Active playing is something inherited in dogs, and it is important to stimulate their playfulness, not only when they are puppies but throughout their whole live.
You should know that, for a dog, playing has physical, social and mental aspects and all of them are important for their development and well-being.
In the following article we want to tell you a bit more about each of them as well as sharing some idea how to stimulate your dog with specific games.
Physical aspects of the game: a dog needs daily physical exercise, and it does not matter its breed or age. Of course, the intensity of the exercise must be appropriate to age, physical condition and overall state of health. For a healthy adult dog, you can intensify the exercise easily to tire him out, but for a puppy or senior dog you should be more careful to avoid health issues. For a young dog, for example, it is not advisable to jump from heights or run up and down the stairs much since the puppy’s bones, tendons and joints are not yet fully formed and an overexertion or bad hit might cause permanent injury. For a senior dog it is quite similar, you should be more careful because with age the bones and joints become more fragile and your furry friend can suffer from inflammation and serious damage.
Examples of physical play with your dog: There are many types of physical play with your dog, the most common is probably playing with a ball or chasing a frisbee. This type of intense play is great to exercise muscles, joints and spend tons of energy. If you don’t have space at home to throw the ball, you might want to take it to the park and alternate the walk with chasing the ball.
Another very physical game (for dog and owner) is “tug of war”, for example, with a rope. In addition, this game serves to train your furry friend’s self-control, since he must release the rope when you ask him to and wait to resume the game with your command, not before.
Lastly, there is nothing like playing with other dogs. It is fun for him running and chasing each other or simulating “fight” (in a friendly way). It helps him develop physical and social skills and it is surely when you take him home happiest and most tired.
There are breeds with higher energy levels and need for more demanding physical exercise than others and you should take this into account when choosing a dog for your family so that he adapts well to your lifestyle. Breeds of dogs that usually need a lot of physical exercise are, for example, Weimaraner, Labrador Retriever, Jack Russell, Husky, Border Collie, Australian Shepherd or Malinois.
Mental benefits provided by the game: a mental stimulus is for a dog just as important as physical exercise, and we should not ignore this. Naturally, your dog is not going to go to university, but it benefits him to learn new things through exercises and experiences. If we do not attend this mental stimulation, we risk having a bored dog that spends his restlessness on undesired acts such as destroying furniture or barking excessively. Mental games give your dog new skills such as persistence, creativity finding solutions to problems, smelling ability or self-control.
Examples of games that stimulate the dog’s mind: one of our favourites is using the dogs ability to smell, one of the most extraordinary skills and that is worth a regular training. You can for example hide some pieces of sausage around your house or garden without your dog seeing where you hide them and then let him find them. By this he will probably be entertained for quite a while. Instead of sausages, you can also use Mooiza’s semi-soft treats and thus provide your dog not only with a fun time, but also a plus for his health (be careful to use only the recommended daily amount for his weight).
A more advanced option of smell training is to retrieve lost things on the walk by dropping an object with your scent (for example, a glove) on the trail and teaching your dog to search for and retrieve it. You can start with a short distance and increase it little by little, always rewarding the dog when he finds the lost object. In addition to being fun, it is a very useful skill if one day you really lose something.
In addition, we want to encourage you to look at the so-called “intelligence games” since there is a lot of variety on the market as well as homemade ideas to stimulate your dog´s mind. There are puzzles, interactive toys and much more and you will surely find something fun for your dog.
Although it depends on each dog, there are breeds that need more mental stimulus and that can greatly benefit from these games to avoid boredom. Some of these breeds are for example Border Collie, Poodle, Labrador Retriever, Pitbull or Beagle.
Social aspects that dogs encourage in the game: dogs are very social beings and need to interact with their environment, people and other animals to enjoy a happy life. A dog with poor socialization is very prone to developing behavioural problems such as aggressiveness or fear and, therefore, we must pay special attention to good socialization from a very early age of a puppy. For a dog, play is the preferred way of interacting and learning and you can benefit from teaching basic skills or more advanced tricks. In addition, every time you play with your furry friend, your bond becomes closer, you improve trust and mutual knowledge. The same applies for playing with other dogs as it is the way to make friends and learn doggy body language and social skills.
Examples of how to improve dog socialization through play: it is essential that you spend time interacting and playing with your dog. That can be any game (ball, tug of war, races, etc.) or the training of basic commands because the best way to lean is by making it fun. Playing and training together is very beneficial for your communication because the dog will learn to interact with you correctly, respect your space, drop the ball, not bite hard, stop when you ask, etc.
The same counts for offering him playtime with other dogs and making friends of his kind. This way he will learn dog social skills and how to be a more balanced dog. To do this, you can meet other dog owners to play or walk together, visit a designated dog area, or even join a group that organizes specific dog activities.
As you can see, for your dog playing is not a simple pastime, he needs it to be happy and healthy just the same as a balanced diet and daily care.