Those of us who own a dog are well aware of the responsibility that comes with a pet. For starters, you have to feed him, take him to the vet when he’s ill and take him out for a walk at least once a day. You have to groom him, bathe him and clean up after him. If you go on holiday, you have to decide if you’re going to take him along with you, let a friend or relative babysit him or put him in kennels.
It’s easy to appreciate that some dog owners may feel that they don’t have the time or the energy to play with their pet, and are more inclined to leave him with a chew toy than entertain him in the garden. The fact is that playtime is hugely important to your relationship with your dog. Many games you can play provide the structure that helps you communicate better with him, and gives him a great opportunity to learn to respect your position as the ‘pack leader’. Exercise and playing games also relieve boredom in your dog; many dog psychologists agree that boredom is the root cause of many behavioural problems such as excessive barking, chewing furniture, digging and escaping. A great side effect of playing games with your dog is that it will provide you with a mental boost too. Let’s look at five great games to play with your pet.
Find the toy
This is a great game to play, and gives you an opportunity to teach your dog to stay when commanded. It’s pretty straightforward, and doesn’t require much effort on your part; you get your pet to sit, and then go off and hide his favourite toy. When commanded, he can go and find it. This has the advantage of being suitable for playing both in the house and outdoors and, if you reward him with a scratch behind the ear or a treat, this will positively enforce his obedient behaviour.
Fetch is easy – chuck a stick or a ball, and get your pooch to bring it back to you – but it’s easy to knock it up a notch by teaching your dog to fetch certain objects. It’s best to start off with a few toys, such as a rope, a bone or a ball, and ask for them by name. When he’s gotten the hang of it, you can begin teaching him the names for other things, such as his lead, his water bowl or his food dish. If you’re lazy and don’t mind slobber, you can teach him to fetch the TV remote control.
You may associate this activity with sun-kissed Californian beaches and bandana wearing dogs making spectacular leaps to catch the Frisbee thrown by a blonde surfer dude, but anyone can play this – whether from California or Rochdale. This activity will stimulate your dog’s prey drive – its natural instinct to chase small animals – and is more challenging than fetching a ball.
Some dogs are bred for a particular purpose as a working dog, but their status as a pet means that they do not get to indulge in their instincts. It’s not only breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs or Australian Cattle Dogs that love to pull – many other dogs do too. If this is a game you wish to play with your dog, it’s wise to invest in a proper cart and harness to ensure that it fits your pet and does not cause it any discomfort. Pulling can be a great game to play with your dog if you have children who wish to ride in the cart, but if you do this, constant supervision is required.
This is a great game to play if you are not very mobile. You can start off with simple commands, such as ‘sit’, or ‘lie down’, and when your dog gets the hang of these, you can start to branch out. You can get him to roll over, beg, stand on his hind legs or any number of things you can think of.
Having a dog is a lot of work, but immensely rewarding. Playing games with him makes it even more so; it can be part of his obedience training and can provide you both with exercise. More than this, your dog will love even more.