Training Through Play (How To Play With Dog For Training)

Training Through Play (How To Play With Dog For Training)

Amy Thompson

When you first completed training with your dog, she was likely happy, confident, and well-behaved. However, as you both settled back into your regular routine, you may have noticed old behaviours resurfacing.

Your dog might now be exhibiting signs of anxiety, boredom, or demanding behavior, leading to unwanted or even destructive actions. This situation can be frustrating and confusing, making you wonder what went wrong and how to fix it.

The good news is that "training" doesn't have to be hard work. You can mix training with play to make it more fun for both you and your dog ... and you might even find that she learns better that way.

Here's why traditional training doesn't always work ... and what you can do instead.

Does Dog Training Work?

Training often takes place in controlled environments like puppy schools or training classes, where your dog is active, engaged, and challenged.

In these settings, your dog learns new behaviours and boundaries quickly. However, once you return to your everyday life, the consistency and structure of training can fade, and old habits start to return.

This occurs because training often changes behavior in a specific context but doesn't alter your dog's underlying mentality. To make lasting changes, you need to replace old behaviours with new ones through continuous reinforcement. One effective way to achieve this is by incorporating play into your routine.

Why Your Dog Needs Playtime

It's essential to recognize that your dog needs regular playtime. Play is a natural behaviours for dogs, allowing them to express themselves, expend excess energy, and prevent boredom. It stimulates their instincts, enhances mental capacity, and provides necessary physical exercise.

Spending quality time with your dog through playful activities, such as chasing, searching, or simply enjoying walks, is incredibly beneficial. Regular play sessions contribute to a well-adjusted and happy dog.

The amount and type of play your dog needs will vary based on her age and breed. Puppies require short, frequent play sessions because they tire quickly, while older dogs benefit from gentler play to stay active, healthy, and alert.

Active working or sporting breeds need more vigorous play compared to more sedentary dogs. Even a brief 10 to 15-minute play session can help your dog relax, build confidence, and improve her behavior.

How To Play With Dog And Train At The Same Time

So what's the best way to play and train your dog at the same time? We recommend using a mix of both physical stimulation and mental exercises to keep her stimulated and happy.

The good news is that you don't need much to get started and get your dog excited about playing and training. Some basic puzzle games or a couple of tennis balls are plenty.

Here are some ideas:

Physical Exercises

Physical play is essential for burning off energy and keeping your dog fit. Here are some fun activities you can try:

  • Playing Fetch: Throw a tennis ball or toy and encourage your dog to bring it back. Start with short distances and gradually increase as she gets better at this classic game.
  • Tug-of-War: Use a sturdy rope toy and let your dog tug on it. Make sure to teach her a cue to release the toy when playtime is over.
  • Agility Training: Set up a simple agility course in your backyard or visit a local agility club. This can include tunnels, jumps, and weave poles.
  • Flyball: This team sport involves jumping hurdles and catching a ball. It’s great for high-energy dogs.

Always check the safety of toys and playthings for sharp edges or small parts that could be a choking hazard. Also, avoid letting the games overexcite your dog. If she gets too rough or nippy, take a break and calm her down.

Mental Exercises

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. It keeps your dog’s mind sharp and helps prevent boredom-related behaviours. Here are some ideas:

  • Scent Training: Hide treats or toys around the house or yard and encourage your dog to find them using her nose.
  • Interactive Toys: Buy toys that challenge your dog to solve puzzles or work for a treat.
  • Hide and Seek: Hide in different spots in your home and call your dog to find you. This also reinforces recall commands.
  • Interactive Feeders: Use snuffle mats or puzzle feeders that reward your dog with food. These can keep her entertained for hours.

How To Train Your Dog While Exercising

You can also train your dog while exercising her (and yourself). In fact, incorporating training into your daily activities can help reinforce commands and teach new skills.

Here are some ideas:

  • Daily Walks: Use your walks to practice commands like stay, wait, and loose-leash walking. Walks are also an opportunity to teach your dog to greet other dogs and people calmly.
  • Recall Training: Practice calling your dog back to you. Start at home or in your yard, and gradually increase the difficulty by adding distractions.
  • Leave It/Give: If your dog picks up something she shouldn’t during a walk, use this as an opportunity to practice obedience training commands like "leave it" or "give."

Consistency is key, so make time to play or train every day. Repetition helps reinforce learning and makes training through play something your dog looks forward to.

The Benefits Of Playing With Your Dog

Playing is fun for both you and your dog. But it also comes with many benefits.

Here's why play isn't just important, but necessary for any dog owner:

  • Strengthens Bond: Playtime strengthens the bond between you and your dog.
  • Physical Exercise: Both you and your dog get physical exercise, which is essential for overall health.
  • Mental Stimulation: Playing tires your dog mentally, helping to prevent boredom and associated behavioral issues.
  • Training Opportunities: Play is a fun way to reinforce training and teach new skills without your dog realizing she’s being trained.

Final Thoughts

Playing with your dog is crucial for her happiness and well-being. It strengthens your bond, provides necessary physical and mental exercise, and helps manage behavior. By incorporating regular playtime and training into your routine, you’ll ensure your dog remains happy, healthy, and well-behaved.

So grab a toy and start playing with your pup today!


Do dogs like to be played with? Yes, dogs love being played with because it engages their instincts, provides mental stimulation, and strengthens their bond with their best friend.

Should I play with my dog all the time? While most dogs enjoy regular play sessions, playing all the time isn't necessary; they may lose interest, so balance play with rest and other activities.

What is acceptable dog play? Acceptable dog play includes activities that encourage listening skills and use positive reinforcement, such as mind games, fetch, or an obstacle course.

How to have fun with a dog? To have fun with your dog, try games to play like fetch or hide and seek, introduce new activities like using a hula hoop, and explore more tips for interactive and engaging play.