The Importance of Play

How you play with your dog (and how you don't) makes a big difference in how your dog behaves, both in and out of play sessions. Play can enhance your relationship, increase your dog's willingness to do what you ask, teach emotional control, and in general make life a lot more fun.

However, inappropriate play can teach bad habits and create dogs who are emotionally out of control. So make sure you stay in charge of the play session and stop immediately if your dog gets too excited or bites.

Many games with your dog will involve toys. Some of your dog's toys should be of hollow, indestructible rubber into which you can stuff food (they are called Kongs). These are great at keeping your dog occupied when you don't have the time to play with your dog.

Have plenty of toys around, but only leave 3 or 4 out at any one time, and rotate in some 'new' toys every week, even though you bought them months ago.

Although all dogs should have toys they can play with by themselves, the best kind of play is interactive play with you. It's not only fun for both of you, it's full of opportunities for your dog to learn and become more responsive and better able to control him or herself when being emotionally aroused. It's also a great way to enhance the bond between you and your dog.

You can play games such as fetch and hide and seek together.

Teaching tricks

Teaching tricks is another wonderful way to play with your dog. Trick training has the advantage of feeling silly and fun for both of you,

while still teaching your dog that it's fun to pay attention.

Tricks are also great mental exercise, and dogs need mental exercise as much as they need physical exercise.

The tricks you can teach your dog are limited only by your dog's physical condition and your imagination. You can teach your dog to sit pretty, to take a bow, roll over, shake or even close a door.

There's no reason not to think of sit and lie down as tricks too, and that might be a good thing. People seem to be more relaxed and cheerful when they are teaching their dogs 'tricks' rather than 'obedience'. They also have more realistic expectations about tricks, rather than expecting their dogs to obey out of respect and submission.

Remember, you get back what you put in. If you want your dog to be enthusiastic, then be sure to be enthusiastic yourself.

Good dogs are made not born, and they rely on you to be their coaches, supporters and benevolent leaders. So for a long, wonderful life for both you and your dog, keep practising and playing together to forge the relationship you want.

Sourced from


© 2014 Sydney All Breeds Dog Club. Since 1956.