Have you ever been playing with your dog or your friend’s dog and thought “wow they love this game so much”, it is interesting right how such a basic game like; tug of war, chase, fetch can bring so much joy to a dogs life. The importance of play with a dog is very necessary for the mental stimulation and mental wellbeing of a dog. Play for a dog has three main importances to it; the first is that dog discover the world and the surrounding through playing and learning new things like their own strengths (what is good and what is bad), secondly dogs begin to develop their social skills with other dogs learning what they can bite and what they can’t, and how to operate around other dogs, and thirdly dogs (specially puppies) are able to learn about the coordination of a pack and learning how to live in a pack (like within a group of dogs, or as a lone dog with a family or humans).
Many researchers have multiple theories for why juvenile dogs have that playfulness trait, one theory is that it stems from the side effect of paedomorphosis, during the domestication process from when wolves were domesticated and eventually turned into dogs various behavioral and physical traits were carried on into the dog breeds. One of the most common was paedomorphosis, which is an alternative process of metamorphosis which is the natural process of changing from a juvenile to an adult. While this is an interesting theory for why dogs very playful (especially at a young), it is important to understand that dogs aren’t like any other animal and these dogs are not necessary thinking about everything they do, so many of these dogs can’t control wanting to play all the time as this is something that they at times don’t have control over. Humans have the use of free will and are able to make decisions whether they want to do something or not, while if you antagonize a dog by swinging a chew toy or a ball in their face more often than not the dog is going to want to play with you and get that toy.
Probably the biggest reason for why dogs want to play with their humans so much is because this strengthens the bond between human and dog, playing games like; tug of war, fetch, hide and seek, chase are games that require our undivided attention in the dog. Who wouldn’t want undivided attention from their best friend, or the person they look up to? Dogs gain lessons about socialization and gain a deeper connection with their human during this time, it is important to understand too that for dogs this competitive play is rewarding for the animal. Finding the ball or stick thrown 20 yards into the park, or finding their own in a competitive game of hide and seek, or even just winning a simple tug of war game is a reward for them and releases the positive endorphins within their body. Furthermore some studies have found that engaging in play can prevent dogs from getting Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Canine Cognitive Decline.
Altogether through all of the research I have done, I can tell you that you are doing the right thing playing with your dog. My question is “Can you do more? Can you play more with your dog, because more play means a happier healthier dog and who doesn’t want that. Dogs ,within a positive enviroment, love their owners and devote themselves to making our lives better by doing the little things when we are sad, angry, or even feeling good. So I encourage you as the reader to play more, do an extra game of tug of war, one more round of hide and seek, throw one more ball or stick for them to chase and get because while dogs can’t speak they would express to us how much they appreciate and love the valuable minutes we speak with them during this time.
NJ;, B. J. W. P. A. J. R. (2016, October 31). Why do adult dogs ‘play’? Behavioural processes. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25251020/
Pedigree. The serious benefits of play. PEDIGREE®. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.pedigree.com/dog-care/health/the-serious-benefits-of-play
Kerns, N. (2019, September 19). Why play is important for dogs. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/blog/why-play-is-important-for-dogs/