Playing with your cat or dog isn't just fun; it is also vital for them. The additional exercise and mental stimulation are healthy for every pet. Do you have an indoor tiger? Then going the extra mile for them is essential. By playing together, you are also building a solid bond of trust. But how can you play responsibly with your four-legged fuzzballs?
Fetch and tug-o-war: fun with dogs
For dogs, playing isn't just fun and healthy; you can also use it as a tool for teaching them commands! Take the famous game of fetch: you throw something, and he gets it for you. But the dog will probably not automatically go after something you threw: you have to teach him to do so. First, you have to train your dog to release the ball when you ask him to. As soon as he has mastered this skill, you can throw the ball a short distance away and have your pup bring it back to you. Slowly increase how far you throw the toy until your dog has figured it out completely.
During a game of tug-o-war, it is vital to set clear rules and boundaries, to ensure the game stays friendly and your pet knows where the limits are. Start by teaching you doggo a command that means the game has started. This command will ensure your dog will not simply steal the toy right out of your hands. Of course, you don't want your pup to bite you during the game accidentally. Hopefully, you have taught her at a young age what is and isn't an appropriate object to sink her teeth in. Finally, teach your dog when to stop, for example, when the game is getting a little too rambunctious, and the dog nips your hand. Stop the game immediately and indicate the problem clearly (OUCH!). This way, your dog will learn what is appropriate behaviour, and what isn't, and that playtime is over if she doesn't stick to the rules.
Do you want to end the game because playtime is over? Teach your dog a command that means 'release', so she will let go of the toy when you ask her to. This way, playtime will always be a carefree affair!
'Hunting' with cats
Cats are natural-born hunters. Most cats simply live to stalk and chase prey. Playing with your cat works best when you stimulate this hunting instinct: try to replicate something he would be chasing if he were in the wild.
An ideal tool for a hunting simulation is a toy mouse, feather or similar toy on a string (which in turn may be attached to a stick... you are fishing for cats!). Slowly move this toy behind the sofa, quickly across the living room floor, or let it bounce in the air. Switch up the pace so your cat can stalk and run, which makes the game interesting for him. After a while, let your kitty catch their prey, to make him feel there is a point to the game!
Even without a fishing rod, there is lots to do with your cats. As they love to chase things, you can throw balls, toy mice or small treats across the living room floor. By throwing things away from your kitty, they will think the toy is running away and will most definitely run after it.
For some additional sensory stimulation, use a toy with a bell attached, or one that has been treated with catnip. Both give the game an extra dimension and catnip will drive some kitties bonkers. Many react strongly to this herb and when they smell it, will do some very silly things indeed.
Cats are highly intelligent and will quickly lose interest when you put out all their toys for them. Select 2 or 3 and regularly switch them up with other toys, to keep things interesting for your cat.
By playing with your four-legged friend often, you will help her stay healthy and alert, but it's also a great way to spend a lot of time together. Your pet learns that you are the one that provides everything she needs and that you are an awesome person to be with. You will strengthen the bond between you with every game you play. And since we don't often get the chance to play, a pet is a great excuse for fun and games!