All work and no play makes Buddy a dull dog – even if he doesn’t have a regular job! Play time is important for dogs, just as it is for children and adults. It’s a time to let off steam and have some fun, to run around and act crazy, but it is important that play time does not get out of hand and that the humans are not sending out the wrong types of signals to their dogs. Some doggy games are great– the dog has a great time and the dog guardian has a great time, with the end result being a happy, tired couple. Some games, however, can get out of hand, particularly when playing with children or people who don’t really understand how dogs work.
Dog Toys – There are, basically, two types of dog toy–well, there are loads, but they do fall into two categories. There are the toys which are designed to pacify your dog and keep him away from your shoes, also known as chew toys, and there are toys which are great for play time – balls, squeaky toys etc. Remember, while playing with your dog that you are not a toy, you are not a dog–you are a person. If you get down on all fours and growl like a dog then the chances are you’ll be treated like a dog and may end up with a bite on the nose. Pushing and wrestling games may encourage your dog to bite at other times and should be discouraged.
Many dogs love to play chase games, retrieving a ball time after time after time – some dogs simply never tire of it. Make sure, however, that you are the instigator of the game and you decide when playtime is over. Some people find it necessary to remove the ball, Frisbee, etc. after play time and put it safely away for next time.
Doggie play time is meant to be fun, but can also be used to help train your dog in good manners and teach control. Throwing and retrieving a ball is a great example of this, and is a fantastic opportunity to learn and practice cues like “sit,” “down,” “stay,” and “fetch it” or something similar. This positive reinforcement method of training uses the toy as the reward, instead of a tasty treat.
- Start the game by asking your dog to “sit” and “stay.”
- Throw the ball and ask the dog to “fetch it” or “get it.”
- When he brings the ball back, you can ask him to sit again and reward him with a treat – it is very important that he not only delivers the ball but releases it when asked.
- Then you can start the whole procedure over again . . . . great fun!
If your dog starts to get over-excited or you decide that play time is over, you must take the toy from the dog and let him know that it is finished. Trade the toy for a treat and tell him to “leave it.” Once he’s left it for a few minutes and has lost interest, simply pop it away until next time.
Photo: Courtesy of Cavin via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)