I was introduced to Barnga at a communication seminar many years ago. Just as planned, it became frustrating. The game is built on a card game played at multiple tables in groups of four. However, each table has a different set of rules. The lowest scoring person at each table has to move to the next table at the end of each round. With the exception of the first round, there is no talking. The longer we played, the more confusing it became. Some of us thought it was funny and just things develop, others became hostile in their body language. The purpose was to force participants to consider different perceptions and different rules for what seemed to be the same task. Have you ever considered that your pets go through the same thing with you?
Just because you intend to play doesn’t mean your pet will perceive your actions as a game. Grabbing a dog’s face and going nose to nose may not be play for the dog. However, because of communication problems he may not be able to tell you. Just because he tolerates it, doesn’t mean he enjoys it. Shaking a plastic bag at your horse because you like to see her run isn’t play for the horse. Animals have different social rules than humans do and they try to figure ours out when interacting with us. We should offer them the same courtesy. A few simple rules for playing with your pet will allow it to be a full partner in games, which includes the option to play, or not.
Consider the following:
— Either side can begin the game, pet or person.
— Just because one side wants to play, the other is not required to engage.
— When one side backs off, the game is over.
— Teeth (or beak) on skin game over.
— Don’t let either side get so aroused it will have a hard time stopping.
— Avoid the genital region of your pet.
— Play for awhile. Stop and calm down. Play. Stop.
— Always try to end on a positive note.
As long the rules are enforced, both sides should be able to enjoy the game.