Playing With Your Puppy the Right Way
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Play is an important part of a dog's life, from puppyhood to old age. Dogs are social animals and learn through interactions with others. Puppies are naturally energetic, curious, and eager to explore the world around them. In this sense, playing is a great way to keep them entertained and stimulated. A bored puppy may end up digging around the yard or chewing on the furniture to keep busy.
In this AnimalWised article, we discuss how important it is to play with your puppy. We also explain why it's so important for your puppy's education and how it prevents behavior problems.
The importance of playing with your puppy
It is no coincidence that we see puppies playing with their brothers and mothers, it is part of their natural behavior to play. Play is essential to a puppy's development and well-being. Here are some of the most important benefits your pet will get from playing:
- Physical activity: playing is a physical activity that works the muscles. It helps strengthen bones and prevents your dog from becoming hyperactive due to lack of exercise.
- Socialization: when you play with your puppy, he learns to interact and relate with others. It is therefore important that you cater to their social needs.
- Self-control: When playing, your puppy learns to adjust their biting force to the activity they are engaged in.
- Learn to tolerate frustration: Playing involves challenges that help your puppy learn to recognize their limits and tolerate frustration when they are not immediately rewarded.
- Prevents behavioral problems: Playing is a great way for your puppy to relieve tension and stress and not get bored. These are crucial aspects to prevent behavior problems as your puppy grows.
- Spend quality time with you: Play is a social reinforcement that your puppy will associate with you. This helps strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
For how long should I play with my puppy?
How much time you spend with your puppy will depend on his energy level, the type of play, and the age of the puppy. Puppy play begins around four weeks of age, but it is not until twelve weeks of age that puppies begin to reduce their sleeping habits, as a newborn puppy sleeps on average between 18 and 20 hours a day.
Even though puppies are very energetic, they tire easily and can only play for about 20 minutes before they fall asleep exhausted. As the puppy grows, their stamina increases so that they can play for 40-50 minutes without tiring.
Game types to play with puppies
There are many games you can play with your puppy. Here are some of the most popular:
- Tug of war: This game is highly recommended for dogs, as it allows you to satisfy their "hunting instinct" while giving them exercise and entertainment. You must teach your dog to let go of the rope by showing them another rope to bite into. After the puppy has let go, reward them with a small snack and teach them a verbal command like "go". This way, you prevent your dog from developing a resource guarding problem, and they also learn that you do not want to take the toy away from them. The lesson of letting go will also come in handy if your puppy bites into something inappropriate one day. Rubber rings and rags are good toys to play this game.
- Chasing: It is also a good way to tire out your puppy and satisfy his hunting instinct by chasing balls or other toys. You can alternate this with a tug of war where you throw the rope at them every time he lets go to reinforce this behavior. Keep in mind that your dog can develop behavior problems if you play this or any other game for too long without giving them boundaries. For more information, check out this article: Why is my dog obsessed with the ball?
- Sense of smell: Dogs can use their sense of smell to find food or toys using their nose. Many toys train your pup's sense of smell, such as scent mats and hidden prize toys that you can find at most pet stores or make one at home. While doing this, you can add some verbal cues, such as "search" or "toy" to help your puppy associate the activity with the commands.
- Proprioceptive play: Proprioception refers to the ability to perceive one's movement, balance, muscle tone, etc. using the body's inner senses. Therefore, these games consist of courses where the dogs have to overcome different challenges such as different heights, obstacles, and different, terrain.
- Intelligence games: These are games where the dog solves problems or overcomes challenges to achieve a goal. They not only stimulate your puppy mentally but also create patterns of behavior that they will adopt through trial and error in various situations in their life. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of intelligence games you can play at home.
- Solo Play: From an early age, your puppy must learn to engage in activities such as pulling food out of a Kong, searching for hidden food, playing with ropes, and gnawing on bones. If the puppy learns to be alone without depending on the owner, separation anxiety can be avoided if they have to stay home alone.
Keep reading this article to know more about games that you can play with your dog indoors.
How to play with a puppy?
To start the game, always make sure your puppy is receptive to it, that is, whether he respects his space and takes breaks.
You start the game
You should always be the one to initiate play. Make sure your puppy is receptive and eager to play. For dogs that like to play, initiate play when they do something you expect them to do. For example, if they are laying down quietly, they will be encouraged to behave well. You should also make sure that you signal to your puppy that it is time to play with a command like "Let's play" so that the puppy learns to associate this command with free time. Play in short intervals for up to five minutes, and stop the game if your dog is still excited.
If your puppy wants to play, it is important to teach them that they do not always get their way. It is better to teach them while they are still puppies, otherwise, it will be harder to teach them commands later. Remember that your dog may try to get your attention in unwanted ways, such as breaking things, barking, or biting your feet... If your dog asks you to play, ignore them. Invite them to play only if they have given up.
Teach your puppy not to bite
You must teach them to suppress the bite while you play with them. Every time they bite you hard, tell them in words that make them understand that they have hurt you. After that, you should immediately stop playing. In this way, biting is associated with the end of fun and the puppies learn to control themselves. You can learn more about teaching your dog not to bite in this article on bite inhibition.
Make sure you use appropriate toys for puppies
Also, the toys or play items you offer them should be varied to pique their curiosity, and they should be safe and harmless to them, with no toxic or harmful elements. For example, a stick or pineapple could splinter and hurt their mouth. If the toy is broken or damaged, it is also better to throw it away, as your puppy could hurt themselves or choke if a piece falls off.
Additionally, you shouldn't allow your puppy to play with everyday items you don't want them to get used to, like slippers, paper, or furniture. Instead, offer more suitable alternatives.
Make sure the games are adapted to your puppy's abilities
It is also important to consider that activities that are challenging, such as intelligence and smell games, should be adapted to the puppy's abilities. It is important to find a balance between not too easy, to avoid boredom, and not too hard, to avoid feelings of frustration and not to associate the game with something negative.
You are in charge of finishing the game
Similar to the beginning, you should also announce the end of the game as soon as you see that your puppy has calmed down. It is important to stop the game before your puppy gets bored, since you should always be one step ahead. By communicating the end of the game with a command like "That's it!" your puppy will be able to understand that the game is finished.It is important that you do not give in if your puppy insists on playing, because they must understand that for every activity, there must be a beginning and an end.
It is also recommended that your puppy always have access to a rest and play area. If they feel the need to play and you cannot be there, they should respect this and know that there are alternative ways to entertain themselves without playing with unwanted objects such as shoes, plants, etc.
If you want to read similar articles to Playing With Your Puppy the Right Way, we recommend you visit our Animal games and fun category.
- Shojai, A. (2020). All the ways a puppy likes to play. The spruce pets. URL retrieved on 05/22/2020 at: https://www.thesprucepets.com/puppy-play-how-puppies-play-2804905
- Robertson, J., & Pope, E. (2011). Exercising Your Puppy: A Gentle & Natural Approach (Gentle Dog Care) (1st ed.). Poundbury, UK: Veloce Publishing Ltd.