A very Happy New Year.
We hope you had a fun yet peaceful festive period.
It’s that time of the year of course when we’re thinking of the ways in which we would like to improve our lives – whether we’ve overindulged and have decided we need to make changes to our physical health or if 2018 was a bit too hectic and we need to slow down and spend more time with family and friends or devote it to the hobbies or activities that we enjoy.
This last one is certainly true for me. Opening two fields last year unsurprisingly took its toll on the time I spent with loved ones, including my dogs. I started thinking about how I could set a new pattern of quality interaction with them and this brought to mind a study I read by Bristol University.
Study finds that play is key to our dogs’ wellbeing
A study released by Bristol University has found that play is the key to our dogs' wellbeing. The study of 4,000 dog owners found that a lack of play can cause up to 22 different behavioural issues including an increase in anxiety, aggression, pulling on the lead, whining, and not coming when called. Scientists are beginning to agree that play is the key to a dog’s happiness.
My New Year's resolution is to play more
I’m going to make sure I reach the target of 5 or 6 separate play sessions a day with my dogs. We do around 3 at the moment. Instead of going for a long walk every morning I think I’ll cut it down and spend an extra 15 minutes playing. Knowing Lao’s enthusiasm for games he won’t mind. Fifi takes more persuading when it comes to play so that will be an interesting challenge. I imagine that by building a solid play programme into her daily routine she will become more receptive to it.
I'm going to call it the Dogwood 6 Play Challenge!
The serious benefits of play
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping them develop a healthy personality.
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules engage your dog's brain, not just their body. This can help keep the mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays it helps improve their overall social skills. They learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes each time, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How often do you play with your dog?
Dogs that don’t engage in a lot of play have been found to suffer from more behavioural issues including anxiety and aggression. The study found that 20% of owners play with their dog 6 times a day. 50% said they play with their dogs two or three times a day and 10% only engage in play once a day. 94% of the 4,000 participants said they experience behavioural issues with their dog.
Play sessions don’t have to be long. Try five minutes per session to begin with; that's just 30 minutes of play over 6 sessions per day.
If you struggle to fit in enough play, we could help. We offer Enrichment Breaks and Field Trips to add positive mental enrichment to your dog’s day.
Playing with your dog keeps them mentally fit
Playing games with your dog is not only a way to keep them physically fit, it’s also mentally challenging. Dogs thrive when they’re able to engage in mentally stimulating activities. A simple game of tug is both extremely physically and mentally challenging for our dogs.
What's your dog's favourite game?
43% of dog owners reported that fetch is their dog’s favourite game followed by chase, tug, and wrestling. According to the survey tennis balls are a dog's favourite toy followed by soft squeaky toys, rubber balls, and rope toys.
Dog to dog play
Many of us – myself included – don’t get to experience the joy of watching our dogs play with other dogs. But that's ok because they have us! For us, we are our dogs’ play companions – and what an important role to have!
However, we do recognise how important play with their own species is for dogs who enjoy it. Dogwood runs Group Field Trips, a collect-play-and-drop-off service at our field for sociable dogs.
We will soon also be introducing Social Sessions on Saturday afternoons in Dogwood East.
And don't worry if your dog doesn't enjoy other dogs' company - we've got lots more planned for them as well!
I’ll be dropping into your inbox throughout the year with suggestions, tips and advice for how to meet the recommended 6 plays, as well as some more general enrichment ideas.
Well, with so much playing to do I'd better say goodbye for now! I hope the year gets off to a great start for you all.