Although there are some dog breeds that are more passive than others, all dogs need to be exercised in order to stay healthy. Unfortunately, many people have very busy lifestyles and daily walks or outings aren’t always possible.
But regardless of time constraints, while walks might not happen - it’s important to have some play-time with your four-legged friend every day. Not only is this crucial for bonding, but it has some amazing benefits for both of you.
The professional recommendation is that we play with our dogs for fifteen minutes twice a day.
Before we talk about the benefits of playing with your dog, there are two games that we recommend you avoid:
Avoid wrestle play and teasing
Although wrestling play between us and our dogs can be fun, it often results in high emotions and a lack of inhibition. The playstyles used in wrestling are also used in serious fights, and while this style of play is generally fine between dogs, it can create some real danger with people.
While we will always see our dogs as the adorable puppies they are, regardless of their size or strength, we need to keep in mind that when we play rough with them, or a child plays rough with them, they are still an excited predator with a mouth full of teeth.
If you chase your dog you risk teaching them that a game is about to happen. Meaning that whenever you approach them, regardless of the reason, they are more likely to run away from you – ruining their recall. A great way to combat this is by having them chase you instead.
Not many animal species play, and dogs – as well as humans - are part of the very few that actually play all the way into adulthood. Which explains why we’ve been best friends for thousands of years! Many older dogs only stop playing because they don’t have someone who will play with them.
The Benefits Of Play
The benefits of having a dog in our lives have been proven many times over, from professionally trained therapy dogs to the golden oldie lapdog you adopted from the shelter. They all have amazing benefits to our wellbeing and mental state.
They also encourage us to relax and play more often! Playtime with our pooch is not only for their enjoyment, but we also get amazing benefits from it too
Play improves mental health
Games are a great way to keep your dogs’ brain healthy and sharp. It encourages them to think critically and let their dog instincts kick in for a little while.
It also provides a healthy distraction for us humans and allows us to let go of stress and have fun for a few minutes of the day. The same way exercise is an aid in keeping our minds healthy, playing with our dogs can get our heart rates up and clear the mental fog we so often sit with.
When we find ourselves in a slump, getting up and going is often the last thing we want to do, but it may be what we need most, and while we may not find it necessary to get moving for ourselves, we are more likely to do it for our best friend.
Play helps with physical health
Not only is physical activity good for their overall health and weight, but it also helps burn the energy your dog has built up while you’re at work, improves their coordination, and burns excess calories to prevent weight gain or to encourage weight loss.
Playtime does exactly the same for us! It creates an opportunity to burn off extra calories, maintain our fitness and improve general coordination. It’s recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, and we can think of no better way to keep fit and strong than with our dogs by our side.
Play reduces stress
It’s no secret that exercise and fun are natural stress relievers, so combining the two is a simple way to improve both you and your dog’s overall mood. Studies have found that spending time with your dog can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Adding in a couple of quick play sessions each day can have a big effect on both you and your dog’s overall mood
Play improves social skills
Whether it’s going to the park to play a game of fetch or taking your dog to the neighbourhood playground, chances are you and your dog will meet some new people along the way.
Studies found that being a pet owner was the third most common way that people meet people in their neighbourhoods, and that pet owners were 60% more likely to get to know people in their neighbourhood that they didn’t know before.
When we get down to it, there is just no reason NOT to play with your furry friend, so make sure you carve out time each day for a couple of quick play sessions!