As we get into the dog days of summer, you may have more opportunities to play with your furry friends! It’s important to make sure both you and your pet are having a great time with activities at home. While some activities may be more fun for you, they might not give your pet the same opportunities to enjoy the fun. Below are different tips and techniques from HSPPR’s Certified Behavior Consultant, Shelby Harvey, to make sure everyone is getting the same enjoyment and relaxation from playtime:
One of the most common situations we hear about is inappropriate play spilling over to a bite-risk situation. This can be on both the dog’s side and on the human’s side. For humans, we do not recommend rough play or wrestling with your pup. It can be difficult to recognize when a dog’s body language changes in the middle of playing rough. The dog may be having fun at first but can become quickly overwhelmed by exuberant physical play.
Some fun activities that may bring more enjoyment to your dog include:
- Playing fetch is a classic example of canine enrichment. Many dogs get the combined benefit of both physical and mental stimulation.
- Scent games are fun for dogs who are scent-oriented. It can be as minimal as having a dog look for thrown treats in the yard, to creating more elaborate hiding spots for scent-based items or treats (think like hide n go seek with treats!). Snuffle mats are a great tool to use for scent time as well.
- Water activities are the perfect way to beat the summer heat! Filling up a kiddie pool with cool water or turning your sprinklers on can be engaging for your dog while also helping them keep cool. Some frozen treats or hot dogs at the bottom of the kiddie pool can add a really great element for enrichment.
- Bubbles are fun for more than just children. Bubbles can be fun to explore, chase, or even eat for dogs! There are bubble ‘soaps’ available online that are safe and even tasty for a dog to try out.
It’s sometimes surprising to find out that there is more than one way to play with your fun feline. Some new owners may also engage in rough play with their new kitty. However, just like dogs- it’s important to make sure that our cats are enjoying play time as much as we are. Instead of the common ‘attacking your cat with your hands’ (which may increase your cat’s biting risk as well). It’s also especially important to not use laser devices to play with your cat. Laser devices can increase frustration and behavioral issues since the cat is perpetually chasing something but never getting the satisfaction of catching it! Here are some other ways to engage in a good time with your furry companion:
- Interactive play sessions can make a huge difference, preferably two sessions per day. Encourage your cat to “hunt” a feather toy or fishing rod-type toy. Let them chase it and leap through the air, then end each session with his favorite treat to mimic a successful hunting experience.
- Scent games are fun for kitties too! Snuffle mats with treats, catnip, or both provide a lot of great mental enrichment to your cat. You can even play the ‘shell game’ with a treat to find out how smart your cat really is.
- Cat grass or cat nip can be a fun treat. Many plants are toxic to cats, so be sure to get cat-friendly grass. Pet stores sell cat grass, or you can even grow your own.
- Take your cat for a walk! Walking cats has become more widespread and can really take you and your cat’s adventures to new levels. When training a cat to walk on a leash, please use very gradual and positive reinforcement-based methods to make sure they are confident on their excursions.