A DogGeek.com exclusive by Teresa Barker
Remember when playing with your dog was a fun activity that you made you late for dinner? Just because you grew up doesn’t mean that you have to act old. Make time to play with your dog every day and experience the child-like joy that bonding with your dog through play will bring you.
Play hide and seek with your dog’s favorite toys or small treats.
This game may start with teaching your dog how to sit and stay. Start by having him sit and stay while you place a favorite toy (squeaky ones are a favorite in our house) where he can see it, but away from him (like across the room). Use your release word (ours is “OK”) and let him go fetch the toy, making sure to allow enough time to celebrate the reward of waiting patiently, by letting him dance around with his toy in his mouth. You can make this game more and more complicated, incrementally, by moving further and further away with the toy, around a corner, to another room, up a flight of stairs and eventually by hiding the toy in places where your dog could eventually find it. When hiding the toy, think about a child’s Easter egg hunt. Don’t make it too hard, you do want your dog to be successful, eventually!
Play Fetch/Keep Away.
There aren’t too many games that are easier to play with your dog than fetch. There are tools and toys to help you (like the chuck-it or squeaky toys), but a simple stick will do also. There are many variations on keep away, if you have another person. With two people, you can simply toss a toy (or ball) back and forth to each other, letting your dog chase it in each direction. We’ve even gone as far as to use tennis rackets and a tennis ball for greater distance. Be sure to “accidentally” drop the ball once in a while, to keep your dog a part of the game.
Create an agility training obstacle course in your home or yard.
You can get very creative at home with simple props, like a hula hoop. Start by using a piece of kibble to coax your dog to walk through the hoop, as it rests on the floor. Once your dog is used to walking through the hoop on ground level, lift it off the ground one inch at time. Stack a few couch cushions and try to get your dog to jump over them. Obviously, if your loved one is a pug, use a throw pillow!
Take time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Imagine what your co-workers will say when they ask you what you did last night and you respond, “I played with my dog”.