There is a key factor that is missing for a lot of dogs when it comes to training -- that is how important it is to condition key distinctions through play. As adults, we often forget how reckless we could be at a young age and how many games we would play. Whether it was family or friend board game night or another physical game of hide-and-seek with our neighborhood friends, we developed an early need for fun. Exploring the world of games has become part of human nature.
It’s not uncommon to find this same need for play amongst our loyal companions as well. In fact, dogs that play structurally tend to be more confident, less stressed, and easier to train – which, in turn, often creates a stronger relationship between owner and dog. Here are 5 benefits that play can have with dogs and how to incorporate it into your dog’s lifestyle:
A dog must be mentally enriched in its daily life. A good mentally enriched game should have rules and structures. This can be as simple as learning the cue to drop it when playing tug, pawing an interactive food puzzle to get a treat, or running through a tunnel. These exercises not only condition mental sharpness, but it teaches the dog boundaries and impulse control. Other activities such as tracking and obedience work are good outlets that a dog can participate in and even go to competition with! Studies have shown that mental games can increase limb awareness, build confidence, decrease stress and boredom, and increase the longevity of a young brain.
Physical games like fetch and chase are great to help teach cues like take it, leave it, and come when called. It’s important to engage in physical opportunities safely. Make sure the weather is adequate to play, become familiar with your dog’s breed and their capabilities, and that you are reinforcing the right behaviors. Active play can help give your dog’s heart a boost, keeps their joints lubricated, improves their balance and coordination, and combats canine obesity. Other forms of physical activity can range from getting your dog hooked on a flirt pole, a bungee toy, or get them into a dog sport like flyball, dock diving, or disc training. If these aren’t in your own and your dog’s interest, then going for a hike to help with decompression time may be much needed.
Developing the relationship between dogs and humans takes time and work. Sometimes this isn’t as easy as a walk in the park. Positive reinforcement training with your dog can go a long way. Doing things like practicing consent and handling exercises can improve grooming and vet visits, being clear with boundaries will help your dog learn when it’s time to cuddle and ease the chances of your dog developing separation anxiety, and being able to understand your dog's body language will improve his overall happiness during playtime. Other outlets that can increase bonding time can be getting into canine freestyle, participating in their favorite activity, or taking your dog out to a dog-friendly outing like a beach or dog-friendly restaurant can all be ways for your dog to spend quality time with you while learning how to coexist in a variety of activities.
Puppies who get an early social experience are likely to develop a healthy relationship with dogs in the future. Developing proper social skills is important for a dog to gain. Whether it’s to play with other dogs or simply coexist at a distance, dogs can gain a lot from being comfortable with other dogs being nearby. Social play can help your dog learn boundaries, increases canine communication and helps them decompress through exercise. Having your dog sharp on their general obedience skills can lessen the chances of your dog getting into a possible altercation, and increases overall safety and management.
Canine behavior expert Dr. Emily Blackwell and scientists at Bristol University conducted a study that found play is a key factor for your dog’s well-being. 4,000 dog owners participated in a study that showed that dogs who played less suffered from one or more of 22 behavioral problems, such as anxiety and aggression. Other behaviors included whining, jumping, leash pulling, and not coming when called.
“There is a growing acceptance among scientists that play is very, very important and the type and frequency of play are a really good indicator of a dog's quality of life.” - Mark Evans, the former RSPCA chief vet
So, what does all this mean for you and your dog? Putting together a training program that includes play for you and your dog is not only beneficial but necessary. We are not concluding to take your dog to the dog park and set them free. At Venture Dog Training we provide you with insight into what your dog enjoys and customize a program that fits their mental and physical requirements safely. We believe, through owner guidance, we can improve communication and transform what it means to have a dog.
Whether you’re looking to put a canine fitness program together for your pup, trying to boost your dog’s confidence, or simply trying to find additional outlets that your dog can participate in, our trainers will make sure and you and your dog have fun.
Let the games begin!