Puppy Play: How Dogs Play And The Toys They Love
Your dog loves to play. This is a simple truth about dogs, but many new dog owners struggle to differentiate between healthy play and the start of a fight – and that can be frightening at first.
Luckily, by learning how dogs play and how to read their body language, you can help your dog find more enjoyment in life while steering clear of danger.
If your dog is adopted fairly young and is a solo pet, you need to prioritize their socialization, but do so carefully. Typically puppy siblings and parents teach younger dogs playtime etiquette, and without that feedback, they may push boundaries when they encounter other dogs. This is often because they don’t recognize the signals that their approach is unwelcome. They’ve never had a chance to learn.
You can help your dog learn the rules of play by signing up for a puppy playtime class, inviting over friends’ dogs to play, or visiting the dog park while keeping a close eye on your pet.
Additionally, when you play with your dog on your own, be clear about your own boundaries. While you won’t demonstrate the same body language as another dog, of course, you can still put a stop to things if your dog starts being aggressive, demonstrating guarding behaviours, or attempting to dominate the activity.
Positives And Warning Signs
It’s important to learn to read your dog’s body language during play to ensure things are on the right track. Dogs that are happily playing together take turns just like people do, exaggerate their body language the way you might when talking to children, and even bow to each other. On the other hand, dogs who feel anxious or threatened will lunge at each other, snap, and show their teeth. If you see any of those signs, it’s time to separate the dogs immediately.
Get Great Toys
Toys can’t teach your dog how to play, but they can provide a lot of valuable enrichment, keeping your dog entertained and engaged. With so many toys on the market, though, which ones should you choose?
There are many different types of dog toys, ranging from those meant for aggressive chewers to softer, cuddlier toys to balls and other items meant for fetching. Don’t worry too much about the fanciest options, though.
These are some of the most popular options for dogs of all sizes and temperaments:
- Kong for Every Dog: Kong treat toys come in different sizes so you can pick the perfect one for your dog and they’re great for encouraging problem solving, giving your dog a treat – try filling it with peanut butter and popping it in the freezer, and they’re nearly indestructible. Use it as a chew toy, for crate training, fetch, and everything in between.
- Figure 8 Rope Toy for Tough Tuggers: Tug of war is a great game for dogs of all sizes, but larger, stronger dogs can do a number on smaller toys. The Figure 8 Rope has a strong rubber middle holding the thick loop of rope for those long battles.
- Chuckit! for the Fetch Professional: Some dogs will play fetch for hours without slowing down, but that can be hard on your arms. The Chuckit! Dog Ball Thrower is designed to make throwing easier, comes in different sizes so you can choose the right one for your dog, and includes a scooping end so you can avoid the slobber when your dog brings their ball back.
Dogs are ultimately quite simple when it comes to their play preferences, and some want nothing more than a stick, a ball, and a stuffed animal, while others will tear apart almost every toy they encounter.
Try different things and explore new forms of play with your dog. Even if a toy is a total flop, you’ll both have a great time testing it out together.