Playing with dogs is a great activity for them and for you. But, playtime is not just playtime. It’s also a time to reinforce training, teach manners, practice socialization, and more. Here are some common mistakes people make when playing with dogs to be aware of and to avoid:
Mistake #1 – Using the Wrong Toys
Not all toys are a good fit for all dogs. Pairing the wrong toys with dogs that aren’t meant to play with them is one of the common dog toy mistakes and also one of the common mistakes people make when playing with dogs.
Toys made for puppies should not be given to adult dogs and vice versa. Toys should be the right size for the dogs playing with them and the material of the toy should also be considered.
Some dogs absolutely destroy cloth toys and eat them, so often giving them those toys is a mistake. You want to make sure you’re matching toys to dogs when you’re playing with them for safer play.
Mistake #2 – Allowing Undesirable Behavior
Dogs get excited when they play and that can result in undesirable behavior like nipping, jumping up, etc..One of the most important dog training tips is to keep training consistent and this continues into playtime.
If you’re trying to train your dog not to jump up or to stop nipping, then you can’t allow that behavior during playtime. Dogs often don’t make the distinction between behaviors that are allowed versus those that aren’t in certain situations.
If they are allowed to jump up, nip, etc. during playtime, they’ll likely just continue to do that behavior when they’re excited because they were rewarded for it during playtime. Dogs will continue the behavior that gets them a reward, so it’s important that you do not reward undesirable behavior, even during playtime.
Mistake #3 – Ignoring Canine Body Language
Humans and dogs communicate differently and miscommunications can result in bites. By knowing what different types of dog body language mean and paying attention to it, you can better communicate with your dog and also get a better handle on how they’re feeling.
Whether playing with dogs yourself or monitoring playtime between dogs, you want to be paying attention to dog body language that shows a dog getting tired of playtime, becoming anxious, or is trying to get you or other dogs to back off.
Ignoring these warning signs and continuing to interact with a dog that is telling you they are scared or warning you to back off can result in aggression.
Mistake #4 – Playing Too Roughly
Not only can rough play injure a dog or result in a dog bite, but it can also damage a puppy’s developing joints. Puppies finish growing at different rates and you want to make sure you keep things low-impact until their bones and joints are done developing.
Pulling too roughly on tug toys can damage teeth, especially in puppies that are still teething. Playing too roughly, in general, can also teach a dog bad habits and encourage aggression, especially in a dog that has not been properly socialized or trained.
Also, it’s easy for a human to miss warning signs during rough play and end up getting bitten because they did not back off.
Mistake #5 – Making Your Dog Play Alone
Your dog may enjoy playing with a toy on their own every now and then, but playtime with your dog should be interactive. Spending time with your dog and playing with them helps you bond with them and are also some of the best ways to make your dog happy.
Playing with you and with other dogs is a great way to give them exercise and mental stimulation. It’s also a great way to socialize a puppy. At the same time, you don’t want to leave your dog unsupervised with toys, especially with chew toys and if they are known to destroy toys quickly. You need to be able to remove toys that are broken, splintered, too ripped up, etc.
These are just a few of the common mistakes people make when playing with dogs. By being aware of them and avoiding them, you can help keep playtime with dogs safer, more fun for everyone involved, and more positive and enriching for the dogs involved.