Play can be an efficient way to train your dog by teaching important skills like self-control, patience and motor control. Toys provide mental stimulation, exercise and reward. Combining play and training results in fun ways to work with your dog within the context of daily life.
Mental stimulation provides exercise, relief from boredom and an outlet for natural behaviors like chewing and hunting. Food puzzles range from basic toys stuffed with kibble or canned food to more advanced toys that require problem solving to obtain the hidden food.
Tug and Fetch
Tug and fetch toys, like ropes and tennis balls, provide reward when teaching a dog self-control. While playing fetch or tug, ask your dog to sit or down. When he responds correctly, say "yes" and toss the ball or invite him to reengage in tug. By using play as a reward, your dog learns that self-control is a valuable skill to practice.
A flirt pole looks like a large cat teaser. This toy provides exercise that teaches muscle control and balance. It can be used to teach a dog self-control and "chase" or "get it" on cue, as well as improve the "point" skill for hunting dogs. Allow the dog to reengage in chasing the toy for each successful self-control response.
- Play With Your Dog; Pat Miller
Shelly Volsche has worked as a professional dog behavior consultant, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and a diploma in canine nutrition. She has written for "The Chronicle of the Dog" and Lucky Dog Magazine and is currently pursuing her PhD in anthropology with a focus on pet parents.