There is no doubt that puppies love to play. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for a puppy to not play when it finds its next favorite toy. But as our dogs grow and mature, that puppy-like excitement for a bit of fun seems to arise less frequently. Well, no matter the age of your dog, he or she needs to let loose and enjoy a bit of play every day. If you’re working from home or just looking for something to do in the evenings to get your mind off COVID-19, don’t undervalue the power of playing with your dog.
1. Why Is Play So Important for Dogs? The first and most obvious thing is that puppies do tend to play more than adult dogs. This is because wrestling, tugging, running, leaping, and even tumbling help puppies develop their motor skills. Activities like these and those that involve chewing also help them learn about the world around them. As for nipping and biting (which all puppies are guilty of), these help our canine companions learn social boundaries and how to use their teeth more politely. While most adult dogs have mastered the skills, these activities still play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of dogs of all ages.
2. Play Provides Dogs with Better Mental Health When you engage your best friend in some carefree games, you’re actually doing wonders for your dog’s mental wellbeing. Play breaks up the boredom of the day and provides dogs with much needed psychological stimulation. This relieves stress and reduces depression. New toys provide your dog with the enrichment and reward they once received as puppies. When your dog discovers a new toy, he or she has a whole world of texture, sound, and fun to discover. The stimulation and stress release of some light-hearted frolicking has even been linked to reduced behavioral issues.
3. Toys, Tug, and Bonding You may not think of it often, but you are part of your dog’s social group, and joining in some fun and games strengthens your bond. Being silly, playing fetch, and just teasing your dog with a toy helps increase their trust in you. For example, when you play tug with your dog, he or she knows you’re not being malicious—they know that it’s ok to put their muscle into it without offending you. Fetch also demonstrates that your dog trusts you to return/throw the ball. Dogs prefer to play with their people than by themselves. In fact, studies show that dogs gain a lot more from playing with their owners than independent play.
4. Play Helps Your Dog Maintain Better Physical Health Dogs don’t go to the gym. So, playtime gives them an opportunity to build those connections between the brain and their muscles to improve their coordination and maintain their physical response time. A game of chase, tug, or keep away helps your dog build and maintain muscle which can reduce joint strain as he or she ages. If your dog just isn’t playful, it’s still important to spend quality time with him or her. Getting out and about and going for a morning or evening walk has a wide array of benefits.
Spending time with your dog on regular walks
lubricates your dog’s joints
elevates the heart rate and burns calories
provides the mental reward of being outdoors
deepens the human-dog bond
You don’t have to get on all fours to partake in playtime with your pup. Pick up some new rope toys, plush toys, and a reflective vest and watch your dog’s eyes light up. And remember that your dog isn’t the only one that benefits from an elevated heart rate and a long walk in the evening. Your dog is keeping you healthy while also reaping the benefits of playing. We hope you will stay safe, stay happy, and stay active with your dog.