We’re often asked ‘where can I take my puppy to play?” - Here are our suggestions.
Puppies learn through play. It’s a crucial part of their development. Play helps with co-ordination, it’s a way of learning about the world, it gives puppy a positive outlook on life, and, when you join in with the fun, it builds a really strong bond between you and your pup.
So where should you take your puppy to play and what fun experiences (and lessons) can you create for your puppy?
When your furry bundle is rushing around attempting all sorts of dare-devil moves, it’s so much fun to watch that you could forget that a young puppy has delicate bones, an immature brain, and no sense of what is and isn’t safe. When deciding where to take your puppy to play put safety first….ALWAYS
Look for an enclosed space - young puppies have an unreliable recall, make sure they can’t stray too far from you.
Be VERY careful how you allow puppy to greet other dogs. Not every dog wants a youngster bouncing all over them and some can object to it with violence. A dog attack at any age could make your pup fearful for life.
Playing indoors? Puppy proof the area first. No trailing cables, No dangly tablecloths that could bring a whole dinner service down on their head, no poisonous houseplants.
DO NOT encourage your puppy to play fast and furious games on a hot day - they simply cannot regulate their body temperature and could become very ill very quickly.
See if you can think of some quiet, brain games to keep puppy calm. Too often, rough and tumble games result in puppy becoming hyperaroused and somebody getting nipped.
If you want your pup to play with other dogs, supervise their games carefully and learn about doggy body language so that you can intervene quickly if things turn a bit sour.
Puppies can have fun without becoming bad mannered. Set boundaries from the outset and if the pup makes a mistake, stop the game. You’ll be surprised how quickly they learn not to nip or scratch.
Playing With Puppy At Home
Let’s start with some great games to play with your puppy at home. It’s a safe environment, and puppy can have loads of fun, even before he or she is fully vaccinated. I would advise against games that involve chasing or jumping up - they’re super fun when puppy is little - not so funny when 30Kg of labrador launches itself at you. Puppy needs to learn from the outset what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
A gentle tug of war is great fun. With the emphasis on the word ‘gentle’. Move the toy slowly backwards towards you and let puppy pull it away from you (mowing the toy from side to side or up and down could cause neck injuries.) Let puppy ‘win’ most of the time - nobody enjoys playing if they are always the loser and winning is a great way to build confidence. If puppy lets go of the toy, praise them - the lesson will be useful as their training progresses.
Hide and seek - encourage your pup to find delicious treats that you have ‘planted’ for them. It teaches them to use their nose and gives them a big old dose of happy hormones. A great way to do this is to fill a shallow cardboard box with scrunched up newspaper or plastic balls and then sprinkle some treats among them. A sort of puppy ball pit - they love it!
Build an obstacle course and use treats to lure them through it. Please don’t include any jumps at this age - little bones need to be carefully nurtured and too much jumping around before those growth plates have set could result in permanent problems.
Playing With Puppy At The Park
Once your pup is fully vaccinated, it’s fun to take them out and about to explore the world. A visit to the park is an all round sensory experience for your little one. At first they may be too overwhelmed to play and that’s normal. So I would advise carrying your pup and then just sitting with them on a bench or on a rug to let them observe. Maybe you could have a quick play with a favourite toy to focus their attention on you.
As puppy grows physically stronger and more energetic, park walks can involve pre-arranged meetings with people and dogs that you trust. Have puppy on a long lead and practice the recall games you have learned in puppy classes. Perhaps take a flirt pole with you so that puppy can burn off energy ‘chasing’ a toy.
Please, please, please use playing with puppy at the park as an opportunity to reinforce good manners around dogs and people. And remember, not all other dogs will welcome attention from your pup. Always put your little one on a lead and seek permission from the other owner before you let your precious puppy approach another dog.
Ideally, only let your pup greet one dog in five - and only with your permission. That way, as they grow into adulthood, your pup will be able to saunter past other dogs without dragging you over to greet them.
Puppy Kindergarden is an excellent opportunity for you and your pup to play in a safe environment, where there is plenty of supervision from dog trainers. Puppy could meet playmates and investigate new toys, equipment and smells. Whilst you can learn about doggy body language and how to stop your pup being too rough with other pups - or being bullied (depending on their temperament)
These opportunities help to build puppy’s confidence, build positive neural pathways and wear them out. You are guaranteed a couple of hours of peace and quiet after Puppy Kindergarten because your little one will be too tired to even open their eyes.