What a strange thing to suggest! Playing with your dog is something we all do, isn’t it?
You’d be amazed how many pet dogs sit alone for long periods of the day, then get fed, and sit on a cosy sofa or lap for the evening, and that’s their daily lives. They may get a walk, they may not. ‘They are too old’, people say. ‘They never pick up their toys’.
In fact, a lot of play is social. This means that whilst some dogs when younger might fling their toys about and chew most things around them, this wears off after a while.
The novelty value of items fades, the longer the dog has access to them. Toys get put into the toy basket and lose their interest.
Playing is such a great activity because it’s really useful for teaching lessons. Our dogs learn to be gentle, to calm down after the excitement of the game. Play is mentally stimulating, leaving the dog tired as a result. Not the sort of tired we get from flopping onto the settee after a day at work. The exhilarating tiredness that we might get after playing on a bouncy castle, or winning the latest round of Call of Duty.
Here’s a few tips on how to wake up the play instinct and get a happier dog.
Firstly, pick a toy they enjoy. Hard rubber toys aren’t usually fun but softer ones can be wriggled about and made to ‘come alive’. Of course, if you know your dog is likely to grab and not let go, or shred it and swallow the contents without giving the toy back, then choose a stronger one. Pick a time when your dog is looking for mischief, or is excited about something else such as you coming home.
Keep the toy low to the ground and wiggle it about, moving it away from your dog. Imagine how a running rabbit might dart away, and get the toy to mimic that movement. If you decide to use a squeaky toy, only use the squeak part once or twice. Apart from the sound being annoying to us humans, it tends to switch the dog off rather than on.
To get the toy back if your dog has decided they really want it, have some treats ready. Tiny bits of sausage or chicken (or other meat, as long as your dog isn’t allergic to it). Swap the toy for some of these goodies, and you can continue the game.
Long before your dog gets fed up, swap the toy for a treat and put it away out of reach. This will keep it exciting and new for next playtime!