Do you play with your pooch?
I mean actually setting aside time for some proper playtime?
I really hope so because if not, not only is your dog missing out, you are too!
Doggy playtime is super fun for our fur babies and us parents. It’s a powerful way to connect, form a bond, and strengthen our relationship, and it can even help us shift a few excess pounds if needed. Win win!
But for it to be beneficial and become an enjoyable part of your daily life, there are a few things to consider…
1. The breed of your dog
Certain breeds will enjoy certain games more than others.
For example, herding dogs like Australian Shepherds often enjoy agility games or frisbee. Labradors and Golden Retrievers often enjoy fetch games. Whilst Terriers tend to enjoy tug games the most.
Of course, these aren’t exclusive. Labs often love tug games too, and frisbee, but it can help to revert to a more obvious game if the first one you try doesn’t have the desired effect for either of you.
2. Age/background of your dog
Older dogs who have never played with humans before, or a rescue dog who hasn’t had a – kind/playful – owner before, or one who has been in kennels for a long time, may need some time to get used to this new method of interaction and activity.
So start slow.
If you’re using toys – tug rope, frisbee, a ball – leave it lying around for your dog to sniff and get used to. Perhaps start to move it slightly to get them a bit more curious. Then gently start the play element. If your dog moves away or becomes anxious, stop and let him come to it/you a while longer before trying again.
As he shows interest in the toy and/or game, reward him with some praise, cuddles, or a treat. He’ll soon associate the toy with a reward until there comes a point when the game itself becomes the reward.
But patience is key.
If after a period of time there’s been no change, try another toy and game. You haven’t lost anything, as the bonding and connection time is all part of it.
3. Tie-in play with training
With games like fetch, your dog will need to know basic commands. There’s no point chucking a ball for your pooch to run after, when once he gets to it all he does is leave it lying where he found it! The idea is for him to bring it back to you so the game can continue.
For this he’ll need to know basic commands such as ‘wait’ or ‘stay’, ‘fetch’, ‘come’ or ‘here’, and ‘drop’.
If he doesn’t yet know these, concentrate on teaching him before continuing with the game itself. This is also a great training technique and an important element of his learning, particularly for when you head out on walks to know you can call him back as needed.
So what kind of games can you play with your pooch?
Games fall into four main types:
- Tug of war
- Chase and retrieve
- Hide and seek
- Pounce and shake
Some will require more hands-on work from you than others, so bear that in mind when deciding the type of game you’re prepared to play – but remember, part of playtime should involve you, rather than simply leaving him to his own devices.
And whatever toys you use, make sure they’re suitable for your dog. Check them often. Over time, they’re likely to become pretty damaged and could end up being a choke hazard. So check them to throw away and replace as needed.
Also, don’t just stick to one toy. Have a selection and swap them every day or every few days to keep your dog interested.
So now you can start playtime!
But just before you do, here are a few basic rules…
- As mentioned already, if your dog doesn’t know the basic commands like ‘leave’, you need to train him on those first. Otherwise, you’ll both get frustrated with the lack of understanding between you.
- Make sure the game is suitable for your environment. For example, you may not want to play tug games or play fighting games if you have children or are among children regularly. These kind of games can get a bit competitive which could – unintentionally – result in an accident your dog doesn’t mean.
- Unless you want your dog to jump, keep the toys held low so you’re not encouraging him to jump.
- Incorporate play into your daily life. 15 minutes twice a day is recommended by professionals, in addition to your daily walks.
- During play keep your voice excited and remember to encourage and praise as he follows the game rules.
- Start playtime when your dog isn’t expecting it, rather than when he asks, and always at different times. This way he’s not in charge and it doesn’t become a routine, which could be problematic in the future if your schedule changes.
- Don’t force it. If your dog doesn’t want to play, that’s okay. Try encouraging playtime and don’t give up at the first hurdle, but if it’s obvious he’s not interested, leave it for another time.
Oh and one last thing… have fun!
Doggy playtime is so special. Enjoy every moment.