Playing with your puppy is an important part of building a positive relationship and developing good communication between the two of you. Starting when your pup is young will get things off on the right “paw” towards a lifetime of fun and learning.
Here are some pointers for happy and proper puppy play:
You are not the toy
Don’t let your pup grab your hand, or mouth at other parts of your body. Even if it was not intentional, stop play immediately when your pup makes inappropriate contact with you – regardless of the intensity of the contact. This will teach your dog to avoid using their teeth as play always will stop when they do. When they do forget, be sure to redirect them to a favourite toy. If they persist in biting you or mouthing too hard, end the play session by walking away.
Positive reinforcement rewards good behaviour as opposed to punishing poor behaviour. Your dog will learn to associate an action with a positive outcome such as getting a toy to play with or a yummy treat. It also helps build a strong relationship between the two of you by reinforcing appropriate behaviours such as coming when called, sitting or laying down, not jumping up on people or walking on a leash politely and without pulling.
You determine when it’s playtime
Your dog may love to play, and they may love it more when you are involved. But, when they start jumping on you or barking as they demand playtime, it can become a problematic habit that can be tough to break once established. Pick different times of day when you play as well so they don’t associate things like supper or your arrival home from work as the trigger for playtime. Additionally, make sure your puppy understands that if you end playtime, playtime is over. If they don’t get the message, remove yourself or their toy from the situation.
Part of keeping your pet engaged is to change up the game a little – no one wants to play the same game all the time! There are hundreds of games and toys available in pet stores or you can create your own games with items you have around the house. For example, place some treats in half of the holes of a muffin tray, then cover all the holes with a tennis ball or even balled socks. Then place the tray on the floor. Your pup will get some awesome mental stimulation as they try to figure where the treats are and how to remove the obstacle that’s in the way! Another variation is to hide a treat under one of three or more plastic cups and see if your pup can find the one hiding the treasure.
You can get a few more ideas on homemade enrichment fun on our website here.
Keep games fun, but short
The longer you play with your pup, the more excited they will get. The more excited they get, the less control they may have. Take some breaks for a calming-down period before continuing with play. This way, you’ll have fewer behaviour ‘accidents’ and more fun and relationship building too!
Want to learn more?
The Regina Humane Society offers many dog training courses, including Puppy Play to Learn, to get you both off on the right paw. For more information on classes and to register, visit our Dog Training Website, here.