Activities For Young Dogs

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Introduction

The beauty of young dogs and puppies is that they almost entertain themselves. They have so much learning to do and it seems they want to do it all right now! While this energy and busyness is admirable, it can also get them into trouble. Left alone to amuse themselves, they can become destructive and dig holes down to China in your prize garden. Or they can eat things that they shouldn't, such as rat baits (yep, they will try it out if they get a chance), drink turpentine (hard to believe but they will try anything), or chew plants that can be poisonous to a dog. If they can find something  new, they will chew it.  A tired dog is a good dog as the old saying goes, and it is so true. When a dog is tired, they sleep. Phew; for ten minutes or so you don't have to track and trace that furry ball of energy! Here are some ideas for activities for young dogs; these will challenge their stamina and hopefully satisfy their curiosity. Be aware that the activities need to be low impact, as their bones are still growing and can be damaged by jumping, racing up and down stairs, and falling off things.

Hide and Seek

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Any Day
Free
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Two people
Treats
A squeaky toy
Activity description
What young dog wouldn't like a game of hide and seek? Games like these offer low impact exercise and are a way to hone your pup's detective skills. A dog will soon catch onto the game, and will find you pretty fast once they do. Inspired by the attention and a treat, they will play this for hours if they have the choice. If you have a large garden or big house, then so much the better. You will have more choices for hiding places. Remember, under beds and in closets make a great hiding place. Try to make it hard for your pet to find you. Teaching them commands such as 'find' or 'come' during the game is a sneaky way of adding training to the day. You can involve all the family in this game, with several people hiding, which means several treats upon exposure! Now, that will make your dog work on their detective skills.
Step
1
Time to hide
While a friend or family member holds and distracts your dog, go and find a place to hide. Make it easy for the first time, so they get the idea. Behind doors, in the garage, even lying in the bathtub; these all make a good hiding place. Then, call out to your dog to 'come' or whatever word you want to use in this game, keeping the word consistent each time the game is played.
Step
2
Time to seek
When your dog hears the command 'come' or 'find', the person holding them can release them. Your dog will start tracking you, trying to find where you are. Call out occasionally if they are having trouble locating you. Just repeat your command then keep quiet. Let your dog work out where you are by themselves.
Step
3
Find and reward!
Expect an explosion of bouncing and excitement once your pup finds you. They will probably run back and forth, barking and play growling. Then it’s the sloppy licks, then the treat. "Wow, that was fun," your dog will be thinking. And when you want to do it again, they will be all for it. When you get tired - which you will - get the new toy with a squeaker in it, and use that to lure your dog. Then when they find you, the dog gets a treat and a new noisy toy! They will be in doggy heaven! Be forewarned; they will want to play again, and again and again...
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Muffin Tray Puzzle

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
New puzzle toy
Muffin Tray
Tennis balls
Small treats
Small cloth such as a tea towel
Activity description

A young dog will love the challenge of some puzzle games that will work their busy minds. With so many dog toys on the market, there is a wide variety and choice. Treat dispensing toys in all shapes and sizes, chewing toys, or even a puzzle where they have to push and rearrange things are all good fun. You don't have to buy toys all the time; with a bit of ingenuity and time, and you can whip up a game or two to test your eager dog. A young pooch will love any time spent with you; games encourage positive behavior which is then reinforced by a reward. Something to fill their belly always works! So grab a muffin tray, some treats, and plan a puzzle time with your dog. Mentally challenging games are just as exhausting as physical games, so wear that hyper pup out!

Step
1
Hide the treats
A new toy is always a welcome attraction for a young dog. If it's a wet day, then it could be the perfect time for puzzle play. Put aside a new toy that you keep until after the game, and make the muffin tray puzzle (simply, tennis balls in a muffin tray). Then, get down on the floor with your pooch and set up the game. While your dog sits and watches, hide a small treat under one of the balls.
Step
2
Find the treat
Once you are ready, give the command to 'find' and see what your dog does. Teach them to put their nose or paw on the tennis ball where they think the treat is hidden. Then you check it, and if they are right, your dog gets a treat and lots of praise. Then continue to hide it under another. Another option is to use a tea towel to cover up the muffin tray when you are hiding the treat - making them work just a bit harder for their treat.
Step
3
Vary the game
Once it gets too easy, teach your clever pup another game using the muffing tray. Tip all the balls out and instruct your dog to put them one by one into each muffin space on the tray. When they do it correctly, and all the holes are filled, they get a treat. Then you can ask them to take a ball out at a time, and when the muffin tray is empty, they get another treat. When you have had enough, reward your puzzle master with the new toy you have put aside, and let them play to their heart's content.
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Fetch with a Difference

