Playing with your dog

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Like great nutrition and a loving home, playtime is essential to your dog's well-being.

It provides exercise, stimulation, fun and superb interaction. Playtime is especially important if your pet spends extended periods alone. Some pets can't stand to be separated from their owners, and it shows in their unhappiness and possibly destructive behaviour.

If this is the case, provide your dog plenty of attention to help compensate for your absence.

Simple games
You'll be surprised at how the simplest game can be a fun experience for your dog. Chase is one of those games that dogs love. They have fun chasing a tennis ball, a Frisbee, a stick or a stuffed toy, especially one that squeaks. Maybe your dog likes chasing a football and pushing it back with their nose or simply wants to chase you.

The chase game also works well with water, depending on the breed and your dog's ease with water.

If a ball is used as the toy, be wary of the size. Ensure it is small enough that your dog can pick it up with their mouth, but not so small that they may swallow it. Also, limit the number of toys to a few favourites. Having too many toys often confuses dogs about what is a toy and what is not.

More playful activities

You might want to try a problem-solving game with your dog. Place a treat inside a cardboard box and let your dog work at finding it. At first, use a box that allows for easy access to the treat, and if successful, switch to a more complex box. Of course, afterwards you'll have shredded cardboard to pick up.

Dogs also enjoy hide-and-seek. Initially, make it easy. Hide a treat in another room but make it obvious. Let your dog in the room. Compliment your dog when they find the treat and give a reward. The game can be played inside or outside.

You can also play if you don't mind acting silly. Get on your hands and knees as close to your dog as possible. Bend your elbows and lower head and do your best barking impression. Your dog will tip their head and give you an awkward look. Bark again and they might bark back. Run a few steps and turn back towards your dog, get down and bark again. Repeat the process. Your dog will catch on, and it will turn into a playful activity.

Keep in mind your dog's play companion doesn't have to be you. A social dog will enjoy meeting and playing with other dogs. This includes wrestling, frolicking, running in the open spaces and exploring.

Playtime tips

  • If you are leaving your puppy or dog alone for a while, walk or play with them in advance of leaving so they have a chance to expend excess energy.
  • Training can be a game. You can teach a dog to come to you when called. Dogs learn tricks because its a game to them.
  • Don't use personal or household objects as toys. Dogs can't recognise the difference between your old trainers and those new shoes you bought last week.
  • Make an effort to commit to your dog's needs, including playtime. If you can't do it alone, ask a friend or family member to help.

Don't underestimate the power of attention and playtime. Stimulation lets your dog burn excess energy and helps calm nerves and emotions. The result will be a happy, fun-loving dog.