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Play With Your Dog

Like you, I love dogs, but I’m not sure when I last really played with one.

Sure, I walk them, and take them on trail runs. I pet them and snuggle them. I toss the ball a bit, throw a stick here or there. And I bestow treat upon treat upon them for sits, downs, and stays. I feed them, pick up after them, and keep their water bowls fresh. Chew toys? You bet. I call dogs to come, praise them for coming, pat their heads, scratch their ears, and rub their tummies.

But play? A good tug-of-war session or a rousing game of chase, like trainer extraordinaire Kelly Gorman Dunbar recommends in The Monthly Woof this issue? Not so much.

I’m glad she brings that up, because too many of us seem to want our living, loving, energetic fur babies to quit being dogs altogether. We want them to do our bidding and our bidding only. We don’t allow them to sniff endlessly in the meadow. We stop them from rolling in stinky stuff in the woods, we put a quick end to their loud bursts of barking at the dog park, and we wonder how much of that butt sniffing is too much.

Back in the day, I’d let my girls get good and dirty just about whenever they wanted. Mud puddle? No problem: The muddy paw prints in the SUV were something a little soap and water could cure. I’ll never forget my Anna, still a puppy, at the park on one hot day when she leapt into the shallow creek and then squirmed through the sand on the bank until her silky red fur was brown with grit—dip-roll, dip-roll again and again and again. That was fun for both of us.

Do something sweet for your four-legged friend this holiday season: Engage her in a chummy wrestling match on the floor, race him to get to the ball, or learn to play a mindful match of tug of war. It’s easy with Kelly giving the cues, and it’s the type of heartfelt present you can continue to give your dog all year long.