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
New toy
A short pole
A length of line - slightly stretchy
Activity description
Dogs seem to be hotwired to run after a ball and bring it back. Some give it back easily, others almost have to be wrestled to get the ball back (sounds like training is needed here!). You can vary the game of fetch for a young dog by making a pole and line that has a stuffed toy attached. This enables the game to be played inside or out. By flicking the toy here or there with your dog hot on the trail, it keeps the game interesting and safe for that young woofer's bones. A toy is gentle on the mouth and if it is a favorite or new toy, well, so much the better. Teach them to 'drop it' and offer a treat.  Don't make it too easy though, because puppies put on weight really quick and if you overdo it you will end up with a furry ball with four legs and two ears sticking out!
Step
1
Get ready
First, assemble your line by attaching it to your pole at one end, and the toy on the other. The toy can be a new toy, or perhaps a treasured toy. Teach your dog to 'stay' while you get everything ready. Otherwise, they will try to 'help' you organize the toy. This game can be played inside on a rainy day, and is a good warm up exercise for outdoor play on a cold day.
Step
2
Let's play
Have your dog sitting several feet away, then give the command to 'go' or 'fetch', and start flicking the toy. Keep it out of reach of your dog, so it you dog gets close, flick it away again in another direction. But do let your dog win occasionally, or they will lose interest and suddenly disappear. Give a tasty reward for catching the toy, after they have dropped the toy on command. Then just keep going.
Step
3
The never ending game
This game will be one that your dog will never tire of. They will want to keep going and going. Have a half time break for a rest, then after the second half, call the game as 'over'. Untie the toy and offer it to the dog to play with (as well as a few hugs for their efforts). With luck, they may want to settle down with their toy and relive the game in their dreams, woofing and twitching as they snuggle up to you.
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More Fun Ideas...

Make a New Friend

Dogs love to play, and who best to play with than another dog? If you have a friend who also has a dog, then maybe it is time to have them both over in order to introduce the dogs to each other. While they may be cautious at first, they will soon start playing and chasing each other, especially if both dogs are young. Supervise the play which can get a bit rough at times, but only step in when needed. Adding a ball or a knotted thick rope can add a new dimension to their game. Arranging 'play dates' for your dog helps with the socializing of a young dog. They will learn that they can't always have things their way. Dogs need little encouragement to play, and getting a group of dog friends together is a great way to help them to develop good social skills.

A Country Hike

Check out what walkways are near you and see if they are dog friendly. Then, on a sunny day, fill a back pack with essential items such as water for you and your dog, treats, a small first aid kit, towel, and whatever else you need. At first light, venture forth! With your dog on a leash (or you will lose them as they chase shadows) and camera around your neck for selfies of you and your dog, relax and enjoy the countryside as you amble along. Any water holes you encounter will give super-pup a chance to splash and roll around. Lunch will find an attentive puppy,  then a short rest before returning to the car park will fill up the day. Your young dog will relive this trip many times in their dreams.

Swimming

If it is spring and summer, then it must be time for swimming. Most dogs love to swim, but if yours doesn't - don't try and force them. Introduce them to the ocean, river or pool slowly. Let them get their confidence. Once your dog is happy to swim, then you can introduce games such as fetch the ball (choose one that floats), or if you have a pool, teach your dog to go in and get a certain toy such as a yellow duck. If you have trained your dog to know what the name of the toy is, it is so much easier. This exercise will provide a physical and mental workout, which is what you want for a young dog. Swimming and beach fun are ideal for socializing your dog as well as exercising them.

Conclusion

Young dogs are so eager to learn. They love new things such as a different route on your daily walk, a new toy, a new game, as well as any attention that you can give them. Everything seems to go in their mouth, as it is a way of learning (sometimes the hard way) what objects are and what they do. After one mishap, you may think they will have learned their lesson and be more cautious. But no, young dogs don't work that way. They will still approach life with a flat out, headlong dive into it, to see what makes life tick. Don't overdo the exercise - jogging, stairs or jumps are not suitable for a young dog until their joints are fully mature.  If you can drain some of the energy out of them through positive, non impact exercise and activity, then you have a great chance of raising a healthy, well trained dog. Enjoy their joy, their energy, their lust for life! It is a beautiful thing.