Playing with your Dog
Why is play good for dogs?
Play also encourages communication, socialisation and loyalty. Playing is a great way to train him to obey and encourages good behaviour.
Dogs get bored just like we do and need mental and physical stimulation. Play gives them the chance to use some of their instinctive behaviours, such as hunting, retrieving, searching, running, jumping – and even swimming!
Playing with your dog helps prevents destructive behaviour. If he spends play time with you he is less like to amuse himself by digging up the lawn or raiding the bin.
Play is a good form of exercise and helps prevent obesity and can keep you fit too.
What counts as play time?
Play time means off-lead exercise, games and activities and shouldn't include dog sports, shows and events. Your dog needs the freedom to follow his own nose! You'll notice that your dog has a unique gesture called a play bow when he wants to play. He will drop down to his elbows with his hind quarters raised and tail wagging. He'll probably have an expectant look on his face with his mouth open and ears pricked. He may bark or yip to tell you he wants to play.
Games to play with your dog
Find the Treat
This is a game you can play indoors on rainy days as well as outside. Tell your dog to "stay" and show him a tasty treat. Take the treat and place it somewhere within clear sight. Return to your dog and encourage him to go to the treat – you can use command words such as "Seek" or "Fetch". When he returns to you with the treat praise him and let him eat the treat. After a bit of practice, you can vary the game by using a toy instead of a treat or hide the treat out of sight.
Some dogs are natural born retrievers whereas others need a little training to play fetch. Find an open space and throw a toy ball or a frisbee for him to retrieve. Once your dog has mastered the game you can throw the toy further away each time. This is also a good game to play in water if your dog enjoys swimming but make sure that the conditions are safe and that he is a competent swimmer.
Hide and Seek
This can be a great family game or one that you can play on your own with your dog once he is used to playing. Ask a family member to hide (behind a tree for example) and let your dog watch where they go. Encourage your dog to find the person. Once your dog is successful at this you can make the game more challenging by distracting your dog so he can't see where the person hides.
If you enjoy playing football with the family you may find that your dog automatically joins in! If he doesn't, encourage him to come up to the football and roll it away before he reaches it. He will chase after it but make sure that it's a ball that doesn't puncture easily!
Tug of War
Many dogs like to play Tug of War but this is a game that needs rules to control your dog's behaviour. Before you play Tug of War make sure your dog knows the "Release" or "Drop" command and don't let your dog get over excited. Have fun but play safe!
Choosing the best toy for your dog!
The best toys for your dog can do more for him than make him happy! They can prevent boredom, discourage destructive behaviour, provide mental stimulation and promote dental health. Make sure you choose safe toys that are made expressly for dogs as homemade toys can be dangerous. Always check your dog toys regularly for wear and tear. Look out for rough edges that could cut your dog's mouth or harbour germs.
You will find toys fall into these categories: "plush", "rope", "tough", "vinyl" and "puppy". Plush toys consist of soft toys and squeaky teddies, similar to children's cuddly toys. Rope toys can be used for tugging and fetch games. Tough toys are a hard plastic/rubber collection that are very durable and are made for destructive chewers. Vinyl toys are latex/vinyl squeaky toys and Puppy toys are smaller versions of all the above categories.
Selecting the right toy for your dog depends on several factors:
• How big is your dog?
The toys you choose should relate to your dog's size. If they are too big or heavy your dog won't be able to pick them up and play with them. If they are too small they could be a choking hazard. Most toys come in a range of sizes so you are sure to find the perfect fit.
• How old is your dog?
Puppies - Young puppies like to cuddle soft stuffed toys (plush toys) and play with squeaky toys but make sure that these are well made and supervise your puppy's play. Many pups will try to chew off the eyes, ears, noses and tails of stuffed toys and if swallowed these can cause blockages. Chew toys are ideal for puppies that are teething and provide good dental hygiene.
Senior dogs – Senior dogs can suffer from poor eyesight and weakened teeth so it is important to choose toys that appeal to his sense of smell such as treat balls and kongs filled with goodies and to avoid hard chew toys. Specially designed toys suitable for senior dogs are available that stimulate his mind and body such as puzzle toys, soft balls and stretchy rubber bones. View our Senior Dogs Advice to learn more Visit our dog toy Products section for a wide range of suitable and safe senior dog toys
• Does your dog like to chew?
If your dog likes to chew select durable toys that are strong enough to withstand his chewing without breaking. If he is a powerful chewer there are toys made from ultra-strong solid rubber that will keep him happy without running the risk of him chewing pieces off the toys and causing choking. Some of these toys are stuffed with treats, which is great for keeping him mentally and physically occupied while he tries to extract them from the toy. Plush and rope toys are not recommended as they can be chewed through and the fabric ingested.
• Does your dog like squeaky noises?
Some dogs love their squeaky toy and will devotedly carry it around, even taking it to bed to sleep next to. Other dogs with strong hunting instincts enjoy making the toy squeak repeatedly. It's important to select a squeaky toy that is robust enough to stand up to being loved, is washable and safe. With constant wear the squeak mechanism can be dislodged so keep an eye on the toy and replace it if it's showing signs of damage.
• Does your dog enjoy a challenge?
All dogs need to keep their minds active but some prefer a challenge more than others! Puzzle toys are great as brain teasers for your dog. They are also a good idea for owners who have to leave their dog alone for periods of time as they will keep your dog occupied whilst you are out. Some puzzle toys are more complicated than others and help your dog develop problem-solving skills but they all have one thing in common – a tasty treat lies within the centre.
• Is your dog energetic?
Frisbees are great toys for dogs with a lot of energy to burn off and if your dog enjoys jumping he can leap to catch them midair. Energetic dogs can also race after ball on rope toys and catch and treat flyers that contain treats. Ball launchers are a super idea that not only hurl the ball a long distance, saving you from getting tired arms, but are hands free pick up so you don't have to handle dirty or slobbery balls! Rubber and rope tuggers are good for dogs that love tug of war and are specially made to take a lot of wear and tear.