Entertaining Your Puppy

Entertaining your puppy is best with you there – they are companion animals and rely on us for their mental and physical stimulation – but not to worry, there’s plenty you can do to help them keep busy and have fun! Read on for more information about the different forms of entertainment available, their benefits, of the enrichment you can provide to your puppy, child safety, socialisation with other dogs and pets, and interacting with people.

This includes:

  • Entertainment and fun
  • Child safety
  • Socialisation with other dogs and pets
  • Interaction with people

    Entertainment and fun

    Entertainment comes in many different forms for your puppy; and it should include a daily walk to provide them both mental and physical stimulation. A dog’s smell is their best sense, so walk can be like taking them to a candy store – so many things to see and smell around them. Toys are another great way to provide enrichment; both toys you can use with your pup (fetching toys), or toys which require some thought (puzzle toys ) for your puppy are great ways to stimulate them, particularly when you’re not around.

    While walking and toys are great forms of entertainment for your puppy, there are plenty other types of enrichment available that will compliment your puppy’s mental and physical stimulation, and providing one type in conjunction with another will ensure your puppy has the most interesting environment it can. Training, tricks and games (including agility) are some of the best and most fun ways to enrich your puppy’s life, but will also help you bond positively with your puppy. Nothing will make your puppy more receptive to you than being included in your life and being rewarded for doing things right. The best thing to teach your puppy first is their name. Having them respond to their name will make all training and interaction with your puppy much easier. Saying their name, getting their attention and then rewarding them is the quickest way for them to learn the association. Call them more and more frequently as they’re playing, having cuddles, or just relaxing in a bed so they learn that when you call them they need to respond. Make a big deal out of it too – use a high-pitched voice and praise them like it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. If you’re happy, they’re happy and they’ll remember that last time they came when you said this word it was the best.

    Different age-stages require different enrichment levels and types, the younger your pup the easier they will tire or become overwhelmed, so keep things quick, easy and positive, such as training or going for short walks around your property. As your puppy grows, so will their need for enrichment. Once your pup is fully vaccinated, it’s important to start get them regularly socialising with other dogs and new situations. If you have friends with dog-friendly dogs, or a local park then start taking them to environments where other dogs could be. Try to keep these experiences as positive as you can as a bad experience now could result in your puppy being unsure of new situations, so it may pay to keep these meetings short and gradually lengthen them as your puppy’ confidence grows. Dog parks, or closed-in environments aren’t for every dog – learn to read your puppy’s body language and judge for yourself whether they need to grow their confidence in a different environment than the one they’re learning in.

    Learning your puppy’s play style will be of immeasurable value to their growth – do they roll on their back as soon as another dog approaches? Do they run away? Do they run straight up to other dogs? Knowing how your puppy plays, whether it’s with the infamous play-bow (with their front legs on the ground, while their bum is raised in the air), or not, will allow you to help train your puppy when they need to stop playing or take a break from other dogs. Always monitor play closely, both parties should enjoy the experience, be comfortable and exhibit good manners to the other pet. Every part of a dog’s body will reflect their mood, so learn your puppy’s body language so that you can intervene if necessary.

    Socialising is essential from a young age as puppies are in a key developmental period. After their first vaccination they can join a Puppy Preschool, as these Preschool classes are suitable for puppies that aren’t fully vaccinated, so they have a safe place to socialise. Contact your local Animates or Animates Vetcare clinic to see if they have a puppy playschool starting soon – these are great classes focussed on puppies and their owners to help with any questions, basic training, and most importantly to socialise your puppy with others around the same age! Classes are also great as it will expose your puppy to all dogs from breeds and backgrounds – from a poodle, to a huntaway, or maybe even a Great Dane!

    Taking your puppy to doggy day care is also a great way to provide stimulation. These environments are safe and monitored and allow dogs to play in groups where they are among dogs with similar temperaments and play-styles. Find a locally recommended one and enquire about getting your dog signed up – they will need to be fully vaccinated, desexed and know basic commands before they can go for their trial day, but it’s well worth it for the joy and excitement they experience. If doggy day care isn’t suitable for your pup, you can also look into adventure walks – these are experienced dog walkers who will come pick up your pup, take them out for a day – maybe to a forest, or the beach – and then drop them home, happy and tired!

    Things to consider:

  • Can you walk your puppy daily (once they’re fully vaccinated)?
  • Do you have the right type of toys to stimulate your puppy?
  • What training will you provide your puppy?
  • Have you looked into puppy school, day care or dog adventure walks?

    Child Safety

    Keeping both children and your puppy safe during all interactions is important in building a lasting bond for your puppy, your family and you. Children and puppies can both be unpredictable. Ensure you always supervise any interactions between children and your puppy, and explain the importance to your child of staying calm around your puppy. If your children do get too excited, your puppy could become just as excited, if not more.

    Anytime your child is approaching your puppy, have them offer their hand to your pup so they can sniff the hand and ‘get to know’ your child this way. Any negative interactions your puppy has with your child could affect their relationship, so ensure that any interaction is positive! This means it is best to let your child play with your puppy when your puppy isn’t too tired or too active. Don’t forget to teach your child how to properly give a treat to your puppy, and ensure they are able to reward your pup for any positive behaviours – manners are needed from both sides! On this note, children should never try to take food from a puppy or a dog. If your child sees that the dog has something they shouldn’t, then it’s best to teach them to let an adult know. If you have any concerns about your dog being protective over their food, we would recommend to speak to a qualified trainer.

    Overly excited play from children can easily startle or overexcite a puppy, so if play is getting too much, consider putting your pup away in their crate or into their bed or try swapping to a calmer play style. This isn’t punishing the puppy, but removing it from a situation where it may not know how to respond. If you’re ever unsure of a situation, the easiest thing is to remove your puppy from it. Children and dogs should always be supervised, so make sure you’re around for any play time!

