Why play is good for your dog
Playing with your dog has many benefits when it comes to teaching them social skills, improving their behaviour and building the bond between the two of you. It can keep their mind occupied, which prevents boredom and gives them an outlet to release their natural instincts. Many behavioural experts advocate the use of play in helping to manage unwanted behaviours in dogs, such as lunging, chewing or barking. Fitting in a short play session every day can really make a positive impact on the behaviour of your dog.
Learning through Play
We know that children learn through play, but have you ever considered how your dog is learning through its playtime? Play can be an important tool for dogs to learn how to interact with us and for us to enforce our rules. When they engage in play it is safe for dogs to push the boundaries a little, they might, for instance, play a little more roughly than usual. By doing this they can take cues from us as to what behaviour is acceptable and how we can resolve conflict should it arise. During play, your dog is in a more heightened state of arousal, this means that any corrective techniques you use will have more impact. By allowing your dog to push those boundaries you can quickly correct the behaviour and show them how you expect them to behave in a way that will stick with your dog.
Great for Anxiety or Boredom
Play can also be beneficial for dogs that show signs of anxiety or boredom. Playing can help to stimulate the brain, indeed, studies have shown that it can trigger reward centres in the brain that make us feel happy. Play can give dogs a physical and mental outlet, which can help alleviate boredom as well as keep your dog’s weight under control. Remember that dogs do have natural survival instincts and that constantly suppressing these can make then unhappy or anxious. They need to practice their survival skills in order to feel safe. Skills such as chasing prey would be essential if your dog was living in the wild and so it can help them feel more secure in their ability to survive if you let them practice these techniques. This can help reduce anxiety and help your dog feel much happier.
Some Dogs Need to be Taught to Play
Despite the benefits, many owners feel that their dog is just not interested in play. They might head to the field ball in hand, excited at the prospect of a game of fetch with their loyal pal only to end up having to fetch the ball themselves while their dog looks on. At that point, they might assume that their dog just isn’t playful and just give up. Most dogs do want to play, however, they just need to be taught.
Teaching a dog to play can be a challenge, especially if they are an older dog who hasn’t experienced any form of play in their youth, but it is well worth the effort. The first step is to experiment with some toys to see if any interest your dog. The ultimate aim should be for them to want the toy so much that they will engage in a tug of war style play with you. One way to really get them interested is to have a toy that can hold some food, such as grain free dog treats, this usually gets their attention, although you will need to exercise caution if your dog is food aggressive in any way. You can pick up toys that can be stuffed with treats or you could just use an old sock and place the treats inside. If you do manage to get them to engage with you and the toy remember to verbally praise them during and after the play session. They should get the message quickly enough that play is a positive thing.
Remember when offering treats to your dog, you should always try and make them healthy. You can find grain free dog treats UK dog owners can rely on at Bounce and Bella.