Why Your Puppy Loves To Play (And How It Can Boost Your Training)
There’s nothing cuter than a playful puppy.
But have you ever stopped to think about why puppies love playing so much?
We’ll give you a clue - it’s not just because it’s fun (although that certainly helps!).
Whether you have a new pup in your life, or your pup is fully grown, we want to help you understand the importance of puppy play and the impact it can have on your training.
All about ancestors
At Tug-E-Nuff, we talk a lot about the benefits of play for our pet dogs. But play was beneficial for dogs long before they were domesticated.
As our Play Expert, Chelsea, says: “For our dogs’ ancestors, playing as a puppy was intrinsically linked to standing the best chance of survival.
“Wild canine puppies would learn essential life skills from playing with their littermates. This included everything from awareness of their own body to the best techniques for stalking, chasing and grabbing prey.
“Although wild puppies certainly will have enjoyed play, it also played a vital role in preserving the species.”
Being your puppy’s playmate
Of course, our pet puppies and dogs don’t need to worry about where their next meal will come from - but they still have the same urge to play.
Tapping into and making the most of your puppy’s instinctive play drive can have a lifelong positive impact on your training and bond.
“Before puppies leave their mum, they can count on their littermates for non-stop play - but once they come home, it’s up to the puppy owner to fulfil the role of playmate,” says Chelsea.
“That’s why interactive play - that’s play that involves both your puppy and you - is so important. And out of all the ways to play interactively with your puppy, tug is the very best.
“Playing tug regularly with your puppy helps build motor skills in the early days. It also builds confidence and creates a strong human-dog bond, which is the foundation for a happy life together.
“A game of tug with a favourite tuggy, handpicked for small breed or medium/large pups, will quickly become a hugely rewarding experience for your puppy - which means they’ll be super motivated to train and learn new skills, with the promise of tug as their reward.”
Proven play benefits
In fact, the bond-boosting benefits of interactive play, such as a game of tug, are proven. In our survey of almost 3,000 dog owners, a whopping 80% of owners told us that playing with their dog using a Tug-E-Nuff toy had a positive impact on their bond.
And that’s not all. Seven in 10 owners say that playing with their Tug-E-Nuff toy has successfully helped them tackle their biggest training challenges (including recall), with two thirds telling us their Tug-E-Nuff toy had boosted their dog’s motivation to play and 60% agreeing that their Tug-E-Nuff toy had had a positive impact on their dog’s wellbeing.
Teaching your puppy to tug
The majority of puppies have a natural urge to mouth things - and tug is the perfect outlet for this (it can even prevent unwanted chewing). Your puppy shouldn’t need much encouragement to mouth, grab and pull on a tug toy - although all dogs are different, and it’s perfectly fine if your puppy needs some help to understand how to play.
Before you get stuck into playing tug with your puppy, there are a few ground rules to keep in mind:
- Tug is a team sport. Always remember the three magic words: supervised, interactive fun. Tug-E-Nuff toys aren’t chew toys and you should never let your puppy play with them unattended.
- Think like prey. To tap into your puppy’s innate play instincts, try moving your Tug-E-Nuff toy like prey (fast, slow, fast). Toys with long handles, such as our range of chasers, are perfect for this.
- Always praise, never punish. At Tug-E-Nuff, we believe in positive reinforcement. That means praising and encouraging the behaviours you want - and never punishing your puppy for the ones you don’t. Experts agree that this is the best way to train any dog.
- Be enthusiastic. Your puppy will mirror your energy - so be ready to bring your A game when you play! If you fake it, your dog will be able to tell.