Why play is so important
Play is an important part of a puppy’s development and begins at an early stage with the mother and the other pups in the litter. Young pups will learn to roll, walk and climb through play with one another and their mother will use play to teach them the rules that they need to grow into well-developed adult dogs. Once the puppy moves to its new home, play can be equally well used between dog and owner. Play will channel the dog’s natural behaviours in a positive way, eg the desire to chase can be well utilised in a game of fetch. If you don’t play with the dog it may well find ways to use these behaviours in a way which you would prefer it didn’t, eg chasing sheep.
Pup Play – both with humans and other dogs – provides your puppy with mental stimulation, which may not be so forthcoming when only physical stimulation is provided, eg if you take your dog for a walk which includes some basic obedience with playing with a toy as reward, followed by the opportunity to play with other dogs, he is likely to come home much calmer and more relaxed than if he only had the walk.
Playing will enhance the bond between you and your pet, as well as being good fun and providing physical exercise for both of you. Play in early puppyhood will also increase the dog’s intelligence and problem solving abilities.
Having fun outdoors
Next time you’re out on a walk with your dog happily and safely running off lead, wait until your dog is distracted, perhaps sniffing a bush, then quietly hide behind a tree. It might take him a moment to realise that you’ve gone, but as soon as he does he is likely to start to look for you. Some dogs will take to this game immediately and use their senses of smell and hearing to seek you out. If your dog struggles at first, you can help them, perhaps by peeping around the tree and then hiding again, or by calling their name whilst remaining hidden from view. Once your dog ‘finds’ you make sure that you reward him, perhaps with a food treat or with a game of tug on a toy.
Get out and give it a go
This exercise can be great fun for both you and your pet, it takes little time or training, and no extra equipment or cost. It can, however provide great benefit in teaching your dog to think and solve problems, using his natural desire to follow scents, and enhance the growing bond with you.
I’d love to hear how you get on, or any other ideas that you might have for introducing play into your relationship with your four legged friend, so feel free to drop me a comment below.