Eight benefits of dog play – not just for fun!

Playtime is not just a fun activity for our dogs! There are tons of ways play time benefits our dogs mental health, physical well being, and the bond we share. Here are eight benefits of dog play you might not have thought of…

1.Helps dogs learn faster

Dogs that end a training session with play learn 40x faster than those that don’t. Play adds an exciting and emotional finish to your session which increases its importance, and means it gets remembered.

2.Mental Stimulation

Play stimulates different areas of a dog’s mind, preventing boredom, and promoting mental agility. Interactive toys and puzzle games can challenge their problem-solving skills and keep their brains sharp. As can scent games, which can be more exhausting than a walk!

3.Emotional Bonding

Engaging in playtime with your dog strengthens the bond between you. It fosters trust, communication, and a sense of companionship, creating a deeper connection. Choose games you can play together that include rewards, such as hide and seek, or recall games.

4.Stress Relief

Play serves as a stress reliever for dogs. It helps them release pent-up energy and provides an outlet for any anxiety or frustration they may experience. In fact, it’s not possible for a dog to be anxious while they practise hunting games so focus on games like find the treat, chasing, destruction, and retrieving. Physical play also stimulates the release of endorphins so it makes him feel good too – just like an athlete after a run!

a pug dog playing tug with a rope toy.
Confidence building is one of the benefits of dog play. Playing tug like this boy can be a hunting game and a stress reliever!

5.Physical Exercise

This is maybe an obvious one but playtime can provide an excellent outlet for dogs to release excess energy, stay fit, and maintain a healthy weight. Fast paced games like chasing balls, stalking and wrestling with friends, or even playing tug, can drain their energy pretty fast. Draining excess energy also helps dogs feel content, and that contentment can prevent behaviour problems from developing.

6.Improves Social Skills

Playtime with other dogs can enhance a dog’s social skills and teach them appropriate play behavior. When engaged in play, normal social rules go out the window so it’s an opportunity to learn safely through mistakes. Playing with doggy friends also allows them to play without inhibition; no matter how hard we try, we will never be as fast or robust as another dog, it’s just not the same. Playing with others can also teach them problem solving skills and conflict resolution which are important for managing overall mood and reactive behaviour.

7.Builds Confidence

Even though your dog will never have to hunt for himself, honing the skills needed to fight and hunt is important for his mental health and confidence. A lack of hunting skills such as stalking, chasing, wrestling, and searching can leave a dog feeling vulnerable and anxious.

8.Prepares the dog for food

Dogs have a natural biological rhythm that starts first thing in the morning when they wake up. Their body functions best when they wake, hunt, and then eat. Play replicates hunting, which triggers the rest and digest state needed to eat and digest food properly. Dogs that eat outside of their rest and digest state can have issues with digestion and even food guarding.

Finally: A note on toys and games

Your dog will naturally have favourite toy and games. You can’t change their preferences, some dogs are just built to prefer certain types of games. Some dogs like to shred stuff, some prefer to chase, others sniff. Whatever your dogs favourite games is, look for toys and games that include these elements. These will have the most benefit to your dog and his well being. Dogs that don’t get to play in their preferred way could get frustrated and look for other ways to satisfy their needs.

Are you struggling with your dogs behaviour?

Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the greater Dundee area and beyond. If you are looking for help solving your dogs behaviour and training problems, then please get in touch!


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

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