Playtime With Dog
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy (or girl). Playtime With Dog is important for dogs mentally and physically.
Children and dogs should be supervised while playing. Small children’s quick jerking movements and high-pitched noises can trigger pack prey-drive behavior in some dogs. Playing should be stopped if the dog shows signs of stress such as lip licking or yawning.
Many of the games you can ‘play with your dog’ double as fun ways to keep them mentally stimulated and exercised. You can use puzzle toys, which are also easy to make at home for a DIY option, or you can simply encourage your pup to flex their nose work skills with the old-fashioned game of hide and seek.
This is a classic game that doesn’t take much setup and is great for dogs with good recall. You can make it more advanced by hiding treats or toys behind the furniture and having them hunt for you, or even putting you in different rooms to make them scout around. You can also add in the stay command for more challenge and to prevent them from wandering off and resuming their naughty behavior.
Another game that helps to hone your dog’s sense of smell is the hustling cup game. This is just like a guessing game, but instead of holding two fists up, you place a treat in one hand while the other hand remains closed into a loose fist. Then have your dog try to figure out which hand has the reward by sniffing and identifying it with their nose. You can also up the ante by placing multiple treats in the cups and covering them with tennis balls for a more difficult version of the game.
While it’s important to have fun with your dog during playtime, don’t forget to add in some physical exercise. A game of tug or a jog around the neighborhood can get your pup’s blood pumping and will help keep their muscles in shape.
A game of fetch will also get both you and your pup’s blood flowing. You don’t need much space to play this game either, you can use hallways and stairways, or even just your living room. A game of fetch will also challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills if you teach them to bring the toy back and not just run off with it.
Scent training is another great way to stimulate your dog’s mind, and can be done at home with games like box search or a muffin tin puzzle. You can also work on a scent game with your dog outside in a park or at the dog beach.
If you want to really give your legs and back a workout, try doing some plyometric exercises with your dog. This is a form of strength training that includes jumping, lunging, and pushing backward. A fun variation on this exercise is to have your dog lay on their back while you do push-ups! Just be sure to talk to your vet about this exercise before trying it.
There is a wealth of research showing that socialization outside the home can be extremely beneficial for all healthy dogs. This includes senior and disabled dogs. They may be less mobile or prone to injury, but helping them to become comfortable around new people and dogs is always a good idea.
Walking, exercise and even playing with other dogs can be an important part of your dog’s socialization. It helps them learn how to interact positively with other animals and humans, as well as to read human social cues like when it is appropriate for play to end and when a scuffle has gone too far. It also teaches them the varied language of dog-to-dog communication so they are better equipped to deal with dogs they encounter at the park or on other walks.
If you have a shy or reactive dog, the best way to slowly help them get to know people is to play games where they are rewarded for their calm, relaxed behavior. For example, hide a toy in an obvious spot and encourage them to use their noses to find it. As they gain confidence you can gradually increase the difficulty of the hiding spots. It is best to avoid games that involve chasing or tug of war as they can easily become over-stimulating and encourage inappropriate behaviors such as jumping or biting.
Playing and training during playtime is great for your dog and can strengthen the bond between you. It can also help you teach your dog new behaviors and reinforce the use of commands. However, it’s important to make sure your dog knows when playtime ends. Setting clear boundaries and teaching your dog when it is time to stop can help foster a well-balanced relationship, improve off-leash control, and prevent overexcitement and bite inhibition.
When it’s time to wrap things up, try using a consistent verbal cue such as “Enough,” “All done,” or “End play.” Reward this behavior with a treat and use the same cue consistently to signal the end of the play. Alternatively, you can use calm body language to communicate that playtime is over.
Be cautious with the types of toys you use. Some dogs may destroy stuffed toys, chewing them up into pieces that can present a choking hazard or even cause intestinal blockage. Additionally, many dogs will rip up chew toys and ingest them. Be sure to inspect toys regularly for any loose or dangerous parts.
To keep your dog engaged in a positive manner, try adding short training exercises to the end of your playtime sessions. This helps to redirect their energy and keeps them focused on learning. It also gives you an opportunity to work on commands and practice putting your dog in a down or stay position.