    Things to consider:

  • Always monitor children and puppies when together
  • Discuss the importance of being calm and respectful around your puppy
  • Teach children the correct method of greeting dogs, and ensure they are comfortable to do this with your puppy
  • Remove your puppy from any situation it may not be comfortable in

    Socialisation with other dogs and pets

    When socialising your puppy with other dogs and pets, ensure you’ve read the tips on how to introduce them in our Settling In Your Puppy article – this has additional information on how to ensure your puppy meets other dogs and pets appropriately.

    If meeting a dog that is not yours, check with the owner first that they would like to meet. Some dogs are wary of puppies but are fine with dogs, so you will need to make sure the other dog is happy before letting a puppy greet it. Your puppy may be a little timid meeting a new dog, or they may be full of beans and rush up to meet it, either way, you need to ensure you are reading the body language of both dogs. If the other dog stiffens or appears to become uncomfortable with the approach of your puppy, calmly call your puppy away and let the dog approach your puppy instead.

    Remember that it’s easier to remain calm and call your puppy over to you if you’re in a situation that concerns you, rather than to nervously call your puppy over. Dogs can read our tones and body language and if we become nervous in a situation, so might they, and this can impact their socialisation. If you’re ever unsure, just calmly call your puppy over and remove both you and them from the situation. If your puppy doesn’t return the advances for play back to the dog, that’s okay. Some puppies take a while to build their confidence before they will rush into playtime with new dogs. Just give your pup lots of positive praise each time they interact with a new dog.

    When your pup meets other pets that aren’t yours, they may be eager to say “hi” to the other pet. If the owner of the other pet is comfortable with your puppy meeting their pet then meeting should be fine. Ensure your pup is calm and responsive to you before going into any situation where they may meet another pet, so you can easily call them back should they show too much interest. Chasing is not safe play, so keep interaction goals neutral and allow both pets space to leave if they want.

    Always ensure your puppy is watched during any interaction with other pets. You want to protect both your puppy and the other pets and the only way to do that is to keep an eye on them. Watch the body language of all animals involved, and be aware of your pup’s body language (and that of the other pet) so you can tell when it’s time to have a break.

    Things to consider:

  • Can you calmly introduce your puppy to new situations/dogs?
  • Can you read your pup’s body language?
  • Can your pets safely get away from the situation?
  • Be patient while the pets learn how to interact together

    Interaction with people

    The way your puppy interacts with people will, again, largely fall to you to determine and control. You will need to talk to anyone who interacts with your puppy about the correct way to approach them; with an outstretched hand, allowing your puppy to sniff then interact with their visitor.

    Most puppies will react well to someone being at their level, so suggest the guest kneels or sits to greet your puppy. If you do not want your puppy climbing on people, then sitting may not work unless your puppy is already very good at verbal commands. Once your puppy is interacting, ensure the experience is positive. Any verbal commands given need to be rewarded with praise. The way you and others form interactions with your puppy will have a lasting effect as they become adults.

    At a young age, it’s important to expose your puppy to people of all ages, genders and ethnicities, as well as getting them used to all sorts of clothing, such as hats, and things that often accompany people, such as bikes or prams. The more introductions your puppy has to things they may not see often, the less likely they are to react to them as adults. If you do not have any young children, things like prams may not be readily available, so consider going to your local park with your puppy and have them walk around the same area as a pushchair – just to get them close enough to introduce them to this new item, but far enough away that it isn’t too overstimulating for them. Provided they are confident from afar, you can slowly work your way up to them walking alongside a pram. The same method can be applied with bicycles, motorbikes and anything else that may be considered new. Don’t forget to use lots of praise and positive reinforcement – learning and experiencing new things for your puppy needs to be rewarding!

    Hats, dresses, glasses, people with moustaches and beards – if you can think of it, your puppy needs to be exposed to it! Make sure you spend the time exposing your puppy to all different things as they’re young, and remember that when interacting with other people, the experiences need to be positive, rewarding and with clear boundaries for everyone (and every pup) involved, so the right behaviours are learned from day one.

    Things to consider:

  • Set clear guidelines for anyone who meets your puppy
  • Ensure your puppy is rewarded for any positive interactions
  • Expose your puppy to all different things so they don’t react as adults

    Preventing Unwanted Behaviours

    As puppies grow and learn, they can easily learn behaviours that we may not want them to have. This includes, biting, barking and stealing of our things. While common for puppies to learn and begin to display these behaviours, with the right training you can set clear expectations of the behaviours you expect from your puppy, which in turn should not allow these unwanted behaviours room to thrive.

    Any time you teach your puppy a new behaviour, lots of positive reinforcement (treats, praise, petting), alongside repetition, will help to cement the behaviours you want. Teaching your puppy sit is a good start to teaching them manners. Sit is the gateway for your puppy to ask for things – a polite sit for breakfast, to be let outside, for a treat or before you cross the road, will remind your puppy of appropriate manners.

    Starting small with desired behaviours, while ignoring any unwanted behaviours, will soon lead your puppy to learn good manners, over bad manners. Remember, if your puppy ever appears to show any behaviours that are outside your control, whether it’s barking or signs of aggression, always consult a dog behaviourist. Approaching a professional is always the right thing to do if you’re unsure, as it may prevent any issues your puppy could develop.

    Overview

    There are plenty of options to help your pet enjoy their lifestyle, from toys and walks, to day care and training. Remember, you are responsible for providing your puppy with enrichment – they are companion animals and rely on us for their fun, bonding and to show them how to behave. Providing enrichment doesn’t have to be difficult, but ensuring you are giving a variety of options to increase their stimulation will result in one happy, settled and well-balanced pup!