Playtime is one of the most important times for a young puppy. It keeps him physically fit, helps him release excess energy and helps you bond with each other. However, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to teach and reinforce some basic commands and appropriate behavioral skills. Learning time and fun time merge: let the games begin!
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek with your puppy is not only fun, but also a good way to reinforce the “stay” command; after all, he can’t exactly cover his eyes and count down while you hide. Work on having him sit and stay while you search for the perfect hiding spot. It’s OK to keep repeating the command, as it may be tough for him to watch you go at first. Once you’re hunkered down, ask him to come and reward him with treats and attention when he seeks you out.
Fetch is one of the easiest, most fun games for both owner and puppy. Choose an appropriate ball, stick, toy or even Frisbee based on your puppy’s size. Larger breeds may enjoy the long-distance sprint a frisbee provides, while slower, smaller breeds may prefer something a little less aerodynamic, like a stick. Command your buddy to come once he retrieves the toy and finish out the game by having him “drop it” at your feet. Resist the urge to pick the toy up. Patiently wait for your dog to drop it. If your puppy doesn’t oblige, he doesn’t get to play.
Find the Toy
Find the toy is similar to hide and seek, but it’s more canine driven. The easiest way to enact this game is to observe your puppy during free play for a few days. See which toys he gravitates towards and then give his favorite toy a name, like “Squeaky.” Use his toy’s name whenever you two play together, every time he picks it up and throughout the day consistently. After a few days, hide the toy around the house and ask him to find Squeaky. Dogs can understand upwards of 1,000 words; push your puppy’s vocabulary to the limit.
Freeze is one of those games that will teach your puppy self-control, but also help him expend some of that wild energy. Dance around the house, run in a circle, toss a few balls in the air -- basically any activity that gets your buddy excited and hyper. Then command him to freeze. Your pup may completely ignore you at first, and that’s OK. After all, he’s in the middle of playing. However, once you get his attention and he sees you standing absolutely still, he should start calming down. Once he has “freeze” down pat, you can start employing it in social situations when he gets a little overzealous.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.