll just go do something else. Just make sure that when you redirect, you aren't excited or jazzy about it. Calmly give him something to do so getting you to give him something to do doesn't become its own reward. I'm sorry, I know that last sentence is weird.
posted by Bistyfrass at 4:50 PM on January 12, 2017 [33 favorites]

He needs to know when there is a chance you'll play with him and when there isn't and you need to make it clear that there is never a chance it will happen while you're working. Never ever respond to his invitations to play while you're working. If you mostly ignore him but sometimes give in when he's really persistent or really sad looking or just at random times when you feel like it, you're teaching him persistence in begging pays off.

You can do as Bistyfrass suggests and make it so he can only play when invited by you, or you can make it so you sometimes respond to his invitations to play at times when you're not working. This is assuming he can tell when you're working and when you aren't, which he probably can learn to do. If your behavior when working isn't obviously different from your behavior when not working, you can come up with some signal to show playtime is definitely not going to happen - set something next to your chair that's only there during work time, wear a special work hat, something like that.

It may seem mean to completely ignore his attempts to play while you're working, but once he understands it's pointless to pester you then, life will be less frustrating for both of you. It may take a while, but if he's never rewarded for begging to play while you work, he will eventually stop.
posted by Redstart at 5:15 PM on January 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Bistyfrass has it: your dog has trained you well! Don't worry so much about entertaining him; dogs are fine spending most of the day sleeping, just give a good 30 minutes of walking (or more, of course) when you can. Other times, ignore the pleas and they'll eventually stop. My dog spent much time under my desk on his bed every day while I worked.
posted by anadem at 5:16 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

My corgi was like that till at least probably 2 years old.

Does your pup know how to fetch? While my coffee is brewing we play like 10 minutes of fetch, and its like HIIT for him and it kind of gets the morning crazies out so he can settle. When he was little 3-4 games of fetch a day really helped tire him out (and a tired corgi is a good/happy corgi). It also wears him out a ton more than taking a walk ever does (where he can just go for miles and miles, at least when he was little) and is quicker for me on a workday.

He is totally knocked out on days in the summer when we can take him to play fetch in the river (not very deep water, but enough that he has to swim a little). Those little legs have to work so hard!
posted by zara at 5:38 PM on January 12, 2017

First rule of dog behavior: dogs do what works to get them what they want.

First rule of modifying dog behavior: stop giving them what they want, or make what they have to do in order to get what they want different.

Bistyfrass has it.

Remember your psychology: there will probably be an extinction burst. If you turn back at this point, what you've just taught is that even if you ignored him for a really long time, if he just persists and tries really extra hard, you will eventually give in. Don't teach this. Teach the opposite: it is precisely the moment that he least expects to get playtime with you that he actually gets it. Yes, I have been known to listen secretly outside doors for minutes and minutes waiting for the first 5-second break in the whining at which point I bound back in the door and treats rain down from the sky. Whining gets you nothing. Stopping whining gets you your hearts desire.

Only calm doggos get what they want. Always and forever.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:16 PM on January 12, 2017 [14 favorites]

When my pup is bothering me at the downstairs computer and I know he's gonna need a frozen Kong treat to keep him occupied, I make sure to go upstairs and do several other things first (put away a dish or two, use the bathroom, fold some laundry) before giving him something. Hopefully that keeps him from thinking that his actions are directly responsible for the treat! (I'll also say that he never gets kibble in a bowl; all of his food is either frozen kibble + nonfat yogurt in a Kong or similar toy, or given by hand as a test during playtime/training. That way his little brain always has to be doing something while he's eating.).
posted by redsparkler at 7:04 PM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

To elaborate on the Kong idea.... you feed him kibble, right? Is he food motivated? Because it might be useful to start feeding him his meals in something like a Kong Wobbler or a puzzle ball. Food out of a bowl is boring, right? Food he's got to bat around and figure out on his own is entertaining for a lot of dogs, and mental stimulation will wear a dog out as fast or faster than physical stimulation. Potential con: he might spend some time banging it into things and these can be rather loud on hardwood floors especially.

So what redsparkler said, basically, except that puzzle toys are often a little easier to set up and run. You can load a lot of them much easier with a cheapass soda funnel, too.
posted by sciatrix at 8:34 PM on January 12, 2017

I can't say enough good things about this particular treat ball. (I use it with kibble subtracted from my pups meals rather than using treats in it.) We originally got it for our lab mix who actually was not that taken with it, but we had a basset hound who adored it and now my giant 100 pound ball of fluff has adopted it. For a corgi, you may want to get the small or medium size rather than large.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:22 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just to note one thing: twenty minutes of play with other dogs is worth about two hours of human running. I'm exaggerating, but only a little. Find a dog park or dog playgroup and let him have some time with someone who speaks his language.
posted by Nyx at 9:56 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, let me second litera scripta manet's recommendation of the Omega Tricky Treat Ball. Most kibble dispensing toys just have a hole, so kibble just slides to the bottom of the inside of the toy and falls out. The hole in this toy has a little chute/lip thing, so kibble doesn't slide out; it has to be airborn and then fall into the chute to be dispensed. Ours is the Medium, which is a great size for kibble.

It's a wee bit softer than the other treat dispensing toys we've gotten, which means my SUPER MEGA CHEWER pup has destroyed two over the last year because I've left him alone with the toy. However, I totally bought a third one, because it really hits the sweet spot for noise (not too loud), difficulty (a little tricky), and kibble appropriateness (perfect for kibble.).
posted by redsparkler at 11:23 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yep, you have to train him out of that behavior. I started working from home when my corgi/Australian Shepherd mix (that's TWO insanely smart, hyper breeds!) was a year old, and she was constantly interrupting me for attention. It was super difficult, but I learned to just ignore her, even when she was pawing frantically at me and howling.

Eventually she got the idea that when I sit at the desk, she needs to occupy herself. She has a bed right by my desk that she spends most of the day on, and lots of toys in my office. She's even learned that when she hears my Skype ring with an incoming call, she needs to just grab a toy and keep herself busy because I'm going to be completely ignoring her.

Agreed with others that treat toys are great for wearing him out as you go through this training process. We have this one, which can fit her entire breakfast and is a great way to keep her occupied while I do my morning email check; and this one, which is kind of a pain in the butt to use but will keep her fascinated for hours.

On days that she seems really hyped up, I try to do a long walk or a drive with her at lunch.

Good luck!
posted by anotheraccount at 6:06 AM on January 13, 2017

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