Recreational time, or “play time,” is good for you. It helps to alleviate stress, reduce depression, keep you intellectually engaged, and overall, it makes you feel good. The same is also true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of games and play into your dog’s daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
Benefits of Play for Your Dog
Playing and having fun is important for your dog for many reasons from entertainment to cognitive stimulation. Here are some ways playing with your dog is important:
- Physical health. Active play with your dog keeps her heart healthy, her muscles active, her joints lubricated and improves her overall balance and coordination.
- Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain. This helps to keep him focused.
- Social Skills. Playing with other dogs and people helps improve your dog’s overall social skills. Also, your dog learns basic rules and etiquette.
- Bonding. No matter how long you play with your dog, you are strengthening your connection with your furry companion.
- Your health. Playing with your dog alleviates your own stress and provides you some exercise as well!
Games for Training
There are plenty of fun games to play with your dog that will keep him excited, engaged and stimulated. Some of the best games offer various forms of training at the same time. Here are some games that offer specific training benefits.
Hot & Cold Game
This game helps to increase your dog’s listening skills and also helps your dog to be more attentive and responsive to the sound of your voice. Hide a treat when your dog is not looking. Use a calm tone for “colder” if your dog moves away from the hidden treat and a more excited tone for “hotter” as your dog gets closer to the treat. Your verbal communication and vocal tone will help your dog find the hidden treat.
Problem Solving Games
Successful problem solving is a big confidence booster for your pup. Developing reasoning skills is also essential and with a game like this one, your pooch can gain a bit of both by figuring out how to pull a string to get a treat. Tie a ribbon or small string to a treat and hide it under a piece of furniture, far enough back so that your dog cannot reach the treat with his mouth or paw. Encourage your dog to investigate and see how long it takes him to tug on the string to retrieve the treat. Be careful to make sure your dog does not swallow the string.
DIY Agility Course
This is not only mentally stimulating for your dog, but physically as well. You can easily make an obstacle course out of common household objects. Arrange your kitchen chairs and have your dog weave through them, or set up a broom to have him jump over. Your dog will be following your cues as he goes through the course, all the while being trained to listen.
Learning Eye Contact
Teach your dog to give you eye contact. This basic behaviour will help you get your dog’s attention when she is distracted. To play this game, hold a treat to your forehead or by your eye and ask your dog to look at you. Gradually phase out the food and use a hand signal and verbal command to ask your dog to look at you.
Chase the Prey
This game provides an opportunity for your dog to practice impulse control and obedience by dropping an object on command. It also lets your dog use his natural hunter instincts in a non-destructive way. Use a long pole or stick and tie a rope to one end. Tie a toy to the other end of the rope and drag it slowly, stopping occasionally to enact a slow pursuit. Let your dog catch the “prey” every so often so she doesn’t get discouraged.
A great game for energetic dogs, fetch provides physical exercise while also fulfilling your dog’s natural instinct to run. For a more advanced alternative, try using a Frisbee, which is a little more challenging to catch than a ball. You can also vary the height, distance and direction of your throws to keep your dog mentally and physically engaged.
Tug of War
Dogs love the pulling and tugging that a good game of tug of war provides. Not only does it provide for good physical exercise, but your dog will find it fun and engaging too. Make sure to let your pooch win sometimes and don’t forget to practice commands like “drop it.”
Know when it’s time to quit for the day
Playing games with your four-legged friend is beneficial for a variety of reasons, but anything that is too aggressive or that lasts too long can lead to overstimulation. Make sure to end play sessions while you and your dog are both still having a good time. This will leave her excited for the next play session, rather than exhausted and frustrated.
By playing games like these with your dog, you’ll keep him active and mentally challenged and most importantly, you’ll keep your furry friend happy.