Puppy Games for Exercise
Puppies love to play and your puppy, left to his own devices, will soon be teaching you all his favorite puppy games. Better yet, start now and teach him the games YOU would like HIM to play.
Through constructive play you can provide exercise, enhance your relationship and reinforce many of the behaviors that you wish to encourage.
Retrieving - A puppy game based on cooperation between you and your dog. It enables you to exercise you dog in a limited space without a great deal of exertion on your part. It is a foundation for many other games that you can create to play with your dog.
Many young puppies pick things up naturally and carry them around. If your puppy does this, you will want to encourage this behavior. Praise him when he carries something to you…pat and make much of him…but do not take it away from him.
Throw the toy for your puppy. If he brings it back to you, praise him, but do not take the toy. If he give you the toy, of course, take it. Throw it again and the game may proceed. Stop the puppy game when he is still interested and wants to play.
If he returns to you with the toy, but does not give it to you, praise as above and after a bit offer to trade him for a treat or another toy. If you are using a treat, after he gives you the toy and has his treat, throw it for him again.
If you are using another toy, after you have praised him a bit, start playing with the other toy. When he drops the toy he has, throw the new toy for him. Always stop while he is still interested.
If you throw toys for your puppy and he wants to keep them, this is very normal. Remember how important possession is to your puppy. If he takes what you throw to his bed, or a rug, position yourself so that he has to go past you to get where he is going. Act as if he is willingly retrieving. Praise and make much of him.. Pat him and exclaim over him.
Do NOT take the toy away from him. Leave him with this toy. After you have done this for awhile, you may find that he begins to follow you because he wants to continue to hear how extraordinary he is.
If, when you throw a toy for your puppy, he does not go to a particular place with it, but just goes away from you, ignore him. Do not coax or beg or follow him. Go play with another toy if you like, but ignore the puppy.
At another time, try throwing the toy down a hallway. If he returns with the toy and tries to go past you, block his way and act as if he has retrieved. Make much of him. Do NOT take the toy. Make sure that the toy that you are throwing is not too valuable to the puppy.
For a puppy who really want to possess things, start out with toys that are not very interesting.
When your puppy is retrieving reliably, you can begin to give him a verbal signal like "Fetch" or "Bring it here".You can teach your puppy to bring things to your hand by only reinforcing retrieves to your hand.
You can begin to teach him to retrieve a variety of articles. When this is accomplished, you will have taught him a skill that will bring you both hours of enjoyment and a foundation for many new puppy games you can play in the future.
While it is true that most puppies pick up toys and play with them, occasionally there is the puppy that will not pick up a toy. Some breeds are less inclined to pick up things in their mouths and some puppies may come from a very early background where toys and other stimulation were not provided.
With patience and imagination all puppies can learn to retrieve, and the results are well worth the effort.
If your puppy does not play with toys, you will need to help him learn how to play.
Create a Motivational Toy!
Some puppies will light up for a piece of rabbit fur, some puppies for a ball rolled slowly, some puppies will chase and attack something pulled with a string, and others are excited by toys with squeakers.
For the puppy that is really hard to tempt, you can try tasty treats in the toe of a sock. Tie a string around the sock and hang it somewhere where the puppy is apt to investigate. When he begins to pull and tug at it, praise and encourage him. Continue to provide socks and encourage him to grab them.
Gradually transfer the game to you. You hold the sock and encourage a game of tug. When your puppy becomes really enthusiastic if you bring out the sock, you can tie it to other toys and greatly reinforce him for playing with these.
When you finally have a puppy who likes to play with socks or toys or whatever, it is time to start teaching the retrieve as above.
Photo courtesy of NEMDA
Tug of War - This is another popular puppy game favorite that often does not have to be taught. It is good for providing exercise in a small space; it provides dogs with an acceptable outlet for pulling, shaking and tearing behavior; and, because dogs like it so much, it can be used as a reward for other behaviors that you want to reinforce.
You may have read that you should not play tug of war with your dog because it will make him more aggressive. If you teach your dog to play by your rules, not only won't it make him more aggressive, but it will also teach him control and allow you to limit boisterous and aggressive behavior in the future.
Start the game by your invitation and keep control of play by making sure that you stop periodically and signal a behavior that your dog knows how to do. As soon as he gives you the behavior, praise and restart the game. If he ignores your signal, or if he bites you accidentally, stop the game, take the toy and ignore him. Invite him to play again in a little while.
Teach him that the puppy game ends if he bites or ignores your signal. If you are unable to keep control of the game, do not play! Children should not play tug of war with your dog unless both understand how to play by the rules and they are closely supervised.
Hide and Seek - This is a great game for the whole family with lots of different variations. While you are playing, you are also teaching the recall and strengthening attention.
When your puppy isn't looking at you, call him name and run and hide on him. In the beginning do not go far and make it easy. As he gets better at it, make it more challenging. When he finds you, praise him…play with him…give him treats.
If your puppy is always watching you, throw a treat for him to get, and run and hide while he is looking for the treat. Another variation is to have a family member hold him while someone else in the family runs and hides.
Always remember to reward him. Gradually he should be able to search quite a distance and find you using his nose. You can vary this game even more by hiding toys and having him find them. Remember to make it easy when you start. Also remember to stop playing any puppy game before your dog is tired, to keep him interested later.
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