The Importance of Playing With Your Dog

Dogs are honorary members ofour families, and playing with them and having fun with them is at the heart ofthis satisfying relationship.We need to remember, however, that we have our own rules of play, which are different from theirs. Train your dog to play by your rules.


By playing together as pups, dogs learn social and hunting skills. They become physically dextrous, adroit at ambush,chase, and tackle.

As with humans, apup’s desire to play is perpetuated into adulthood. Both humans and dogs arenaturally “neotenized” species: we carry into adulthood a range of juvenile characteristics. 

Adult dogs continue their playful activity to preserve social relationships and simply to have fun.

Visit your local park and it’s easy to see that fetch games are one of the most rewarding activities for dog and owner.

Even non-retrieving breeds of dog have a yearning to chase and return objects to their owner. However, make sure you call it quits long before your obsessive friend collapses from over-exertion.

Play is a fine way to train your dog to accept commands from children, asserting their higher ranking in the pack hierarchy,but restrict this solely to fetch games.

Avoid tug-of-war games; ensure that your dog doesn’t unwittingly feel it owns some of your children’s toys; and watch out for inadvertent teasing, especially with food.

Mutual fun

Playful behaviour is a lifelong activity. Playing with your dog is rewarding on so many levels, providing you bothwith mental and physical stimulation, while at the same time teaching your dog that he plays by your rules.


Some male dogs are only interested in play as a prelude to mating, and some insecure dogs are so frightened of canine social activity that they will bite out of fear.

The majority of dogs, however, enjoy playing with each other, even on first encounters, especially if they are still relatively young. Play among friend susually involves chasing, shadow boxing,and neck chewing. Just be careful thata tug-of-war over sticks or toys doesn’t escalate into possessive aggression.


Choose toys that are both appropriate for different types of play and provide a variety of differing rewards. All dogs, not just puppies, need to chew,and in the absence of prey to gnaw on,they need chew toys.

Rawhide is excellent,as are dried pig’s ears and sterilized bones, though be alert to the possible danger of fractured teeth. Hard rubber chew toys with hollow insides are also available.

They serve two purposes: they are chewable and they can be filled with food rewards, such as spreadable cheese or peanut butter, to make them even more stimulating for your dog.

Squeak toys belong to you, not your dog, and are best played with for only a short time. Soft sheep skin-like material surrounding a squeaker makes an ideal toy.

So do very thin-skinned rubber balls with squeakers inside; dogs are less inclined to chew on squeak toys that collapse under the slightest pressure.Give this toy to your dog as a treat.

A hard rubber ball on a rope, a Frisbee,a rubber ring, or an erratically bouncing Kong all make suitable fetch toys, and there is a vast selection of purpose-made tug-of-war toys for dogs.

Make sure the toy suits the dog: avoid strenuous fetch games for dogs with potential joint problems, and forget about tug-of-war with dogs with dominant personalities – your position as pack leader will be jeopardized ifyou let them win.

A small, empty plastic water bottle is a great homemade toy. A slight nudge with the nose gets it rolling. Add a little water, and it is more exciting. Don’t allow your pup to chew through the plastic though.

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