Top 4 Playtime Mistakes New Puppy Owners Make
The Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions
You know that quote. Of course you do! It’s so old and so commonly used that it’s not even attributed to anyone in particular.
Great news! That obviously means countless people have tried to do something awesome and… ended up in hell. Solidarity FTW.
Welcoming a new puppy is something that all pet parents go into with the best intentions. There’s just so much potential for screwing up. You gotta stay vigilant. Do it right.
But it’s important to set aside some time every day just to chill and kick it with your new companion. Sit back. Stop worrying so much.
What could you possibly be doing wrong when you’re just trying to have a good time? Nothing. Probably nothing, because you searched the internet so you could ruin even fun time with your quest for perfection.
It’s okay. Being a pet parent is hard. Finding balance is hard. But we got you. Here are four common mistakes some pet parents make while having fun with their puppies… and what you can do differently.
Acting Like You’re Just One Of the Dogs
Most puppies know what playtime looks like because they’ve learned by watching other dogs. Just scope out a group of them in action. Not a whole lot of variety there.
Seems like WWE-style brawls and endless games of chase would get old after a while, but nope. Even the most discerning dogs like to chase tails, nip at limbs, jump all over one another, and occasionally go hard with what looks like a sliding tackle.
It may seem real cute to wrestle when your teensy ball of fur is small enough to fit in your lap. Don’t. Give. In.
While this physical play may seem like a ton of fun, you’re teaching your dog that people playtime looks just like puppy playtime. A puppy that learns it’s okay to pounce on you won’t understand why it can’t do the same thing when it’s excited to see a favorite (human) friend at the door.
Giving mixed signals is so not cool.
Instead, focus on interactive play that you can enjoy together without getting too physical. Incorporate games like tug-of-war or toss a toy they can fetch.
Those one-track-mind little buggers could play fetch for hours, if only we’d let them.
Engaging in Endless Puppy Playtime
Wondering how long you should play with your puppy? Curious because just the thought of playing fetch for hours is making your arm tired? Same.
But it’s a valid question. Playtime shouldn’t be endless. Get some structure and enforce some boundaries around not just how you’ll play with your pup, but for how long.
Short, intense bursts of play are a great way to engage your dog and leave them pumped for the next round. Don’t be a tease and hide the toys after a few minutes. But try to stop while you’re still having fun.
If your dog is still bouncing around like a crazed gnat on a mission, try redirecting the focus to more mentally engaging games.
A reward-based (treat releasing) puzzle toy is a great option to work that powerful muscle we call the brain… driven by that powerful motivator called your dog’s stomach.
Mistaking Hardcore Exercise for Fun
Exercise can totally be fun. Even hardcore exercise can totally be fun. That doesn’t mean it’s safe for developing dogs.
Maybe you didn’t get your puppy just to play games. Some of us are into things like long runs outdoors, and we adopted a dog to keep us company.
Pump the brakes, speed demon.
Running with your dog can make for killer bonding time, but not until it’s cleared by your vet. Strenuous, high-impact exercises like sustained jogging can put too much stress on their still-growing bones.
It can also screw them later in life by causing arthritis. You know how many elite athletes end up with hip transplants? We can’t always blame getting old.
Sometimes it’s because their parents had them training eight hours a day when they were practically still in diapers. Don’t be that dog mom.
Most puppies are considered adults at about one year old. But sometimes, a puppy’s bones aren’t fully developed for up to a year after that, depending on size and breed. That’s why smart dog owners always ask for pro advice on identifying when each stage of development is happening.
But it’s okay to take internet advice for this part: let your puppy play like a puppy.
Letting Playtime Morph Into Plain Bad Manners
There can be some overlap between parts of playtime and more serious scenarios in pet-parent life. It’s easy to let those boundaries get blurred.
First rule: You decide what’s a game and you decide when it’s time to play. Tolerating a quick game of keep away seems like no biggie until the little bastard decides to snatch your shoe when you’re already running late.
The puppy doesn’t know you’re late. And your puppy doesn’t know the difference between your shoe and a toy unless you’ve taught them which is used for what.
And if you haven’t, hope you have cheap shoes. Chew toy and shoe toy kinda even sound similar. Hmm. Trust and believe, my friend, one of you will learn this lesson soon.
Second rule: Nipping and biting just aren’t cool. It’s how puppies play with each other, sure, but it can also lead to aggression or mouthing issues later in life.
The only nipping allowed will be to nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand.
This is true for all puppies, no matter how adorable and harmless they may appear, but super true for puppies who are territorial. An errant limb in their personal space is not asking to be gnawed on. Ever.
Third rule: Pop quiz. What happens when you’re sick of playing tug-of-war? If you said that your pup saunters away with its spoils firmly in its mouth, congratulations! You’ve won… nothing.
Because don’t do this. Ever.
It’s okay to let your puppy win, of course. “Let” might be the wrong word. There’s a reason we use the descriptor “like a dog with a bone”.
Okay, when your puppy kicks your ass at tug-of war, that doesn’t mean they keep whatever you were tugging on. Practicing very basic commands like “drop” or “leave it” are a perfect way to end playtime on a high note while reinforcing all the stuff your puppy needs to learn.
What Else Does My Puppy Need to Learn?
Well, your pup is off to a good start. Don’t assume everyone likes the same horseplay you do. It may not be cute to everyone.
There’s a time and place to let loose, and that’s not always and everywhere.
Avoiding serious injury is an awesome and pretty believable excuse for being lazy.
We don’t always get our way, but that doesn’t mean we get to take our toys and go home.
That’s a pretty good foundation for any life, not just puppy life. As adult humans, we have the perspective to see how important those playtime lessons can be.
Puppies? Not so much. They may not have the life experience to understand why you’re trying to shape their behavior a certain way. If you’d like some guidance on training techniques that can make every playtime a learning opportunity (don’t worry - they won’t know the difference), contact us today!