People who have had dogs their whole life often don’t think about how to play with their dogs. For first time dog owners however, this is a question that regularly pops up. What should you do as play time for your puppy?
In this post I’ll cover how you can provide your puppy or adult dog with some quality play time that you’ll both enjoy.
Why should you play with your dog?
I’ll start by covering why you should provide your dog with play sessions. Though it might seem obvious, there are multiple advantages about scheduling regular play time with your dog.
Bonding: First and most importantly: Playing with your dog gives you the opportunity to bond. Much like playing with children they will get to know how fun it is to do something with you.
Teaching: Play sessions and training sessions can also crossover. You can teach your dog and reward them with some play time or teach your dog to fetch for example. In this last example, the game and the training are one. Especially playful dogs might get extra motivated to perform when rewarded with a little play session.
Tiring out your dog: Lots of ‘dog behavior problems’ are caused by not providing your dog with enough opportunities to get rid of excess energy. While we are our working, our dogs are just resting and getting elevated energy levels. Then when we get home, we watch tv and the dog has no way of getting rid of this energy. Play sessions are a great way to get rid of this excess energy and thus having a more enjoyable dog or puppy inside your home.
Getting to know your dog: Playing with your dog will also give you the opportunity of getting to know your dog. You’ll get to know their preferences concerning toys and games. On top of that you’ll have an easier time reading your dog and knowing how they feel. The more time you share with your dog, the better you’ll be at predicting him or her.
Play sessions do not necessarily need to be hour long activities. Though you could go out for a long walk, high intensity training sessions are better held shorter. During play sessions, dogs often sprint a lot. Not unlike humans, they will need time to recover in between. So I would advice you to keep high intensity training sessions to 10 to 15 minute intervals, followed by some off time. You are of course free to fit in multiple of these sessions throughout the day, depending on your dog’s energy level.
You can use toys in your play sessions, though this isn’t always necessary. Some dogs enjoy a little race off as much as a game of fetch or tug of war.
I won’t be going in depth about all the different kinds of toys in this video, but you can find a video about the different kind of dog toys over here.
Using toys can be of great help when trying to play with your dog. The first and probably easiest game to play with your puppy will be tug of war. You can take a toy and pull it around trying to let your dog engage with it. When the puppy grabs the toy, pull it a while before letting go. If you were clever enough to leash your dog before starting this play session, you can then gently guide your puppy back to you in order to start another game of tug of war. By doing so you teach your dog that it is fun to bring back toys to you because you will immediately commence a play session. A mistake that’s often made is that people expect their young dog to give up the toy every time they return. This often makes dogs hesitant to return to the owner whenever they find or retrieve a toy. You should try to make returning to you with a toy as much fun as possible early on. This will be a habit that could come in quite handy later on.
Another game often preferred by dog owner is a game of fetch. Which, when I train a dog, always comes after they learn that tug of war is the result of returning to me with a toy.
It is also possible to engage a play session with your dog without a toy. You can race your dog (although winning might be hard), try some dog sports like agility or some people even enjoy a little roughhousing with their dog
Switching up toys
The same as with children, your dog will enjoy a toy much more if they haven’t seen it in a while. This does not mean you should buy a new toy every week, as some dog owners tend to think. Just switch the toys up every now and then. Make some toys disappear for a week or two and when you take them out again your dog will probably be very excited to play with that toy again.
I hold the principle that toys are only used for play sessions. So I never leave them hanging around the house. This gives me to decide when I want to play.
Whatever game you prefer, spending time with your dog and playing with them is always beneficial to your relationship. So schedule some time each day.