What do good manners and playing with your food have to do with one another?
Everything . . . if you’re a dog!
One of the best and easiest things you can do to enrich your dog’s life and lay a foundation for polite dog behavior is encourage him to play with his food. Food puzzle toys abound – nifty contraptions into which you stuff food or treats, and give to your dog to “solve” so he can eat what’s inside. Continue Reading
Do you need an excuse to play? Many humans probably do. In this age of constantly-evolving technology we’re expected to do more and more in less and less time. Sometimes just scanning my Monday to-do list leaves me feeling somewhat overwhelmed.
Unlike many of us dogs need no excuses to play. Dogs love to play. They may not all enjoy playing the same games or with the same toys. But where there’s a dog, there’s very likely some kind of playing to be done and much fun to be had.
Scientists are still trying to figure out why animals play. Theories include practicing survival skills, and learning and maintaining important social skills. If you’ve watched dogs playing with other dogs or people, it may have occurred to you that perhaps one reason dogs play is to have fun. They certainly appear to be having plenty of fun when they’re at it.
If you have a dog you also have a perfect “excuse” to play. Playing with your dog yields wonderful benefits. It provides your dog with mental stimulation, an essential daily requirement for a healthy happy dog. Some games (like fetch and tug) afford your dog a chance to exercise, another daily necessity that too many dogs get too little of. Exercise keeps doggy bodies in good shape, avoids obesity and its attendant health risks, gives your dog an appropriate outlet for his energy and helps ward off behavioral issues. Depending on the game, dog play means you get some exercise too. My dog Vinnie adores playing one-on-one soccer with my husband; whenever they play they both get a great workout.
Playtime offers up lots of little training moments that help dogs practice impulse control. Play is an excellent stress reliever for humans and dogs. Play can be an especially effective way of building a shy, fearful or anxious dog’s confidence.
Perhaps best of all, playing with your dog regularly strengthens your relationship with him. Sharing enjoyable activities is one way in which people bond. Studies have shown that couples that play together enjoy longer happier relationships than those that don’t play together. As a therapist friend explained to me, doing fun things with a friend or significant other puts deposits into the emotional intimacy bank. You feel closer and happier when you’re doing having fun together.
Playing games with your best canine bud involves doing an activity together in which you communicate, work cooperatively and develop mutual understanding — all hallmarks of good social relationships. So is fun. Whether you’re playing tug, Frisbee, hide and seek, Freeze and Go Wild, or another game you or your dog has invented, hopefully you’re both having fun. (Part of the fun for me is seeing how much my dog’s enjoying himself when he’s playing!)
Life is tough. We could all use a healthy dose of frivolity and fun. So go ahead. You don’t need any excuses. Play with your dog! Play with him regularly, safely and have loads of fun. If anyone scoffs, remember that play’s underrated. You’re doing something fabulous for yourself and your dog, and deepening your relationship while you’re at it.
Do you have favorite games you play with your dog? We’d love to read about them in a comment.
Brrrr! We’ve been having a cold snap here in the San Francisco Bay Area and rain’s expected for the next several days. At times like this, exercising my dog Vinnie outdoors can be a pill. Vinnie is a wet weather wimp. He hates going out in the rain. He’d rather hold it for hours than venture out into a drizzle. We’ve tried putting him in a raincoat and enticing him with meatballs to no avail. I haven’t worked to resolve this as hard as I could have because I haven’t been very motivated. I can’t stand cold wet weather either.