Dog Play: How to Keep Your Dog Physically and Mentally Active

dog-play

Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation to be optimally healthy and well-balanced. And dog play and walking are two ways to keep your dog engaged, i.e., they are necessary fun.

Have you ever wondered how to keep your dog physically and mentally active? Introducing dog play to your dog’s daily routine is a fun and engaging way to contribute to your furry friend’s wellbeing. Here’s a list of activities that can help your dog stay healthy and have fun:

  • Fetch games for extra exercise.
  • Tug games when you are tired.
  • Treat-release toys for break-time. 
  • Frozen treats that will surprise your dog.
  • Digging adventures with no fuss.
  • Spice up your dog walks.
  • Teach your dog new tricks.

Let’s discover the benefits of having a physically and mentally stimulated dog.

Dog Play Activities

Here are some activities and props to help you interact in a fun, positive way with your dog while simultaneously keeping her mind sharp:

#1 – Fetch Games for Extra Exercise

Fetch toys are highly interactive, which makes them ideal for playtime with your dog. It’s also a great exercise to bond with your dog!

Many puppies love fetching balls or catching frisbees. Others love to chase after soft toys. And some dogs love things that bounce around unpredictably, making them more challenging to go after.

On How to Choose a Dog Toy blog post, I go through the steps to help you select the right toy for your pooch.

As Dominic Hodgson says, “You want to discover what your dog’s kryptonite is”, i.e. which toys she loves the most, then let your dog play with her favourite ones during playtime session. It will be a great reward for her!

DOG
GROUPS
BREEDS SENSE, INSTINCTGAME, ACTIVITY, TOY
The
HoundGroup
Beagles,
Dachshunds
and
Bassets.
Scent
tracking
and prey
sighting.
Puzzle toys,
chase
or fetch.
The
Herding
Group
Collies,
Shepherds,
Corgis and
Heelers.
Protecting
livestock.
Flying disc,
herding,
obedience
and agility.
The
TerrierGroup
Jack Russells,
Scotties,
Staffordshires,
Airedales, etc.
Pest control.Tug, digging,
puzzles
and
obedience.
The
Non-Sporting
Group
Bichons Frises,
Boston Terriers,
Dalmatians,
Poodles,
Lhasa Apsos,
Bulldogs,
Shiba Inus, etc.
No longer
perform
the duties for which
they were
originally
bred.
Varies
depending
on the
dog’s breed.
The
Sporting
Group
Pointers, Setters,
Retrievers,
Vizslas, etc.
Hunting dogs:
finding,
pointing,
flushing,
holding and
retrieving
game.
Fetch, swimming,
walking and hiking.
Also, therapy dogs, assistance dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
The
Working
Group
Alaskan Malamutes,
Siberian Huskies
Boxers, Akitas,
Doberman Pinschers,
Mastiffs,
Great Danes,
Dogues de Bordeaux,
Rottweilers,
Saint Bernards, etc.
Performing specific tasks for their owners.Obedience
and agility.
The
Toy
Group
Pekingese,
Maltese,
Chihuahuas,
Miniature Pinschers,Papillons, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, etc.
Companion.Squeaky toys, tricks and games.

So, what’s it going to be?

*Note: the links above will take you to Amazon.

Check out my dog toy finder to see which toy will suit your dog the best.

dog-play-fetch-frisbee

#2 – Tug Games When You are Tired

Interactive dog toys like tug toys require your participation, which makes them great fun for your dog. Also, tug games are a great way to tire your dog out and guarantee a quiet night sleep, without you having to move from the sofa.

Suppose you are too busy to be fully engaged in playing with your dog, you can even play tug with one hand while talking on the phone.

Tug toys don’t have to cost much, either; you can use a rope toy-like in the photo below. In fact, anything with two ends or two sides will do!

Note: When playing tug, move the toy from top to bottom, or vice-versa. However, don’t move it side to side since this encourages aggressive behaviour. If playing tug-of-war with your dog becomes over-stimulating or aggressive, you should avoid it until you correct this behaviour.

dog-play-tug-with-rope

#3 – Treat-Release Toys for Break-Time 

This is the new trend with dog owners who have a busy life and also appreciate new effective ways to keep their dogs engaged.

Toys that hold healthy treats or food are a great way to challenge your dog’s mind. Some examples are:

  • Dog treat dispensers like Kongs.*
  • Dog treat dispensers with a camera if you also want to keep an eye on your dog. Furbo* is a great example of this.
  • Dog puzzles* where you can hide treats.

*Note: the links above will take you to Amazon.

Use the guide in my favourite dog toys for a complete range of toy option depending on breed traits and preferences.

Some people even feed their dog’s entire meals out of kongs or similar toys to slow them down while simultaneously engaging their brains. These type of toys are also a good idea when you need to leave your dog home alone for a few hours. So she can keep herself occupied with it, instead of your shoes!

