Did you know that play is essential for your dog? This is how she prepares herself for real life. Games are a learning experience, and in this way dogs develop all sorts of skills that will be useful for them in their daily lives:
Play is always a healthy activity. It’s through play that dogs get their exercise, both mental and physical, keeping themselves fit and active.
In fact, ethologists use games as a test of canine wellbeing: when a dog gets playful, it means that she feels good. The same goes for many other animals, including people.
Games are the best way of keeping fit. So much so that the most internationally recognised canine sports are, in fact, games for dogs set in a rather broader framework.
Play is the primary motivation for all good agility training, OCI, disc dog, even French ring or other bite-sports.
On a day-to-day basis, far away from competitive events, there are lots of ways to keep your dog in good physical shape through play. But there are two types of dog games you really need to know about:
Some people think that throwing a ball is a good way for their dogs to get exercise when they’re out on walks.
Be careful though, because all too often this type of game with balls, sticks or other objects the dog needs to fetch can become an activity that’s not quite so healthy.
If you see that your dog is becoming obsessed with you throwing her ball when you’re out for a walk, and that she’s incapable of paying attention to anything else, you should stop. Then you’ll see how little by little she regains her interest in your walks, in other dogs, in the park etc. And this is always much healthier than focusing all her attention and energy on fetching a ball or a stick.
Back in the 1990s, Nina Ottosson recognised the value of games for cognitive stimulation in dogs. This Swedish dog trainer began to design interactive games to give dogs something to test their problem solving abilities.
Interactive toys based on Ottoson’s ideas are games for dogs in which you hide food so that they need to use their sense of smell and psychomotor skills to get to the prize, by devising a coherent strategy.
Today these toys are very popular, and are even used in behaviour modification therapies for highly nervous or aggressive dogs..
Taking the idea of using play as a form of cognitive stimulation for dogs as a starting point, a discipline has been developed within canine ethology called Activación Mental Canina®. As described by the promoters:
It’s a discipline where through games that pose mental challenges, dogs are presented with a series of problems which are adapted in terms of difficulty to the needs of each individual. This: