Playtime Isn’t Just For Kids
I mentioned in an earlier post that we were entering into the birthday months in our house. This past weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday. Our son is 4 1/2. I mention the 1/2 because it is a very important distinction to him. Four year olds might as well be three or two or one. They are not nearly as grown up as a four and a half-year old. As soon as I bought up the discussion of what he wanted to give his daddy for his birthday, he knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted to get his daddy an Iron Man action figure to protect him when he is away on business trips. There was no doubt in his mind about which superhero he wanted to get his daddy and why. Iron Man is not just a Superhero, he is the leader of the Superheros. He can make anything happen. As a quick disclaimer, I have no idea if this is true or not. I didn’t argue though. Iron Man will protect daddy from the bad guys and will fly him home quickly if needed. He was so proud to give this gift. Of course my husband loved it! Both faces were all smiles as they immediately began playing superheros together. Both faces were all smiles as they talked using FaceTime yesterday. My husband’s Iron Man perched on the headboard of his hotel bed and our son wearing an Iron Man mask. You are never too old for playtime!
Now please do not reference my earlier post about birthdays and senior and think I am in any way saying my husband is a senior. He is far from the senior category. And I am not saying he is a dog. Please don’t tell him I said either or I’ll be sleeping alone on the sofa! However, this interaction reminded me how important playtime is at all ages, and for dogs as well as humans. Spending time playing has mental and physical benefits. It helps reduces stress and anxiety which leads to heart health, better sleep, and digestive benefits. Games are a great way to fill playtime with physical activity, mental activity and lots of fun.
- Fetch is likely to be a favorite! Try playing it not only with you throwing the ball and your dog running to fetch the it but create a competition by throwing the ball and seeing who can get to the ball first. This will also give him a mental workout as he or waits for the command to “go get it” after the ball is thrown. Switch up the direction you throw the ball to increase the mental stimulation.
- Hide & Seek can be done several ways. You can hide yourself, a toy, or a treat. Work on the “stay” command while hiding and then have them “go find it.”
- Agility training is a fun and easy way to play. You can purchase agility kits made specifically for dogs, or you can make your own. A hula hoop from the dollar store to walk or jump through, a few cones placed in a zigzag pattern to run around and a few soft items of varying height to jump over.
- There are various mental challenge games you can purchase. We have several from Kyjen that we, and Annie Girl, love.
It is important to introduce a variety of activities so your dog does not get stressed by an obsession with, or bored with, one particular activity. Of course every dog is different. Let your dog express the special needs and abilities of their breed. They are going to enjoy some activities more than others. They are going to need different balances between physical and mental stimulation. Weather and busy schedules will also dictate what is needed and what is possible. Dogs naturally get more stimulation when the weather is nice and they are outside. On those rainy or cold days however they most likely will not get the amount of physical exercise they need. To help alleviate stress and burn extra energy on these days, incorporating additional mental exercise is needed.
Playtime should be a part of the fitness routine for dogs of all ages. For puppies, it provides an opportunity to learn and reinforce obedience commands while exerting energy. For adult dogs it provides an opportunity for cross training and less active “rest” days. For senior dogs, it provides strength training and maintains mental health. For everyone, it provides the opportunity to have fun and enjoy being together.
As adults we often forget to set aside time to play. We get lost in the routine of all the practical things we must do each day. Incorporating playtime into your dog’s fitness routine will enable you to fit it in without adding yet another task to your to-do list. Incorporate your dog into your personal time and into the things you enjoy doing. Playing with your dog just may help you create a little more playtime in your life and end up creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself too!