Why Play is Important

Play is an important daily activity for your pet, especially if that pet is a puppy or kitten. It’s easy to forget playtime in the hustle and bustle of daily life with pets. There’s feeding, potty breaks or litterbox cleaning, training, walking, and socializing to do, and sometimes it’s tempting to repeatedly put off play sessions. But in reality, playing with your pet daily can help to solve and prevent many problems, while making training easier and strengthening your bond. It’s critical that you make time for daily play with your pet.

Pets Learn Through Play

Consider how human children learn. Two children playing a clapping game are practing hand-eye coordination, as well as rhyming, counting, and memorization. A more complex game of make-believe allows young children to practice simple tasks, reinforce learned values, create and memorize complex stories, and much more. Similarly, play sessions are key to learning and memory for pets.

When puppies play together, they learn gentleness, bite inhibition, the body language necessary to befriend other dogs, and why it’s not smart to win every game, even if you’re the biggest dog: Puppies won’t play with another puppy for long if he wins every wrestling match. When the same puppies play with humans, they learn and practice behaviors that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. For example, if you play a game with your puppy that involves two people calling him in turn from opposite ends of the house, he will reinforce the behavior of coming when called by associating it with a fun game.

Play Prevents Problems

Play also helps teach puppies and kittens which objects are appropriate toys. Kittens need to learn early that human hands are not toys and mustn’t be scratched or bitten. The best way to teach this is to play with the kitten and a toy, and to end the play session immediately if the cat redirects scratching or biting to your hands instead of the toy. Puppies also learn about appropriate toys from play. If a game involves chewing an appropriate toy, the puppy will repeat that behavior later on his own, recalling that it was pleasant to chew that same toy during a play session.

In addition, as I repeat often, a tired pet is a well-behaved pet. Play is tiring, especially for puppies and kittens. The exercise and bonding provided by daily play sessions will help keep your pets tired, happy, and relaxed. Play with your pets daily, and they’ll reward you with a closer bond with you, better behavior overall, and faster learning during training sessions.

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