Playing is a very important part of puppy’s life and how you play with him now can affect him long into adulthood. Like babies and young children, puppy learns a lot about himself and the world around him during play. There are a number of things puppy can learn from you during play time that will help him grow into a well-behaved and happy dog.
Arguably, the most important thing he will learn is to trust you. He will trust that you will not hurt him, that you are fun and he can look forward to your company. This makes training much easier later on. When there is a bond between the two of you and he knows that you are a central part of his life, he’ll be eager to please and learn from you. Playing and regular grooming (even pretending to groom while talking to him in a soft, encouraging voice) provide good opportunities for this trusting bond to develop.
He can learn that while you can react poorly to being bitten just like his litter mates, you are not another puppy. He can learn that his bite hurts and that humans are far more sensitive than his furry kin. If your puppy likes to bite, don’t scold him as this can often encourage his behaviour – sometimes any attention is better than none at all. Rather discourage his behaviour by pretending to be hurt and turn away from him. As soon as he stops biting, reward him immediately with further play. Your ‘hurt’ should be in proportion to the severity of the bite; this way, he learns his own strength. If he persists in biting, stop the play time completely and walk away. Try again later in the day. Some puppies will learn their limits early on but for some it may take a while of repetition. Don’t lose hope if this is the case – as your bond grows, so he will be more eager to please and have you around. As he gets older, he’ll only bite under extreme circumstances because the penalty (of being out of your favour) for him, is severe.
Who can honestly resist a puppy? Bright eyes, lolling tongue and a wagging tail? He grabs a ball and runs, enticing you to chase after him. He is so adorable, you give in to the chase. He is the boss of the ball! As he gets bigger, he grabs a shoe. Then it’s the kids’ homework or a defrosting steak. He is the boss and dictating the rules of the game. It’s tough, but unless it’s a potentially dangerous situation, do not chase after him. You are the leader and if he wants a game, he needs to understand that you say what he is allowed to play with. On the other hand, if you are going to leave your Gucci handbag on the floor while puppy is still learning, don’t be surprised when he tries something new – and don’t blame him for it. Puppies need stimulation and activity between the long bouts of sleep; just make sure that during this time of learning, it is within a safe environment. This way, you can set your puppy up for success from the beginning.
Always make time for play. Playing with your puppy regularly will ensure he gets a good start in life. Learning to trust you implicitly, where his limits are and that you are not only a loving companion, but the leader too, you and your dog can enjoy many fulfilling years together.