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Playing with your pups is a fun activity, but did you know it also has benefits for them? Not only does playtime relieve stress and boredom, but it also provides them with physical, mental and social enrichment. Here are some major reasons why play is important for your canine companion.
The most obvious benefit that playtime has for your dog is physical exercise. Every dog needs some type of exercise and play is a great way to give them that. It’s an especially good way to supplement your dog’s activity if you’re having trouble getting him or her sufficient exercise each day. Games like tug-of-war, fetch and chase are higher-energy and will provide them with a good amount of exercise (maybe enough to tire them out!).
Not only does play provide your dog with physical exercise, but it also provides him or her with mental stimulation. These games, known as “brain games,” are an effective and fun way to add enrichment to your dog’s life. They also relieve boredom, which can prevent destructive and undesirable behavior. Good brain games include puzzle toys, stuffed toys or Kongs, sniffing toys like a snuffle mat and other hiding games.
To elaborate on that last point, playing with your dog helps relieve his or her boredom. This is actually one of the biggest benefits that play has for your pup. When your dog is bored, he or she may resort to less-than-desirable behaviors like excessive barking or chewing. Play will keep your dog busy and give them something meaningful to do, which will in turn decrease undesirable behaviors.
Play is also a great way to train your dog and it’s fun! You can use playtime to work on basic training and improving manners. For example, you can teach your dog to fetch, come and drop. Playing can also help your dog pick up social cues from as well as learn how to control their impulses. For instance, playing a game of tug-of-war can teach your dog how to use their mouth, how to be gentle with it and not play too rough.
Last but certainly not least, playing with your dog is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between you two. You’re spending quality time and having fun together. Scientists believe that, during domestication, the dog's playful trait was preserved through natural selection and this was key in creating emotionally-based bonds between humans and canines. When you think about it, dogs and humans are two different mammal species that can play together as adults. This doesn’t happen often in nature and that makes the bond with our dogs even more special.