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Puppy Games—Learning Through Play

Ridgeback Pup“A tired puppy is a happy puppy.”  Most dog professionals will tout it as their mantra. Wear a puppy out through play and exercise; they won’t be inclined to destroy things. This is true for most dogs, but play for puppies is not only good exercise, it is necessary for developing a happy, well socialized, confident dog. Various puppy games also determine hierarchy in the pack and show the puppy where she falls in the ranks. That being said, there are some development games certain dogs (determined by temperament– NOT breed) should avoid.

Physical Activities

It doesn’t take much to get a puppy’s sillies out. Fetch is often a good combination of physical and mental exercise for any dog. It establishes the owner as the pack leader, the puppy fetches the ball and brings it back to the leader.

Sometimes a simple walk could prove to be stimulating. Sights, smells, senses shift and change each day, sometimes several times during the day.  An owner may sigh with boredom walking the same route for the fourth time that day, but to a dog it’s brand new all over again.

Mental Stimulation

Puppy brains, if not properly exercised, will begin to waste away, literally. All dogs need mental stimuli to keep their brains healthy. If proper stimulation isn’t available, then a dog won’t develop healthy socialization habits and lose their optimistic outlook on life.

One of the best games to play is hide and seek. The first few times the owner should hide somewhere that is easy for the dog to find, until they get the idea. While secured in the hiding place, call the dog.  Once he finds the one hiding, praise him—a lot!

Find the treat—An old game with a new twist. Hide a treat under a cup, shuffle two or three empty cups with the one hiding the treat, let the dog find the treat.

An excellent brain stimulator is– training. Whether it is basic obedience, advanced obedience, scent detection or mere party tricks, training will keep a dog alert and aware of his surroundings.

Games to Avoid

If an owner is living with a dominant personality, games like tug-o-war and wrestling should be avoided at all costs. These types of games encourage the dominant personality to challenge the pack leader for control. It isn’t a fun game for them; it is a fight they want to win. If they do win, then the dominant dog will believe they have control and things will go quickly downhill from there. This is not breed specific, this is purely by temperament. There are dominant personalities in every breed, mixed or otherwise. Don’t let the size of the package fool. A Yorkshire Terrier could take control of a pack just as easily as a full grown Rottweiler. It’s been known to happen and it’s not pretty.

Whether it is structured game time every day, a quick game of fetch after work or a weekend full of brain teasing toys, every dog needs the opportunity to flex their brain. It keeps them happy and saves another pair of expensive shoes from meeting a tragic end.

 

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Written by Renee Moen
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