Why playing with your dog will benefit your dog, and you!

Why is it so important that we encourage play within our dogs?

The simple answer is that it makes them happy! However, of course there is more to play than just making your dog happy. There are lots of different games that are not only designed to help you have fun with your dog, but that can also can help your dog build confidence, resilience, determination and will even help to strengthen your bond. There are also games that are designed to help you teach your dog basic, vital behaviours like loose lead walking and recall. There is so much more to ‘play’ than throwing a ball on your daily walks!

training toys being used on a young ginger dog

Consider your dogs’ breed and think about how you can incorporate different games that will help to satisfy breed specific instinctive behaviours e.g.

  • Border Collies/German Shepherds and other herding breeds like to eye-stalk and heard items, teach your dog how to stalk different toys like a ball on a rope while you are on a walk.
  • Retrievers like to search and retrieve, take a furry toy out with you and teach your dog to sit and wait while you hide their toy in the long grass or undergrowth, then release them to ‘hunt’ it.
  • Terriers and sighthounds are often bred to chase and kill small furry things, so use something like a long handled rabbit skin chaser from Tug-E-Nuff to provide them with something to watch, chase and ‘hunt’ during your walks or play sessions.
  • Spaniels and hounds like to use their noses, encourage them to sniff by scattering a little handful of treats on a grassy are for them to find.

By providing an outlet for instinctive, breed specific behaviour you are less likely to encounter frustration and behaviour challenges later in life.

Playing games with your dog regularly can help increase desire to be in close proximity to you which in turn will aid loose lead walking and recall. Teach your dog how to go into ‘middle’ (sit between your feet) or teach them how to target your hands to help build your relationship.

german shepherd puppy playing with training toy nb dogs

Have toys available for your dog to play by themselves, then have a few extra special toys that you only play with together. If your dog has a toy box, regularly rotate the toys they get access to so they are still excited by independent play.

How often should you play with your dog? As often as you can, 5 minutes a day or an hour a day, your dog will be grateful for having your undivided attention.

Kathryn Burnside
Be More Dog Scotland

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