Playtime is Serious Business
Everyone loves to laugh, to have fun with friends, and to be entertained even on their own. Our dogs are no different – they love to play with us, their canine friends, and on their own too. But it’s not just fun and games – playtime has serious benefits, both for our dogs, and for us.
You and your dog can get some exercise together, while enjoying a nice boost in endorphins and other happy hormones that reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase joy.
Games that get your dog thinking, learning, and problem-solving, will keep his mind sharp and teach new skills.
Dogs that don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation will look for ways to meet their needs in these areas – and we may not always like what they find. One of the most important thing we can do for our dogs to keep them healthy, happy, and well behaved, is provide plenty of stimulation, including positive outlets for natural canine behaviors. Playtime goes a long way to helping your dog avoid destructive and attention-seeking behaviors.
Playing with people and other animals helps your dog to become sociable and well-adjusted. This means they can cope with a variety of situations, and to be a “good dog” – and good dogs are welcome where other dogs are not.
You may have a lot of friends and an active social life, but remember that you and your family are your dog’s entire social life. Playing together strengthens your bond and creates healthy attachments, and helps your dog feel happy and loved.
Tips to keep it fun:
Dogs are pretty smart and will tire of the same old toys after a while, so have a variety of toys in your collection and rotate through them every few days. That way, your dog won’t have a chance to get bored, and will be excited to see a toy he hadn’t thought about in a while.
Make sure all toys are safe and appropriate for your dog’s habits. They must be big enough not to swallow, and sturdy enough that he can’t break pieces off to choke on. If your dog is a heavy chewer, he will need something durable to chew; if your dog destroys stuffies, make sure he isn’t eating the bits he pulls out.
Remember to put toys away when you’re finished if they require supervision.
When playing a new game together, remember that your dog doesn’t know the rules yet – you will have to teach him, and that’s part of the fun. Break the game into smaller segments if you need to, and reward your pup with praise or tiny treats each time he catches on to a concept.
Don’t let your pooch get out of hand. If your dog gets too excited and starts exhibiting behaviors you don’t condone, such as jumping, mouthing, or scratching at you, pause until he settles down. Stop playing and leave the room if he doesn’t get the point right away. Reward calmness by resuming the game at a less exuberant level.
- Make training into a game, and it will be fun for both of you. Great tricks that come in handy while playing include things like “drop it,” “back up,” “wait,” and “fetch,” but you can teach any command using play.
The most important thing is that you play together and have fun!