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Experts say an adult dog should play everyday

Original Publication Date: March 23, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Experts say an adult dog should have an hour of active play each day to stay healthy, fit and happy. The time is best divided into two 30-minute periods that you spend with your dog. Running, swimming, jumping or other aerobic exercise will keep your dog fit, but your dog will benefit more if you play structured games together.

Games with a goal like fetch, hide and seek, and tug of war teach your dog control and strengthen the bond between you.

Spring is a perfect time to play outside with your dog. Choose a safe place so you can focus on the game without fear your pup will dart into the street or otherwise get hurt. A fenced backyard is a good choice if available.

Some dogs do not like to pick things up with their mouth. Entice these pups with a plush toy or tennis ball soaked in chicken broth or an old sock filled with aromatic treats. Reward a reluctant dog with a treat every time it picks up the toy or even looks at it. It will soon learn picking up the toy results in a tasty tidbit. Your dog is ready to learn to play.

Most dogs love toys, so include them whether you are playing with a pup or a grown dog. Fetch is a great game for starters. Dogs can be a bit finicky about the toys they choose to fetch. Some prefer a tennis ball while others like a doggie-safe flexible Frisbee from the local pet store. People Frisbees are hard enough to chip a dog's tooth and should be avoided. Some dogs are perfectly happy to play fetch with a plain old stick found in the yard. When making a selection, avoid edible toys like rawhide and small toys that could be swallowed.

Experts offer a number of variations on how to teach your dog to fetch. I like to use treats as rewards to induce a dog to fetch. Start by showing your dog the toy and tossing it a few inches. If it picks it up or even looks at it, praise it and give it a treat.

Continue the exercise, tossing the toy a bit farther and sometimes wiggling it to keep your dogs attention. It will soon learn picking up the toy equals a reward.

Encourage your dog to bring the toy back to you. It will figure out that fetching and returning the toy means lots of praise and treats. After your dog has learned the game, continue to occasionally offer treats to keep him/her interested. Learning a new game is a process. Be patient.

Make time each day to play with your dog. It will keep him fit and healthy, and it will strengthen the bond between the two of you. It will also be lots of fun.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at