Importance Of Play For Puppies
How we play with our puppies is far more important than many people realize. While your puppy is still young, he needs to learn how much fun it is to play with humans so we can channel his energies and teach him good manners.
Why play is so important
Puppies that learn to play human games grow into dogs which see humans as a source of pleasure and enjoyment. Such dogs are much more fun to have around and are more sociable. They are also easier to train because they have a better relationship with us. They probably have a better life in a human society than those that have only learned to play with other dogs.
Solid relationship and a strong bond
Playing games is more than just a way for you and your puppy to have fun, although having fun during games is essential. Games allow the participants to find out about each other and learn about the qualities, traits, and strengths/weaknesses of the other player. Fear of the unknown reduces during play as the puppy and owner become more familiar with each other. New things are discovered as both seek ways to enhance the game and a better understanding will develop between you and your puppy.
Games are also an outlet for dogs’ natural hunting abilities, many of which they still retain. Orienting your dog’s instinctive desire to hunt, chase, and even kill prey. onto play with toys instead will prevent him from finding outlets for these activities elsewhere. For example, dogs that are busy chasing balls thrown for them in the park are not chasing after joggers, people on bikes, or running children. Dogs busy tracking the scent of a toy rolled into long grass are not searching for rabbits or deer to chase. Dogs playing with a squeaky toy are not obsessed with catching and killing small animals. Getting puppies fixated on play with toys from an early age can prevent a whole range of behaviour probelms later.
Some dogs, particularly those that are young or are from working stock, want to be physically active and mentally alert all day. This is just not possible in most pet homes and in the absence of any work to do, boisterous play sessions with toys is a useful substitute.
Adequate physical and mental exercise is essential for all dogs, especially as a puppy matures and becomes a young adult. Lack of exercise can result in a bored, discontented dog with more energy than he knows what to do with. Very often, such excesses of energy are the cause of unwanted behaviours as the dog finds alternative outlets for them. Several strenuous play sessions, given at varying intervals throughout the day, can result in a dog that is well-adjusted, contented and looking forward to the next time you bring out the toys.
Since puppies, particularly those of the large, heavy breeds, should not be walked long distances until their bones have matured, play with toys provides a useful way to use up some of their exuberance.
A useful reward
Once your puppy knows just how much fun games with toys can be, you can use the toys themselves as a reward for a training exercise, particularly the recall. Games with toys can also be used to your advantage in other areas; for example, overcoming your puppy’s shyness with other people or any other fears that he may develop.
Several short play sessions spread throughout the day are preferable to one long play session. Try to play with your puppy when he is being good, i.e. he is not doing something you disapprove of. You will then be rewarding this good behaviour and he will be more likely to do it next time. If you only get the toys out when he is becoming a nuisance, his general behaviour will get worse.