This puppy is learning through puppy play.

Puppy Play: Best Games for Building Skills


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Not only is puppy play cute, it’s a reservoir of untapped energy that can be used to teach pup new lessons. Can you think of anything better than converting your pup’s zoomies into fine motor skills and dog obedience? And while you’re busy playing, you and your pup get to bond.

Sound good? Here are the best games to turn puppy play into time well spent…

Is puppy play important?

Like many baby mammals, puppies learn through play, which is why it’s so important. Playing is a key part of their physical and mental development. So while it looks hilariously cute when puppies tug, twist, leap, and dash, they’re actually building muscles strength and dexterity. Neat, huh?

Plus, puppy play is a natural way for pup to regulate its body weight, reducing the risk of pet obesity. Which can result in diabetes in dogs.

Mentally, puppy play has an important role in keeping pup calm. Playtime is an outlet for burning up energy and stress. Therefore, using play to develop pup’s social skills and obedience is a solution where everyone benefits. The result is a happier, calmer, and better-behaved pup.

Research shows regular playtime can reduce the chance of as many as 22 dog behavioural issues. Besides bonding, skill-building and mental and physical development, playing with pup builds their confidence too.. And this includes having playtime with other dogs.

If you have human children, you’ll know the special sort of calm children get from playing with other children. Likewise, there are some runs, jumps, and tugs which dogs do best with other pooches.

Playing with other dogs is also a great opportunity for your pup to learn dog body language. This is an essential skill to prevent the ‘dog bites dog’ scenario.

Dog parks, dog beaches, doggy daycare and puppy schools are all great ways for pup to bond with other dogs.

What are the best puppy games to play?

The ultimate puppy games happen to be simple ones. All that’s needed is a toy or prop, some spare time and you (and maybe also a coffee). P.S want to buy toys your dog will never outgrow? Find out what your pup’s adult dog size will be.

Here are three top games for puppy to play, learn and grow: 

1. Teach you puppy to fetch

This pooch is burning up excess energy and learning skills through puppy play.

Fetch can be one of pup’s favourite games and yours. It’s a game which gives pup a chance to run, turn and seek, building strength and toning muscle dexterity. Plus, you can stand on the spot and drink your coffee while pup burns up boundless energy. As long as they bring the fetch object back to you!

Dogs love this game so much, that through the ages humans have bred them for their fetch and retrieve skills. Hunting and working dog breeds are especially known for this. 

Playing fetch will result in a fitter, healthier, stronger and – most of all – calmer pup.

While fetch has endless benefits, remember to play this game in moderation and in safe spaces. Here’s why:

  • Long periods of fetch can put stress on a young pup’s growing soft tissues, muscles and ligaments.
  • Too much of a good thing can be bad, and that includes playing fetch with your dog. Prevent dog OCD with shorter sessions and use intervals to mix things up.
  • If you have a dog with aggressive tendencies, seriously consider taking them to a behaviourist and/or ensuring they’re well-trained before playing in public spaces.
  • When it’s time to stop playing, use these puppy training tips to keep pup focused and behaved.

2. Play the shadow game

This pup is learning the shadow game.

Taking pup on walks is sooooo much easier once they’ve learnt the shadow game. While Google is chockas with the video game of the same name, when we say shadow game, we’re talking about your dog shadowing you.

This is a super cute game, and once you and pup get it right, you’ll feel like a proud new parent. Not to mention experiencing the surge of unconditional love that comes from a little pawed shadow by your side.

Here’s how to teach your pup the shadow:

  1. Put your pup’s lead on (here’s our guide to dog leashes and leads)
  2. Start walking around your garden or house
  3. When your pup comes to you, give them a treat to say well done
  4. Each time they dash off ahead of you, turn and go in the opposite direction and put a treat on the ground
  5. While pup eats that treat, take some steps to increase the distance
  6. When they catch up to you, you can positively reinforce this with another treat

With a bit of practice the shadow game can become more complex. You can increase the pace, change the directions more suddenly or use an obstacle to test your little shadow’s focus.

Playing this game will reinforce the idea that following you closely leads to good things, making walks in public spaces easy as pie. You might want to skill up on how to teach your puppy to walk on a lead too.

3. Find hidden treats and toys

This pup has found a hidden treat.

Not only is finding hidden treats and toys mentally stimulating for pup – it also uses a pup’s sense of smell. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000–100,000 times as strong as a person’s. That’s a wealth of olfactory cognition. To be precise, a dog has up to 300 million smell receptors (we have six million)!

You can see how invaluable finding treats and toys can be. You’re engaging one of your dog’s most highly evolved senses, which for pup is enormously satisfying. Another boon of this game is that it can slow down mealtime and regulate the speed your dog eats at. Use an interactive dog feeding toy or hide treats around the house.

These games will also keep pooch occupied at intervals when you’re out. Nothing like some tasty hard-to-find snacks to keep a pup happy and stave off separation anxiety in pets.

Affordable pet insurance for dogs

Dog insurance needn’t cost an arm and a leg. PD offers three affordable pet plans which help reduce the cost of maintaining your pet’s health. So you can play all the games your puppy needs without being distracted by financial worries.

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