Dogs are social beings and one of the ways they build themselves is through play. This is a juvenile characteristic that is quite enjoyable for humans. Playing regularly with your dog will help to understand his personality. It will strengthen the bond between you. Play prevents the dog from becoming bored and helps maintain physical health if it is controlled. When well controlled, play allows the dog to use his natural predatory abilities. Finally, play can prevent inappropriate behaviour from developing.
What do dogs like to play with?
It depends on the personality of the dog. Watch what your dog does when he gets excited. Does your dog chase, grab or jump on things? Experiment with a few different toys and, with him, imitate your dog's natural play behaviour.
The games for dogs
The games fall into four main categories which are as follows :
- Tug of war: the principle is to play tug of war with your dog. There are all sorts of them, such as knotted balls or rubber rings.
- Hunt and retrieve: we often talk here about throwing games. You can use many different dog toys for this category.
- Hide and seek: the principle is to use the dog's sense of smell. The dog lives in a world of scents. Most dogs love this kind of activity. You can hide treats, toys or hide and search for his "treasure".
- Playing only with the master: you can play without toys with your dog. Have fun chasing each other!
Some dogs will like to bounce the toy and shake it. Others will like to bring it back to you or destroy it. Whatever dog toys you use, make sure they're appropriate for your dog. Check toys regularly to make sure there are no small parts that could be chewed or swallowed.
Basic rules of the game
For a better understanding and to avoid accidents, it is better to control the game with your dog. This avoids excessive excitement that can be uncontrollable. Don't play rough fighting games and don't let your dog chase children. Both are exciting for your dog. But they can encourage unpleasant behaviors such as biting.
- Before you start playing, make sure your dog is calm. Ask for a waiting position, such as "sitting". Keep toys below the waist so as not to encourage your dog to jump.
- Have frequent daily play sessions, both at home and on walks. This helps maintain a good relationship between you. Keep play sessions short and repeated.
- When playing with your dog, use an exciting voice with lots of praise and encouragement. Don't lie to your dog. He'll sense if you're in the moment with him. Have as much fun as he does.
- Let him know when the game is over.
- Put the toys away at the end of each play session. That way, they'll keep their interest. You can, however, choose other games for everyday use.
- Never force your dog to play.
- Never get angry during play. This is useless and counterproductive.
Teaching your dog to play
This section is for dogs that have not learned to play. Your dog may not have learned to play with objects. The following will help you encourage your dog to play with you. Here are our tips:
- Have only one dog in the room at a time to learn to play. You'll probably need to get down to floor level and keep an encouraging voice.
- Don't push the toy towards the dog, especially towards the mouth or head. This could frighten him, especially if he's already shy at play. Some dogs don't dare to pick up the toy if you look at them.
- Move the toy gently on the ground as if to imitate prey. You can attach it to a string or throw it.
- When your dog catches the toy, encourage him. You can pick up the toy by gently pulling it. Then let your dog win it over to give him confidence.
- Do short, repeated sessions.
- For more sensitive dogs that are reluctant to pick up a toy, you can use fleece and plush toys. You can also equip yourself with toys in which food can be hidden. Show the toy to your dog. Let him sniff the food and then roll it on the floor. Your dog will follow and be rewarded by being allowed to chew the food. Your dog will associate the toy with the food and will soon enjoy chasing it across the floor.
Pulling rope with his dog
Some people avoid playing with rope. They fear that it encourages the dog to be aggressive. This is a common misconception. Most dogs find tug of war games very interesting. If this is your dog's favorite game, you can set the rules.
- Put your dog in a waiting position like a sitter.
- Encourage your dog to grasp the toy on demand with a "take".
- When your dog is holding the toy, keep interest by pulling a little equally. Be careful, never pull up and down. Indeed, this has harmful effects on the dog's spine and neck. It is better to pull back and forth or a little from left to right.
- Do not wait until your dog gets too excited in the beginning. Take the initiative to stop the game.
- Stop pulling, place your hands along your body and keep them still.
- Swap the toy for another toy or treat. Trigger his interest in another toy by throwing it in the dog's line of sight. Apply a positive grip to the collar. This way, when your hand approaches the dog's collar, it will release by conditioning.
- When your dog lets go, praise him by restarting the game.
- Do not remove the toy until you have finished the game. Always reward his release with another reward (treat, moment of freedom, etc.).
- Let him know when the game is over with a verbal indication like "it's over". This will be your dog's cue to end the game.
Remember that training should be fun. Feel free to take a quiet walk before a play session to warm up your dog. This will prevent injuries. Once the game has been mastered, it can be used as a reward for good behaviour.