Playtime with Your Puppy is Serious Business
Playing with your new puppy is so much fun, giving both of you the chance to exercise, unwind and bond with each other. Playtime is also at the very heart of your dog’s early training.
"Play-and-learn" games are perfect for exercising your puppy’s mind as well as their muscles.
Toys vs Temptations: Teach Your Puppy the Difference
Have an assortment of pet toys available for your puppy, and always keep these toys separate from other items that your puppy might try to chew on – like your shoes and socks or your kids’ toys.
Get your puppy used to the idea of playing with their own special toys, and this will help to prevent bad habits like chewing on shoes and other “off-limits” items in your home.
Give your puppy a choice of age-appropriate and size-appropriate toys to play with, such as:
- Teething toys: Puppies start teething at around 4 months old, and will need age-appropriate chew toys during this time. Textured chewy toys will massage tender gums and discourage your puppy from chewing things they shouldn’t. Ask your vet for advice on the right size of teething toys for your puppy’s breed and age. Avoid toys with small parts that can be chewed off, and always follow the safety guidelines on the packaging.
- Hollow rubber toys: These toys are made from a firm rubber that can withstand all sorts of rough play and chewing. Make sure you choose the right size for your puppy’s mouth.
- Rope toys: These are good for a variety of games including tug-of-war and shaking. Once the toy becomes frayed and stringy, replace it – you don’t want your puppy swallowing strings of fibres.
- Soft and durable stuffed toys: These make great comfort toys, which your dog might “bond” with and enjoy keeping with them while they sleep. When choosing a comfort toy for your puppy, avoid those with parts that could easily come off, like ribbons, bells or googly eyes.
- Balls: A must-have for playing fetch. Choose a lightweight ball with a good bounce, in a size suitable for your puppy’s mouth.
The Best Play-and-Learn Games for Puppies
Puppies are often energetic and will enjoy active games, but start off slowly and be sure not to over-exert them. Play sessions should last a few minutes at a time, and end before your puppy gets bored. This means they’ll be more excited to play again later.
Here are a few games to play with your puppy:
- Chase games/ fetch games: Toss a ball or toy, and show your puppy how to chase and retrieve it. This is a fun active game that teaches puppies to focus and follow instructions. Use a small, lightweight toy that’s the right size for your puppy’s mouth. Avoid anything too heavy, or any items with rough surfaces (like sticks).
- Hide-and-seek: Play this with a friend or family member; one of you distracts the puppy while the other hides somewhere nearby. Once you’re hidden, call out to your puppy to come and find you. Say your puppy’s name every few seconds, until they find where you’re hiding. You can also hide a toy or treat and get your puppy to sniff it out.
- Tug-of-war: Puppies love a good tug-of-war game over a rope toy or rubber toy. Keep it gentle, especially if your puppy hasn’t got their adult teeth yet. You can use tug-of-war sessions as opportunities to practise commands like “drop it” or “let go”.
As your puppy gets older and more accustomed to playtime, you can consider something a little more advanced, like joining a training club with other puppies in their age group. Your vet will be happy to give you details of puppy training schools and facilities in your area, and can also recommend some reputable training books or websites.