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Dog Play Styles - Do You Know Your Dog's Play Type?

Dog Play Styles - Do You Know Your Dog's Play Type?

Dog Play Styles - Do You Know Your Dog's Play Type?

Dogs love to play, and understanding their play styles can help you choose the best toys and activities for your furry friend. Most dog play styles stem from their innate motor patterns - or rather the behaviours they are naturally motivated to do because their genetics encourage it, and it feels good to do! This varies a lot between individuals, and this is why some dogs are driven to fetch balls like their life depends on it, and others couldn't give two tail-wags about it. Play often needs to reflect certain hunting, foraging or social skills that your type of dog would use in order to really stimulate them. 

The wonderful thing is that each activity provides a release of rewarding and satisfying neurochemicals - dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. These neurochemicals help to protect and heal against fear and frustration in dogs. Good play is actually good therapy!

Knowing the type of play your dog most enjoys can help you find the most suitable games and toys, reducing the likelihood of disappointing purchases and forgotten toys. I like to break down play styles into four categories. Your dog may show elements of many different play styles, but often there is one true category that stands out for a pet owner. First, you need to do some homework and really think about what motivates your dog. If you are unsure you can do a little experimenting with different activities and see what engages them.

Which of these would you apply to your dog? Remember your answers as you read on about the four play styles.


The Four Savvy Play Styles: 

The Ratter

The "Ratter" loves to chase objects (or other pets and people) that are moving quickly along the ground. Rather than wanting to fetch objects, they are more likely to want the toy to keep running and moving. This comes from a long history of ratting types, who are bred to hunt and catch vermin. A lot of terrier types and smaller breeds show these play styles, and often seem to loose interest in balls and fetch toys. Instead, try toys that can be dragged along the ground, that can be tugged or that involve some nose pushing and snuffling behaviour like our Tumbler. Be careful with ratting types if you give them soft toys, as they are rarely soft mouthed with them and will be more likely to dissect them across your living room. I love to offer these doggos the opportunity to tear up cardboard boxes as enrichment, or get their nose into a good stuff-able frozen toy so that they satisfy their need to lick and chew. Attach you tug toys to some rope and drag them along the ground to watch your little ratter come to life!


The Wrestler

The "Wrestler," loves to roughhouse and play fight. These dogs are all about contact sports. They enjoy bouncing off each other, people and furniture seemingly unfazed by knocks to the head or the occasional foul tackle. When picking toys for our wrestlers, size and strength matter. Choose larger products that they can bounce off rather than smaller toys that will be easily lost in play. Calming, robust chews life the Sodapup Fishbone are also great for these dogs and will promote some healthy relaxation and relief after a bit of physical exertion. Wrestlers can get frustrated easily, so if you are just starting our with enrichment, don't chose products that are too frustrating and small. You want to fit a decent portion of food into it and use it at meal times rather than for a quick treat. Wrestlers will enjoy toys they can grab and shake, as well as playing with other dogs who enjoy wrestling.


The Detective

The "Detective" who loves puzzle toys and games that challenge their minds. These dogs enjoy treat-dispensing toys and interactive games that require problem-solving skills. They are the type of dog who is constantly investigating their environment, on the hunt for new smells and goodies. As you can imagine, many of our scent hound types show this sort of play style. For these pets, I highly recommend treat balls that create trails of treats to sniff out of the grass. Slow feeders that separate ingredients or allow you to provide a little variety at meal time will also stimulate these busy noses. Snuffle Mats are an absolute must for indoor play time or tracking games on the go!


The Worker

The "Worker" style is for dogs who prefer to retrieve or herd their toys, working hard at their play, sometimes not knowing when to clock off and give it a rest. They often have one preference of game or even one preference of toy and can become obsessed over it. While I encourage you to allow these working type outlets, we also have to take initiative to give these dedicated doggies a bit of variety. I like to do this by pairing a good fetch or round up play session with a cool-down activity like a Lick Mat, strong nylon chew or even by scatter feeding some treats in the grass. By finishing on a lower level activity, you help your little employee of the month transition from their high arousal state, to a bit of relaxation.

Of course, there are all-rounders who partake in all sorts of activities, and in truth there are even more play styles than these four. This is a good starting point, and a little bit of experimenting with some keen observation will help you to build the best playtimes with your pet. Remember that age and ability will have its own impact on your pets play style and you will need to make adjustments throughout heir life, but there is always a way to get creative and unlock a little more joy in your pet's day. I hope this introduction to play styles got you thinking about how!

Stay Savvy


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