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Why Is It Important to Play With Your Dog?

Making sure your dog has a consistent exercise routine is so important for your dog’s long-term physical health. However, did you know that just like humans, pets need mental stimulation also? Playing games with your dog is a great way to keep your dog physically active, mentally stimulated, socialised, and well-behaved. Read on to find out the ‘do’s’ and ‘don'ts’ when playing.

Benefits of Play

As aforementioned, playing with your pet can provide mental enrichment and physical exercise. These are both equally important to keeping your dog healthy. However, did you know that play can also help you bond with your dog and up their socialising skills? Keep reading to find out how.

Mental Enrichment

We all know how important physical exercise is for dogs, however, mental exercise often goes overlooked.

Did you know that dogs experience stress and anxiety just like us? Playing games with your dog is a great way for them (and you) to decompress, helping them to keep their mental health healthy.

Repeatedly engaging your dog in stimulating games, can also help them improve their cognitive skills, their behaviour towards humans (and other dogs), and reduce destructive habits, keeping their minds sharp and focussed.

Physical Exercise

As you know, dogs require regular exercise to stay healthy. Whilst dog walks provide a great way to exercise your dog, play can offer a more fun way of additional physical exertion that will allow your dog to release any pent-up energy.

Games are a great way to improve and sustain your dog’s coordination, balance, and joint health.

Even just playing for 5 – 10 minutes can make a huge difference to their physical health.


One of the greatest benefits of playing with your dog is how much it strengthens your bond between them. Having the opportunity to have fun one-on-one time with pets. Even just 5 minutes a day can help strengthen your bond with them.

Not only will it improve your bond, but it will also help your dog to respect you, by setting boundaries and reinforcing the idea that you are the bringer of fun!

Social Skills

When your dog plays with you, other dogs and/or other people, it can also help them improve their social skills.

Play can help provide basic skills and help them to respect boundaries and build trust with people and animals.

Ways to Play With Your Dog?

There are many different ways to play with your dog and provide mental stimulation, here are a few of our favourite ways:


Fetch is a brilliant way to train your dog's obedience and retrieval skills whilst providing both physical and mental exercise.

You can also incorporate commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘drop’ in a fun way, reinforcing previous training.

Brain Games

  • Food-Dispensing Toys

Dispensing toys are also a quick and easy way to keep your dog entertained and provide mental stimulation.

Food dispensing toys are toys that contain food that requires your dog to work out how to obtain the food, such as a ‘kong’.

Toys such as a kong, also give your dog the chance to use their natural scavenging abilities and slow down feeding.

  • Puzzles

Similarly, to food dispensing toys, puzzles are another easy way to provide your dog with extra mental stimulation. A whole range of puzzles are available on the market, we suggest starting with simpler puzzles and working their way up.

Puzzles are also a great way to relieve boredom in your dog when you are busy working or carrying out household chores.

Search Games

  • Hide and Seek

Playing a game of hiding and seek is a fun interactive game you can play with your dog that is both mentally stimulating and improves the bonding between you and your pet. It can also enforce the stay command and lets your dog use their natural scent tracking abilities in a fun way.

How to play?

- Have your dog sit in a stay position (or have a friend hold the if their stay command isn’t enforced yet)

- Find a hiding spot

- Call your dog

- Praise them when they find you

  • Find the Toy or Treat

Search games where your dog has to look for a treat or toy that has been hidden are great mental exercises. Games like this require your dog to think, which is a great way to sharpen their senses.

It also enforces them to use nose work, again using their scent tracking and scavenging abilities.

One easy way to challenge your dog’s mind is to play a simple nose work game called find the treats. Finding the treats is easy to play with, and it’s a fun way for dogs to use some of their natural sniffing and scavenging abilities.

What to Avoid?

When playing games with your dog, the most important thing to remember is that you're the boss! You decide what games are to be played, set the rules and decide when to stop. This helps your dog respect you as the ‘pack leader’ whilst stopping your dog from getting overly excited or aggressive.

Playtime tips:

  • Avoid games such as wrestling, or tug-of-war as these games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behaviour.

  • When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward them when they understand. Rewards don’t have to be just food related - they could be cuddles, praise, or playing with their favourite toy.

  • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.

  • Incorporate commands, such as sit, stay and drop, in every game.

  • If your dog can’t pick on the game, start over, or leave the game for another day. Playtime should be a fun experience for both you and your dog.

When Is It Time To Stop?

It is crucial to maintain control the entire time. If your dog is getting over-excited, growling, biting, or becoming aggressive, stop the game and show them this behaviour isn’t allowed. Similarly, if they are behaving well, reward them for this behaviour.

Be aware not to take it too far. If your dog seems tired or suddenly stops playing, they may be fatigued/ over tired, or even injured. Play with caution!

If you suspect an injury in your dog, contact us to make an appointment for your dog on 0208 459 4729 today.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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