Learning through play
Play time with your puppy: it's a serious business
Playing with your new puppy is both fun and exciting. It's also at the very heart of their early training. Playing games will help you to form a strong, enduring bond very quickly. There are health benefits, too. During those days when they’re so young that you can’t take them outside, play time exercise will aid development of growing muscles, and healthy bones and joints.
Any old toy just won't do
One of the first rules of toys for your puppy is to keep your puppy’s toys and your family's belongings separate. You mustn't allow your puppy to have access to family shoes, for example, or your children's own toys, since old habits are hard to shake off.
Suitable and safe toys include "raggers". These can be used to play a variety of games and they're also something your puppy can shake. Then there are "Kongs', hollow cones made of virtually indestructible rubber. The beauty of Kongs is that they can be filled with little treats which help to keep your puppy occupied if they have to be left alone for a while.
It's your puppy's play time, but control is the name of the game
Let's look to the future for a moment; ideally, you'll want your puppy to grow into an obedient and stress-free adult dog. That's why it's imperative that during games with your puppy, you teach some control. This will certainly pay dividends in the future when there's bound to be a need to control them in excitable or stressful situations. With you in control of the game, you're in control of your puppy. Remember, your puppy is still very young, and you should be patient with them as you help them learn how to behave in a restrained way.
Some important "play and learn" games
These games bring out your puppy's natural instinct to chase, so control is an important aspect. They will need to learn, for example, how to resist moving when a toy is thrown, until you give the command to fetch. Your puppy will also have to get used to being asked to return, even though they’re sprinting to retrieve their favourite toy.
Shake and "kill" games
These games often involve squeaky toys and place emphasis on your puppy's predatory nature, so some form of control is desirable. For example, teach them to stop "killing" the toy and drop it, and to return to you on command, even though they would love to keep it.
These games will enable you to teach your puppy to stop pulling their ragger and let go at the command of "Drop!", for which you can reward with a treat. You should practise this little and often until your puppy lets go of the toy immediately at your command.
Play time is just the beginning
Once you've helped your puppy to master the basics of control, you might consider something a little more advanced, such as joining a training club. Your vet will be happy to give you details of clubs and facilities in your area, as well as recommending detailed training books and manuals.