For more ideas about healthy treats, check our High-value dog treats blog post.

dog-play-treat-release-toy

#4 – Frozen Treats that will Surprise Your Dog

Frozen treats offer your dog a novel distraction because they require her to work at them while offering a different texture and complexity that will engage her brain. Also, you will keep her cool from the inside out during hot weather.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Some superfoods like blueberries make a great frozen treat.
  • Another species-appropriate frozen treat you can make very easily at home is bone broth cubes.
  • You can make ice cubes with tasty treats inside.
  • Also, you can fill and freeze a chew toy like kongs to make a chilly meal.
dog-play-reward-treat

#5 – Digging Adventures with No Fuss

If your dog is a digger, you can engage her mind and distract her with a digging box full of sand – sandbox (Amazon link). You can bury chew toys (Amazon link) in it for her to find.

These could be a weekend DIY project for you and your family or a quick order online thing. Whatever works best for you.

However, if you want to keep your garden intact, or you don’t have a garden, you might want to encourage her sniffing and digging adventures away from home, for example, at the beach!

dog-digging-adventures-beach

#6 – Spice up Your Dog Walks 

Taking walks with your dog is a great way to introduce movement in both of your lives. Moreover, your dog needs a change of pace and scenery just like you do, so you could vary the purpose of your walks with her.

For example, along with potty walks which are quick and serve a purpose, take long walks which are mentally stimulating as they allow your dog to stop, explore, sniff, socialize and exercise.

You can also mix in some power walks to help her get the aerobic exercise she needs for good cardiovascular health. Additionally, you should also combine training walks, which can be about improving lead manners – if your dog still pulls on the lead.

For more about dog walks and how much exercise your dog needs, check our How often should I walk my dog? blog post.

dog-walks-alternatives-with-lead

#7 – Teach Your Dog New Tricks 

Don’t stop training your dog when she reaches her golden years… actually, never stop training your dog 🙂

Senior dogs can definitely still learn new tricks. The only difference is they may take just a little bit longer to learn them. But be patient and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. So don’t let that brain go to rust! A dog’s brain never loses its ability to learn new things so long as you give it a chance.

They say that the tricks and skills many dogs can learn are limited only by their owners’ imagination.

There’s nothing better than learning new things to keep your dog’s mind sharp throughout her life. Plus, training sessions also strengthen the bond you share with her.

The brain is like a muscle – if you don’t challenge it, it won’t grow! That’s why the best way to keep your dog mentally active and smarter is by teaching her special and new “brain games.” 

Brain games are fun games that you can play with your dog to teach her new skills and increase her intelligence. If you want to teach your dog new tricks in a fun and highly rewarding way, check my favourite training method.

Dog Play Benefits for Both of You

Walking time as well as playtime benefits both you and your dog.

On one hand, it’s a known fact that humans will release oxytocin, also called the “love hormone”, whilst playing with their dog. Human and animal studies have shown that oxytocin plays a role in bonding, and when this hormone gets released in your brain during certain types of human or animal contact, it has the effect of bonding you to the other person or animal involved.

On the other hand, with the right mental stimulation and training, your dog’s brain will become more open and receptive to learning new information. Your dog will listen to you and better understand what you are telling her to do. When this happens, your dog’s bad behaviours simply fade away as more desirable ones appear in their place.

As a result, more intelligent dogs are better behaved and more obedient! The main reason is that a more intelligent dog has the capacity to more easily take commands and understand what you need from her, and she will want to spend time with you because you are her main source of fun, and this will strengthen your bond.

In the same way that a child tends to misbehave and cause trouble when bored, dogs tend to be the same when they are not stimulated intellectually.

When you stimulate your dog’s mind correctly with a very specific set of games…

  • Your dog’s problem behaviours can fade away.
  • Your dog will be better behaved and more obedient.
  • Your dog’s ability to learn will skyrocket.
  • Your dog’s temperament will improve.
  • Your bond with your dog will become stronger.
  • Your dog’s health will improve.

P.S. For more ideas, check our Dog Exercise Indoors and Dog Exercise Outdoors blog posts.

dog-play-brain-games

Related Questions

  1. How do I keep my older dog active?

    You can do everything that I mentioned in this post even if your dog is older. She might need more time to learn new tricks and you might need to be more patient with her, but that shouldn't stop either of you.

    Older dogs need exercise too, just check with your vet to make sure that you are not overexerting her, especially is she's got a health condition. If you want to know more about dog care, check out our The 5 pillars to a happy and healthy dog blog post.

  2. How can I keep my dog active when it is too hot or too cold?

    You don't always have to be outdoors to keep your dog mentally stimulated; playing indoors is a great and sometimes better option. As for the physical stimulation, you can still take walks, but you just need to pay closer attention to the weather. To answer this question in more detail, check our Dog care during vacations blog post.

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