8 Playtime Ideas
How Do I Play With Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.
Playtime is a much-anticipated activity for your cherished canine companion. Active play benefits your dog’s overall well-being, positively affecting their physical and mental health. Some physical benefits include weight maintenance, a healthy heart, strong joints and muscles, and improved agility, balance, and coordination.
Regarding your pet’s mental health, playtime helps keep your dog’s mind sharp. Certain games, especially those involving commands and rules, help develop your dog’s ability to focus while increasing its alertness. Moreover, playtime with a furry, four-legged forever friend is fun, fun, fun! Not just for your pet but for you, as well.
Here are 8 excellent ideas to level up playtime with your pooch.
1. Teach Your Pet To Play Fetch
This doggy game is a classic for a good reason. Fetch is almost instinctive to dogs, being part of their nature as hunters—something humans trained their canine counterparts to do thousands of years ago. Centuries ago, in the days of the hunter-gatherers, humans trained their dogs to help them during the hunt.
As such, most dog breeds now have an instinctive disposition for running and chasing after things, and a game of fetch ticks all the boxes. Fetch leaves your dog with a feeling of exhilaration, much like a “runner’s high” in humans. It is also an excellent way for you to bond with your pet.
Of course, certain breeds, like Labradors, spaniels, and terriers, are more predisposed to quickly learning and enjoying a game of fetch. But, most any type of breed can be trained to play the game. Select a good toy for your pet to fetch. Among the most popular are a tennis ball, an old shoe, a squeaky toy, a stick, a rubber or rope toy, a flying disc or Frisbee, and a plush toy. Just ensure the toy is the right size, so your dog can easily pick it up in their mouth without choking on it.
2. Make A DIY Agility Course in Your Backyard
Agility courses are a great and fun way to get some active playtime with your dog, teaching them obedience and increasing their limberness and alertness. You can construct one in your backyard using varying sizes of PVC pipes and other household objects like laundry baskets, old tires, blankets, and broomsticks, among other things.
Remember that the most crucial aspect to consider is your pet’s safety when making a DIY agility course. Some important dos and don’ts to remember:
• Do start small. Consider your dog’s size and current ability. Please don’t push your dog beyond its capacity, lest you risk injuring your pet.
• Do inspect your materials for safety. Make sure to use sturdy materials of good quality. Don’t use unsafe materials that or old and brittle or have sharp edges that your dog can wound themselves on.
• Do make sure that the ground is flat. Inspect your backyard for holes and ditches that could harm your pet as they run through the course and play unsupervised to avoid untoward incidents. Don’t set the course on uneven ground. Fill up or level any holes and mounds in the soil before setting up your DIY course.
• Do supervise your pooch when using the agility course. Keep an eye on your pet as they learn and use the course. Don’t allow your dog to play unsupervised to avoid any untoward incidents.
• Do practice positive reinforcement. Reward your dog for their progress through the agility course. Please don’t yell at or punish your dog for being unable to make it. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun activity for you both!
Dogs love a good game of Hide-and-Seek as much as their human counterparts. Start in your home by simply going to another room and calling your dog to come and “find” you. Reward them with their favorite treat when they do. Then, you can progress to outdoor settings. Start with an easy enough hiding spot and then gradually build up to more difficult ones.
This is best done with a friend or family member who can distract your dog while you hide. Your dog will have fun with this game and learn a vital skill: to find you when they are lost. Teaching your pooch to play Hide-and-Sick is an excellent way to train them to return to you should you ever be separated from each other.
4. Guess Which Hand
Your dog will love this old-school game of having them guess which of your closed hands conceals a particular object. Start with their favorite treat, then work up to a small thing or one of their toys. Close your hand around the treats or toy and move your clenched fists side to side, round, and round, before allowing your pet to “guess” where the surprise is hidden. This game helps to improve your dog’s alertness and focus, as well as helps to heighten their sense of smell.
5. The Cup Game
This is a leveled-up version of the Guess Which Hand game and is also a great way to develop your dog’s olfactory acuity (which is a fancy way of saying to sharpen your dog’s sense of smell). Again start with dog treats and gradually transition to small objects and toys.
Conceal the surprise underneath upside-down opaque cups or glasses, and move the cups around for your dog to guess which one contains the treats or objects. Begin with two cups, increasing the number as your pet gets the hang of the game. Remember to reward each correct guess with a treat and some praise. Positive reinforcement will make all the difference in how quickly your dog aces this interactive game.
6. Find the Surprise
This hybrid of Hide-and-Seek and fetch is also an excellent way to develop your dog’s nose work and ability to sniff things out. A perfect way to initiate this fun activity is by allowing your dog to smell a treat in your hand and tossing it a distance away from your pet, with the command to “Go find it!” or “Go get it!”
Be sure not to toss the treat into the air, as you do not want your dog to try to catch it mid-air, which presents a choking hazard.
Then, you can transition to hiding your pet’s favorite treats somewhere around the room, releasing them to find the treat stash with the same command. Make the hiding place more difficult as your dog catches on. Progress to toys and other objects, and consistently reward your dog for success.
7. Get In on Some Tent Time
Remember how, as a kid, you loved to hide out in a tent or underneath a blanket? Do you recall that feeling of snug security you would get hiding in your makeshift fortress?
Dogs feel pretty much the same way. Hiding out in a cozy tent or burrowing ‘neath a blanket is instinctive for dogs. This behavior goes back to when dog packs lived in a den, such as a cave.
Allow your dog to revisit those days and get in touch with their primal self by providing them with a doggy tent to play in. If the tent is big enough, spend some time with your pet. This signifies to your dog that you are part of their “pack, ” making for great.
8. Tug of War
Another dog game that brings out the instinctive behavior of your pooch is Tug-Of-War. There is no truth to the belief that playing this game causes aggressive behavior in dogs; on the contrary, it helps them release any pent-up emotions. Sure, your pet may growl in excitement as you play, but that is where the release command comes in. A game of tug allows your dog to express their predatory nature in a healthy, non-threatening way. For the game to be safe and fun for both you and your dog, keep these dos in mind:
• Do teach your dog the appropriate commands for the game. Establish a release command with your dog (like “Let go” or “Drop it”) before really getting into the game. Give your dog some time to master the command before you play. Let the dog bite the tug toy in your hand, then train them to let go.
• Do choose a good tug toy. Pick a durable and sturdy but soft and flexible enough toy. One that won’t hurt your dog’s mouth and teeth but won’t break in the game process. Ensure the toy has no small parts or anything that may detach during the game. Many dog toy manufacturers sell tug toys specifically for this purpose.
• Do initiate the game. Let your dog know that there are rules to the game; set the terms and pace for the activity.
• Do take breaks during the game. If you see your dog getting too excited or worked up (something they typically express by growling), put the game on pause. Use the release command you have practiced with your dog, and have them stop and sit for about half a minute before resuming.
There are many fun ways to play with your dog; these are just a few tried-and-tested ones. Playtime with your pooch is beneficial to your dog and to you, as well. It is good exercise and a great stress reliever for you and your pet. As you both realize how much fun there is to be had and how playtime deepens your bond, you will look forward to the hours spent tossing that Frisbee, kicking that ball, running, and romping together.
What better way to spend a few hours than in active fun and frolic with your best friend?