When it comes to keeping your dog active and healthy, what comes to mind? If you’re like most dog owners, you may think of walking your dog, providing them with the best diet, and taking them to the vet. Yes, all of these are vital for your dog’s health. However, it’s important to not overlook the power of playtime. Playing with your dog benefits your dog’s body, mind, and spirit.
If you’ve had your dog since they were a puppy, you will have seen an important part of their development: play. Puppies use play to learn about the world around them. They explore the world with their mouths as they teeth and chew. Puppies also learn about boundaries as they wrestle, tug, and nip. During this phase, puppies learn bite inhibition from their playmates. As they sink their teeth into another pup or their mother, the other dog cries out, discontinues play, or reprimands them, they learn that biting too hard is not fun.
Of course, play isn’t just about psychological development. It also helps puppies learn motor skills. If you’ve ever seen a puppy tumble over their own paws, it’s because they’re just not quite as coordinated as adult dogs. They’re still learning how to keep their balance and navigate the world around them.
How Does Play Benefit Adult Dogs?
As dogs grow and develop, they can still benefit from playtime with their owner and other dogs. What can your dog get out of some playtime with you?
Playtime strengthens the human-dog bond
1. Just as playtime for puppies teaches them about relationships, having a bit of fun with your dog shows them that you care. Playing gives your dog one-on-one undivided attention, which helps them feel like a special part of your life. Coordinated play also increases the trust and understanding your dog has for you.
2. Playing gives your dog a much-needed energy release
Our dogs spend a great deal of the day indoors, often sleeping. Getting up and active allows them to burn off excess energy. This is the same pent-up energy that can lead to negative or destructive behaviours, such as excessive barking and chewing on inappropriate objects.
When your dog is done playing, they will sleep more soundly and wake up feeling rested and relaxed.
3. Dogs are never too old to learn from playing
When your dog plays, they activate all of their senses. This helps the brain continue to develop. Those puppy-like lessons about textures, coordination, and socialisation never end.
Also, playtime can be the best time to work on training and skills. Most dogs love a challenge. They also love games like fetch, and tug. While you play with your dog, you can incorporate training tasks as a way they can earn the positive reward of their ball being thrown or access to a toy.
4. Play improves your dog’s mental wellness
When your dog plays, their brain releases positive endorphins that create happiness. The effects of these endorphins last long after playtime is over. This provides your dog with emotional health and hormonal balance for a better life.
5. Playing helps build your dog’s confidence
Because playtime strengthens your dog’s prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that helps them make decisions and exercise restraint), dogs that play more often experience a greater sense of confidence. Playtime helps your dog exercise their ability to make wise decisions which extends beyond just play.
Even if your dog seems less interested in playtime since they matured from puppyhood, it doesn’t take much to entice your dog into some fun and games. All it takes for some dogs is their owner’s excited ‘playtime’ tone. Other dogs cannot resist the sight of a new toy or the squeal of a fresh squeaker. And of course, few dogs can resist the scent and flavour of treats.
If you’re looking for some new ways to play with your dog, try one of these DIY techniques:
Muffin Tin Game: Using a muffin tray, hide small pieces of a high-value treat beneath tennis balls. Your dog will have a blast pulling the balls off to find a tasty reward hidden beneath.
Create a Snuffle Box: Using a cardboard box, hide a treat or two at the bottom of layers of towels, blankets, or shredded paper. Then watch as your dog pulls layer after layer from the box, rootingaround until they find their prize.
Treat Hide-n-Seek: Exercising your dog’s nose can be highly beneficial. While your dog is out of the room, hide little treats here and there. Then let your dog in and let them sniff them all out.
And it doesn’t end there. As a dog owner, you even benefit from playing with your dog. As you spend time with your dog, your brain releases endorphins, as well.
Classes have started again for the autumn at Dog School. You can learn about how to have appropriate play with your dog in our Beginners Class – find out more on the website at www.dogschoolnerja.com or drop me a message to email@example.com