Playtime is more than just a fun-filled way for you and your dog to pass the time. It’s also essential for your pup’s well-being. Playtime can boost your dog’s mood, build its confidence, assist in weight management, keep its heart and joints healthy, and stimulate its brain. Additionally, playing reduces behavioral issues because it serves as an outlet to release pent-up energy.
If your dog plays less than it used to or rarely exhibits playful behavior, it’s missing out on a joyful part of life. Fortunately, you can encourage your dog to play with you by following these five tips.
1. Test Out Toys
Pet companies produce various dog toys, ranging from plush options and squeaky selections to durable rubber alternatives. This variety is helpful because all dogs are different. What one dog likes, another may hate. The best way to determine which type your dog prefers is by showing it several options and letting it decide.
Place different toys around your house to see which your dog likes the best. You may notice your dog grabbing a particular toy and running around with it. If so, you can try to join in the fun by encouraging a game of fetch or tug of war. Your pup will likely play with you more if it likes its toy selection.
2. Get Excited and Use Praise
If your dog brings a toy to you or you take one to your pup trying to get it to play, make sure you show eagerness and excitement. Use a high-pitched voice and act overly cheerful to encourage your pup to join in. Your demeanor will help make the experience a positive one that your dog will want to relive time and time again.
Don’t be loud if your dog is timid. Talk gently and enthusiastically to your pup until it gets more comfortable. As your dog gets more confident and less nervous, you can elevate your voice a little to encourage more excitement.
In addition, make sure you apply positive reinforcement by praising your pup when it shows interest in toys and playing. When your dog displays a desired action, you should reward the behavior in hopes that it will reoccur. You can use verbal praise, give your pet treats, or give it attention to reinforce your pup’s good conduct. These favorable consequences will eventually lead your dog to associate playing with joy and fun.
3. Engage in One-on-One Play
Instead of using toys to play with your pooch, try switching playtime up with some fun one-on-one options. Consider taking a crack at wrestling, chasing, or tag. You can even make a game up; just be creative!
Unfortunately, this type of interaction may result in your dog getting too wound up, especially if it’s young or isn’t used to playing one-on-one with you. Make sure you keep the following safety tips in mind if your pooch gets too rowdy:
- Stop playing immediately if your dog shows aggression. Let your dog cool down before trying again.
- Discourage your dog from jumping up by getting down on its level. This may mean bending down or sitting on the ground.
- Make sure you play in dog-friendly, secure areas so your dog can’t run away if it gets too hyper. Consider putting up a gate or dog proofing your fence to keep your pup safe during playtime.
- Use verbal cues to calm your dog, such as “all done” to let your pup know that playtime is over.
4. Teach Your Dog New Games
Perhaps your dog is bored with the same old games. Maybe fetch just isn’t cutting it anymore. If you think your pup needs a change, try a new game, such as Find-It. To play this game, you should tell your dog to sit and stay in one location while you hide treats around the house or in the yard.
Once you’ve finished hiding the treats, you can give your dog a verbal command to find them. This enriching game allows your dog to use its senses, which is excellent for mental health. After it locates all the treats, praise your pooch for a job well done.
Some games are easier for dogs to learn than others. You may need to take each game one step at a time to ensure your dog understands how to play. For example, for Find-It, you will need to train your pup how to sit and stay before actually playing.
5. Encourage Play at the Right Times
If your dog is unwilling to play, you might be trying at inopportune times. For instance, if your pup is trying to take a snooze and you throw a tennis ball past its head, your pooch probably won’t chase after it.
There are better times to encourage play, such as when you first get home, and your dog is excited to see you or in the morning after breakfast. If you get your dog into a daily playtime routine, it will be ready and willing to play at those designated times.
Some dogs don’t play as much as others, possibly due to anxiety issues or a lack of early socialization. While a dog doesn’t need to play to live a good life, this physical activity adds something special to its existence. By encouraging your dog to play with you more, you can ensure it has a happy, meaningful life.