Play is an important part of a dog’s life, from puppy to age. This is because the dog is a social animal , which learns through interactions with others, therefore, play is a key piece of learning that will accompany it for the rest of its life.
For this reason, as we explain in this Animal Wised article, knowing how to play with a puppy is necessary for its basic education, as well as consequently to prevent it from developing behavioral problems that would harm its well-being and coexistence with your pet.
The importance of play in puppies
Play is essential for the proper development and well-being of your puppy. Contrary to what may be thought many times, it is not an optional whim to offer your furry dog to play with him, as this activity is instinctively part of his learning and maturation process. Not for nothing do we see how puppies play with their brothers and mother and, therefore, it is part of their natural behavior. Let’s see then what are the main benefits that gambling brings to your pet, as well as to your relationship with him:
- You exercise physically : the game is a physical activity that involves the use of the muscles. In addition, it helps strengthen bones and prevents your dog from being hyperactive due to lack of exercise.
- It is a means of socialization : through play, your puppy learns to interact and relate to others, which is why it is necessary to have his social needs covered.
- Learn self-control : when playing, a puppy must measure its strength in proportion to the activity, as well as, little by little, it learns to inhibit the bite with the appropriate guidance.
- Learn to tolerate frustration : the game also implies that your puppy has to overcome challenges, which will make your pet recognize his limits and become more tolerant to frustration when he does not get a reward the first time.
- Prevents behavior problems : without a doubt, play is a means for your dog to release tension, stress and not feel bored, fundamental elements so that your adult puppy does not develop most behavior problems and, therefore, is a dog that feels confident and balanced.
- Spend some quality time with you : Last (and not least), the game acts as a social reinforcement, which it associates with you. In this way, your dog will see you as someone fun and trustworthy, strengthening his emotional bond with you.
How long to play with a puppy?
There is no strictly established period of time for how long to play with a puppy, as the time will vary depending on the energy, type of play and age of the little one. We must bear in mind that puppies begin to play from four weeks of age , but it is not until twelve weeks of age that it does not begin to progressively shorten their sleep habits, since on average, a puppy can sleep between 18 or 20 hours a day.
This means that although the puppies are in a very busy stage, they tire easily, being able to play at most for about 20 minutes, until they are exhausted and fall asleep again. Therefore, as your puppy grows, it will have more endurance, up to 40-50 minutes in which an adult dog can have fun without getting tired.
Types of games with puppies
There are multiple options of games that you can play with your puppy. Let’s see the main ones:
- Tug of war : this game is highly recommended, as it is a way to quench his “hunting” instinct, while exercising and entertaining you. When you play with your dog to grab a rope and try to “remove” it, it is important that you encourage him to let go (showing him another moving rope or food), to reward him once he does, in turn, try to give him an oral instruction such as “loose.” In this way, you will prevent your dog from developing a resource protection problem, and he will learn that you do not want to steal the toy. In addition, teaching him to let go is also necessary in the event that one day he catches something inappropriate.
- Chase : playing chasing a ball or other toy will also be a way to tire you and satisfy your instincts. You can alternate it with the tug of war, for example, throwing the rope each time it is released, to reinforce this behavior.
- Olfactory : the game of smell is one that aims to stimulate this sense through the search for food or a toy through the nose. This game can be played, for example, by means of a smell mat (available in stores or made in a homemade way) in which prizes are hidden, hiding something valuable in a box, glasses, etc. So your puppy has to use his nose to find it. In the process, you can add an oral slogan, such as “search” or “toy”, to associate with the activity.
- Proprioceptive play : activities aimed at stimulating proprioception are those aimed at using the internal senses of the body, that is, the perception of one’s own movement, balance, muscle tone, etc. This kind of games, therefore, are made up of circuits in which the dog has to overcome different challenges, such as overcoming different heights, obstacles and different terrain (soft, irregular…).
- Intelligence games: these kinds of games are those in which the dog has to solve a problem or overcome a challenge to achieve a goal (usually a prize). They are beneficial because they stimulate your puppy mentally and create patterns of behavior from trial and error that he will adopt in various situations in his life.
- Solo play: it is vitally important that your puppy also learns to entertain himself from an early age through activities such as extracting food from a Kong , looking for hidden food, ropes, bones to gnaw … in a space where he feels calm and safe . In this way, if the puppy learns to be alone without depending on the owner, the development of separation anxiety can be prevented when he has to stay home alone.
How to play with a puppy? – Guidelines and recommendations
When you want to play with your puppy, it is very important that you follow a clear structure that your pet can understand to avoid misunderstandings.
You start the game
To start the game, you should always pay attention to whether your puppy is receptive to it, that is, he respects his space and breaks. In the same way, the initiative should always be marked by you, indicating it with some slogan such as, “Let’s play!”, Since in your day-to-day living with your pet, there will be situations in which your puppy will demand you that you play with him and, in the same way that you must take into account his space and limits, he must learn to respect you as well.
On the contrary, if you always agree to his wishes, he will learn that he always gets his way and when you want to correct him it will be more complicated, since he may insist on drawing your attention in unwanted ways (breaking things, barking, biting your feet …). Therefore, if your dog asks you to play, be indifferent and ignore him, and once he has given up, invite him to play.
Teach him not to bite
During the play activity, you will need to educate him to learn to inhibit the bite . To this end, every time he bites you hard, you should say something with which he understands that he has hurt you, such as “oh!” and you will stop playing, in this way, he will associate the strong biting with which the fun ends and he will learn to measure himself.
Appropriate toys for puppies
The toys or game elements you use should be varied to arouse their curiosity. And, obviously, safe and harmless for your pet, without toxic or harmful elements (for example, a stick or a pineapple could splinter and injure its mouth). In the same way, if the toy is broken or damaged, it would be better to get rid of it, as it could put your puppy at risk by hurting himself or choking if a piece comes off.
Also, you should not allow your puppy to play with everyday items that you do not want him to get used to, such as slippers (even if it is old, he could find a new one that you do not want him to tear), paper, furniture … Offer him more suitable alternatives.
Games adapted to your abilities
Next, you should bear in mind that the activities that pose a challenge, such as intelligence or smell games, must be adapted to their abilities, since the interesting thing is to find a balance point between not being too easy to avoid boredom , but not too difficult to avoid being frustrated and associating it as something negative.
You finish the game
In the same way as the beginning, you should be the one to indicate the end of the game once you see that your puppy is calm after playing, but not enough for him to abandon the activity (you must go one step ahead) . It is advisable that you communicate it by means of a sign or slogan such as “that’s it!” so that you understand it and, do not give in if he continues to insist on playing for the reasons that have been discussed above. You must understand that the activity has a beginning and an end.
Finally, it is recommended that you always have access to a rest and fun area alone , because if you have the need to play and you cannot be there, you must respect it and know that you have alternatives to entertain yourself, without resorting to play with unwanted items (plants, furniture, etc.).