One of the great joys in life is watching dogs play.  Playing with our dogs strengthens our bonds together, builds valuable social skills and provides mental and physical exercise and more.

Puppies use play to better understand the world around them including discovering new sights and sounds and meeting all sorts of new people and other dogs.  Their play style is developed during their critical socialization period from around eight weeks to sixteen weeks old. 

Play also helps keep the adult mind active and alert and spins off a lot of excess energy that can build up and manifest itself in some unwanted behaviors.  A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!  The need for mental stimulation is as important for dogs (and cats) as it is in humans.

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What’s Your Dog’s Play Style?

Dogs have their own play style.  Some dogs are thinkers and like their puzzle toys while others live for a game of fetch and some dogs just prefer a good chew toy. Discovering your own dog’s play style is important in choosing the right kind of toy or game.

Tricky Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are a great addition to your dog’s toy box.  They help your dog stay mentally sharp and alert.  The puzzle games come in all sorts of varieties including relatively simple toys that are filled with their kibble or treats and then pushed around to release their food. Oftentimes these can be of a design that is safe for your pet’s crate.  This is great to help your dog  avoid separation anxiety and also for dogs who like to gulp their food down. They also keep a puppy very busy!

Other puzzle toys are a bit more involved and require your supervision. These type of toys come in easy to PHD levels depending on your dog’s own abilities.  They find hidden treats by moving and removing various pieces to unlock the treats. 

fitness First Tricky Treat Ball

A Game of Fetch!

Fetch toys include flying discs and balls.  Some are great for indoor use and some great for outdoor use.  Many dogs love the thrill of the chase but aren’t so good at returning the item to you so they can play again.  A little training may be required.  Just trade them for a treat when they bring the object back and they’ll soon figure out how the fetch game works!

It’s the Prey Drive!

If your dog loves to “kill the squeaker” then you can either find a super tough toy or simply sew up the toy again and let your dog continue to play with the toy.  Oftentimes dogs still have a lot of fun with their old toy “skins”.  Plus there’s no more stuffing to worry about!

The Chewers!

Some dogs prefer a good chew bone so either a naturally shed deer antler or raw meaty bone (never cooked!) are your best bets.  Dogs adore them and they’re great at keeping their teeth clean too.  Most dogs will gnaw on their meaty bones or antlers but some of the more aggressive chewers will chomp on their bones rather then gnaw them and so these type of chews are not appropriate for them.

Keep it Fresh!  Rotate your Toys!

Don’t forget to rotate your dog’s toys. For instance, have nine toys but rotate them three at a time.  This will keep them fun and new each time a new toy comes back out.

Many rescue dogs have missed out on that critical socialization period and don’t know how to play.  They’ll need your help in discovering this new world of play.  We recommend reading Positive Trainer Pat Miller’s book – Play With Your Dog (A Dogwise Training Manual).  It’s a great read full of wonderful training tips.