Rolan Tripp, DVM of the
says “Whether it's puppies, kittens or
children, Nature insists on play. Play is a requirement for healthy development
of a loving personality as well as for a healthy body. In addition, play is the
basis for a social structure. Individuals of any species that do not play when
they are young are severely mentally and socially compromised when they become
Play for a puppy is extremely important and begins as early as four weeks. Puppies will play with their mother and littermates at this age. Play will teach a puppy many important skills, for example bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the most important thing the puppy can learn. Puppies need to develop ‘soft mouths’ for when they get older. Dogs without the skill of knowing how much pressure to use when mouthing either their human family or when the play fight with other dogs will very quickly find the game stops and no one will want to play anymore. More seriously some tissue damage could occur which would be completely unacceptable to human or dog.
Play at an early age will also stimulate the mind of the dog developing its mental ability. It will also develop physically, developing muscles and coordination. For example throwing a Frisbee or ball will help develop sight tracking. Playing hide and seek helps hunting skills because the dog uses scent to ‘track’ the hidden object, which maybe a family member rather than a toy. A great game I used to play with my two Labs was find ‘Mandy’. Mandy is my daughter and although she no longer plays with us, she’s 25 and got better more important things to do, she used to go and hide somewhere in the house and I would count to ten then send the labs after her. She would change the places she hid and would squeal with excitement when they found her. I always gave her a couple of treats to hold so that when they found her she would reward them with the treats. To be honest the treats were a bonus they loved the game and loved the excitement Mandy would show when found.
Once Mandy moved on to other things I changed the game to find the keys. I would smear the keys with doggy treat then hide them in another room. Once they had mastered that and I had run out of rooms, I moved outside and started hiding them in the garden. With all the different smells it made it harder forcing them to hone their skills and focus on the smell of the keys. I combined the find with a fetch. They had to bring the keys back to me to get the treat. They loved it. I would send them one at a time because I found that one would follow the other even if it was going in the wrong direction. But on it’s own the individual was much faster at finding the keys.
Clearly this game develops the dogs mind, developing its problem solving skills, and learning it to carry out sequences of events. Remember finding the keys and then fetching them to get the reward. Many obedience skills were learned during this game, for example I would make have the dog ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ whilst I went to hide the keys. Sometimes that involved going ‘out of sight’. The dog would have to stay until I returned. I recommend this game to all my friends as a useful game when teaching basic obedience.
“Playing games lets your dog explore using all senses such as sights, smell, touch and listening which helps with socialisation. Your dog will be less fearful and anxious and more confident if he has learnt under safe conditions to play and explore other dogs, humans and objects.” Julie Davies Puddle Paws. http://www.cfidos.co.uk/the-importance-of-play-in-your-dogs-life/
Because dogs are essentially social animals, play is very important for developing social relationships. Your dog will learn to be a lot more sociable through playing games. Playing games is also important for teaching your dog rules and boundaries. It doesn’t always have to be strict obedience training although clearly that has a place in its overall development. But you can teach your dog simple things like ‘Sit’ and ‘stay’ and ‘Leave’ whilst playing. You can incorporate sit into the fetch game. Have the dog sit when it returns with the toy and then leave before you reward with a treat. The dog will love this game and you are teaching the dog basic obedience commands which are very important components of road safety. By teaching other members of the family how to play with the dog you are also helping the dog to socialize with different people, again the dog learns to be obedient with other family members. Play is very important and is a vital tool in developing a well balanced sociable dog which is a joy to be with.
Another crucial part of developing the puppy’s socialization is letting it play with other dogs. A dog that has only played with humans and has not had interaction with other dogs will not learn the necessary skills for meeting and greeting other sociable dogs.
“.a puppy who has not played, been isolated from other dogs/littermates and/or humans will not have learned bite inhibition, how to communicate and will be more likely to develop fearful and aggressive tendencies to control it’s surroundings in the future.”