Playing with your new puppy can seem like fun and games, though it is really a gateway to develop proper training. While being mindful of your puppy's growing body, there are many activities for you to interact with him. Combine fun with learning, whether teaching him to sit or fetch a toy, to care for your puppy's mental and physical well-being.
Before training, you will need to stock up on treats and appropriate toys. Avoid purchasing large toys that do not to fit in the puppy's mouth or are too heavy for him to pick up and carry. Plan to spend no more than 10 minutes playing, two to three times each day, giving the puppy enough time to sleep in between sessions. It is a good idea to switch activities each time, since with a wavering attention span, the puppy can easily get bored. Puppies under a year old are not suitable jogging partners, and so you must allow him to set the pace in the activities, even when going out for a walk. Curb aggressive playing and stop any activity if the puppy bites or barks excessively. Never reward bad behavior with attention.
Coming to you and learning his name build the foundation for all other activities you will teach your puppy. Have a friend sit on the floor 10 to 15 feet away from you as you hold the puppy, telling him to stay. Then have the friend call the puppy, using his name in conjunction with the "come" command. When the puppy comes, have her give him a treat and dote on him with pets and praise. Then your friend will hold the puppy and you will call him to come to you. Continue this until the puppy gets the hang of it, and increase the distance between people from session to session.
After you establish the "come" command, you can teach the puppy to retrieve toys. Have him fetch toys from short distances away at first, teaching him also to sit and wait for your command before going to retrieve it. Give him a treat only after he returns the toy to you. With repetition and success, gradually increase the distance you throw the toy. When venturing outdoors to play, try it first in a fenced in area.
Play hide and seek with a toy by placing it in a visible area and telling the puppy to go get it so he understands to bring it to you as he would when fetching. Remove him from the room and hide the toy in an area where it will be partially concealed, such as next to a chair or halfway under a rug. Return the puppy to the room and tell him to find the toy. It is fine to give him hints, such as pointing in the direction of the toy, though he should pick up the idea with repetition. You may then fully conceal the toy and let the puppy's nose do the work. Try this with varied toys hidden in different spots. Playing hide and seek with yourself teaches the puppy to come find you if you are not in the immediate area, if he runs too far away for example. Either in a large room or a fenced backyard, distract the puppy by having him fetch a toy far away, then hide behind a sofa or tree. You may peek around to see where the puppy is at. When he comes closer, step out with your arms open and use the "come" command.
When the puppy is 7 to 12 months old, you can incorporate additional activities for him to learn. It is only after 7 months that his adult teeth have grown in and are strong enough to play with tug-of-war type toys. His legs are also stronger to support him. Give him paw shakes by picking up one paw at a time and giving the "shake" command. Use treats above his head and paw shaking to encourage him to sit up, or beg. This can gradually increase to jumping. Introduce your puppy to shallow water, such as a creek or baby pool, but do not force him to go in if he appears anxious. If all goes well, he can wear a doggie life vest and learn to swim in deeper waters, like an inground pool. You may also use treats to show your puppy how to lie down, roll over and play dead.
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images