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Enriching Your Dog's Life

Social Opportunities

Just like people, dogs are social animals, and many enjoy spending time with members of their own species. Off-leash play with other dogs serves multiple purposes. It can give your dog opportunities to practice her social skills with other dogs, wear her out mentally and tire her physically. If your dog enjoys romping with dog buddies, give her regular opportunities to do so. Try taking her to a local dog park or doggie daycare. If you have friends or family with dogs, you can also arrange “play dates” at your respective houses.

Things to Do Together

In addition to fun activities when you’re not around, your dog also benefits from spending plenty of quality time with you. There are many fun and exciting things you and your dog can do together. Read on for some suggestions.

Get Moving

Don’t underestimate the value of a good walk or jog with your dog. Taking at least one outing per day will help keep your dog physically fit and give her opportunities to explore the world. Follow different routes and visit new places whenever you can so that your dog can experience novel smells and sights.

To learn about more ways to provide a great physical workout for your dog, please see our article Exercise for Dogs.

Games to Play

Learning how to play with your dog in ways that are enjoyable and safe for you both will greatly enhance your relationship. The games listed below will exercise your dog’s body and satisfy her deeply rooted instincts to search, chase, grab and tug.

Tug-of-war

Playing tug with your dog can provide a wonderful outlet for her natural canine urges to grab and pull on things with her mouth. You can also use this game to exercise your dog and teach her important lessons, such as how to listen to you when she’s excited. For tips on how to play and important rules to follow, please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War.

Fetch

Teaching your dog to play fetch is great for a number of reasons. It requires your dog to exert a lot of physical effort—but you don’t have to! You can also use the game of fetch to teach your dog useful skills, like how to drop things when you ask her to.

  • Show your dog a toy and then toss it a short distance. (If she doesn’t follow the toy, try a different one.)
  • Praise her as she follows the toy.
  • When she picks it up and starts to return to you, praise her. (If she doesn’t return to you, don’t chase her. Just encourage her or play with another toy yourself.)
  • When your dog reaches you, position your left hand under her mouth to catch the toy.
  • Say “Give” or “Drop it” and then put a delicious treat very close to her nose with your right hand.
  • When she drops the toy into your left hand, give her your treat and praise her!
  • When she’s good at fetching in the hallway, you can practice outdoors.
  • After many repetitions your dog will learn the “Drop it” cue. Then you can stop using the treat. When you give the cue and she drops the toy, reward her by throwing the toy again.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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