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Dog Toys and Play Styles…What makes your dog tick?

Dogs’ Toys and their Play Styles

Being an owner of a doggy daycare company I am so lucky to spend most of my day with dogs. Watching them play fascinates me. The way they are all so different. And as I own three dogs of my own too, I know how differently they play when they are around other dogs than the times when they are amusing themselves on their own.

So why is it that one dog will make an instant connection with one toy, yet another won’t give it the time of day. And what do all these different styles of play mean? In this blog, I’ll share with you what to look out for so you can match their behaviours to specific dog toys to make them even happier!

Why dogs play so much

Dogs spend hours playing and interacting because they can’t communicate in any other way. Well, other than when they want something and give you ‘that look’ – their eyes can give a lot away. But when it comes down to it, chasing, tackling, tugging and nipping are all activities that make up their language.

Certain breeds adopt play styles which seems to be in the DNA, but you can’t always guarantee that they’ll be like their parents. The best thing to do is to observe the way your dog plays when they’re at home as well as when they are around other dogs. This will help you to identify their unique style.

And once you’ve figured out what they are trying to say, the type of toys you give them can really bring out the best in them.

What to look for

Rolling over onto backs. It was believed for some time that this was a submissive gesture, but recent in-depth research indicates that it is a sign that a dog wants to facilitate play.

Lowers the front of body. This bow like stance when bums are in the air and tails wagging is a clear indication that they’re ready to play. You may see your dog doing this when they meet another dog. And if following this stance, the dog jumps or nips, it’s not aggression, they’re being extra playful.

So now you know what body language they use to tell you that they are ready for play, there will also be clues to tell you what kind of play they enjoy the most. Here are just some of the more common characters played out by our four-legged friend. Put on your detective hat and get observing …

Loves to search and sniff. This behaviour is usually inbuilt and in their genes. Breeds such as pointers and spaniels are naturally drawn to play ‘find it’ games.

Digging and getting dirty! Terriers are usually the first to be found with their front paws hunting for something … anything. But other dogs love to partake in a spot of digging too. If you’ve an excitable, energetic dog who loves to dig, you’ll find that their heads can be turned by a squeaky toy to save your garden.

Rougher play and body slamming. Usually reserved for larger dogs, rough play that looks a lot like wrestling moves is just their way of playing. Body slamming may look frightening, but it’s actually harmless. It’s highly likely that they’ll get a kick out of playing with tug-of-war style toys with you.

Easily distracted. If your dog has a great sense of smell – just like my Beagle – you’ll have seen them playing one minute, then running off after a scent the next. To keep these active explorers interested and entertained hide their treats and favourite toys and watch them have fun searching for them.

Chasing anything that moves. Some dogs just can’t help it – they see something interesting and they’re off. Greyhounds and whippets are the worst offenders for whizzing after something at incredible speeds. On their own you may see them playing similar to that of a cat – they do enjoy stalking and pouncing. Buy plenty of balls! They’ll thank you for it.

The circler. These are the crazily energetic bunch that spend a lot of their time running around in circles. They may freeze momentarily, and then they’re off again at top speed. Squeaky toys and chasing balls are great ways to keep them focused and to help them burn off all that energy.

The cheerleader. These dogs stay around the periphery when other dogs are playing. There’ll be the ones wagging their tails enthusiastically and barking to egg the others on. They’ll also be the ones to police situations and muscle in to stop any rough activity, but it’s all done in a playful manner. Any toys will suit them as long as you encourage them to join in!

Selecting the best toy

Being an observer of dogs for so many years I’ve chosen some great toys that you can find in my online shop. You’ll find something to suit your dog, but, if you need help choosing one, I’m here to help you pick the perfect one – or two!

Making sure they all get on

The dogs that make up the pack at Country Hounds Doggy Daycare are closely observed until we ‘get them’ and have worked out their language. We know what is playful, what is not, and who likes certain playstyles. Understanding the way they communicate enables us to both support them and protect them every time they visit. Only then will they go home very happy dogs.

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