The more time you spend with your dog, the more ways you’ll find to play with her. Some games will be discovered, and some invented. Some of the games will be physical, while others will be mental. Some of the best games combine physical and mental play to keep your dog engaged and productively occupied.
Physical games occupy your dog’s body and include the standards, like fetch and tug-of-war, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Depending on the temperament, size, and energy level of your dog, you might play modified wrestling, keep-away, or tag games with your dog. Remember, you make the rules of the games, so be sure to stop the fun before things get out of hand if and when your dog tests the boundaries of acceptable play.
Mental games, like find it require your dog to exercise his brain, which is often more tiring than physical exercise. Don’t just play find it games with treats; use toys and people (who doesn’t love a good round of hide and seek?) for extra fun. Hide the object of the game in successively harder or more unusual locations. Teach your dog to find specific toys by name. Briefly interrupt games with a random obedience command, releasing him the moment he complies with a continuation of the game. Not only does it make training part of the fun, it increases the speed at which your dog responds, so he can continue his game.
Playing with Other Dogs
Playing with other dogs is great exercise, along with being important for your dog socially. But not every dog is a potential playmate for yours, even if it’s a nice dog that plays well with other dogs.
Finding Suitable Playmates
Finding suitable playmates for your dog isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It’s not so much a size issue as it is a playing-style issue. Dogs, like people, have different playing styles. Some are very physical, wrestling, play-biting, mounting, etc., while others prefer tag-type games in which the dogs alternate chasing each other, with or without any physical contact. Some dogs play well with other dogs by using toys, playing tug of war or keep away.
But for others, toys are something to be protected from other dogs, not shared with them. Sometimes you can find good playmates at dog parks, but you are often just as likely to run across dogs that shouldn’t be at the dog park at all, let alone off leash and interacting with your precious companion. Many training centers and some pet boutiques offer supervised play sessions that allow your dog to socialize and play in a relatively safe and controlled setting.
Your job during doggie play dates is pretty simple. For the most part, all you have to do is to stay out of the way so you don’t get knocked down in the foolishness. Don’t be surprised if the dogs’ play involves a lot of growling and barking. In fact, usually the more noise you hear, the less there is to worry about.
Dogs are great for at least one thing: observing how dogs behave with each other. Go to the park without your dog, and watch until you can recognize specific postures, facial expressions, and vocalizations and predict how other dogs are likely to respond to them. Watching dogs play is both entertaining and educational!
Reading dogs’ communication is easy with practice. You’ll see dogs communicate with each other (and with you, if you pay attention) constantly, with a variety of body postures, facial expressions, and vocalizations. See if you can figure out what the dogs are “saying” to each other. Is it “Will you play?” or “Get away from me!”?