Playing and having fun helps us to eliminate stress — and the same holds true for the pets in your life. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your pet’s daily routine is vital to helping them develop confidence, good health and mental well-being. Both dogs and cats benefit from playtime activity.
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun with your dog 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 force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
• Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
• Bonding. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, 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 to play with your dog
There are right ways — and wrong ways — to play. The most important thing to remember is that you’re the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you’re teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don’t have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
• Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you’re the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
• Avoid games like keep away and wrestling. Those games can encourage inappropriate mouthing or aggressive behavior.
• Games like tug-of-war can provide much-needed exercise, but should be carefully monitored. Teach your dog to “drop” or “release” when you decide playtime is over.
• Don’t include your body or clothing as part of any game.
• Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
• You decide when it’s time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
• If, for some reason, your dog doesn’t seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don’t get angry if your dog isn’t “getting it” right away. Remember, it’s supposed to be a fun experience for both of you. A little patience will go a long way in building trust and confidence in your dog.
Importance of play time for your cat
• Exercise. Exercise is vital for keeping your cat physically and mentally healthy. Playing with your cat and having your cat romp around with others is a perfect way for him to get exercise, both physically and mentally.
• Release of Anxiety. Anxiety and stress are as harmful to cats as they are to the rest of us. Cats under stress are more apt to develop behavioral problems such as aggression, urine marking, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.
• Relief from Boredom. Cats especially, being naturally curious, can get depressed and lethargic. Cats need some sort of challenge every day. Watch a cat try to grab at a ball that is spinning around randomly in a circle. He is concentrating so hard that a simple movement of your foot can send him skyrocketing into the air. Whether he is looking out the window at chattering birds, or chasing a feather stick, he loves and needs to play.
• Feel Good. Play, by definition, is something to make whoever is playing feel good. And your cat deserves to feel good, doesn’t he?
• Bonding with other cats or animals in the house. Cats chase other cats; cats entice dogs to chase after them; and cats even chase dogs in some households! This type of behavior provides much-needed bonding. Playing with your cat can even bond him to you — and who couldn’t use more bonds in their life?
How to provide play for your felines
Usually, cats enjoy playing both inside the house and outdoors. There are a variety of ways that you can make playtime, inside or out, more fun for your cat.
There are a variety of toys you can purchase to play with your cat. From the balls with the little jingle bells in them, to the feather toys that the cats can chase. Check your local pet store for some fun and exciting cat toys.
A cat tree is a perfect place for your cat to perch to lie in wait for another cat — or even the dog. Anything that towers over the rest of the home’s inhabitants will do. Window perches are especially popular since they allow kitty to see all that nature affords.
Catnip is in a category by itself. It can entertain the cat and the rest of the household! Who knows what’s going through your cat’s mind once he smells that potent odor and wants to bathe his entire body in it!
Use an enclosure such as the Kitty Condo or the Happy Habitat to keep your cat safe from wildlife and wildlife safe from your cat. He can sniff all there is to sniff, chase insects, and watch feathered friends, and you’ll always know exactly where he is.
Every cat is different, of course, and what works for one may not work for another — sometimes even in a multiple cat household. But, by careful observation, any cat owner — or rather anyone who is owned by a cat — can provide bliss to his favorite feline friend!
The following are just a few of the wonderful pets currently available for adoption at the HSCAZ shelter, located at 605 W. Wilson Court (just south of Main Street). Adoptable pets are spayed or neutered and current on vaccinations. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (928) 474-5590 or visit www.humanesocietycentralaz.org.
Marley is a 4-year-old Husky/Lab mix. He was surrendered to HSCAZ when his owners could no longer care for him. He has lived with other dogs, but would do best with a tolerant, easygoing dog. Marley is a vocal guy who loves to sing the blues. He does like to jump up and give hugs, so a home without small kids would be best. He is potty trained and loves to go for walks.
Slate is a handsome guy who gets along with everyone. He is an easygoing cat who usually keeps to himself. He is litter box trained and keeps a clean area. Slate loves to get affection and attention. He has been neutered, is current on vaccines and is ready to find his forever home.
Squirt is a very sweet boy who can be a little shy at first. His last two owners both ended up in a nursing home, so Squirt is a little nervous about finding another home. He does get along well with the other cats and he really loves to sit in your lap so you can pet him.
Stormy is a 4-year-old girl that came in as a stray. She is good with people of all ages and really likes when you rub behind her ears. She can even be a little playful, spatting at toys and having fun. She doesn’t seem to mind dogs and gets along OK with other cats.
Chaco is a 5-year-old Chihuahua mix. He is super-affectionate and will jump into your lap. He gets along well with other dogs of all sizes too. Chaco is still pretty active and he loves to spin around and dance. He is potty trained and walks well on a leash.
Teak is a 2-year-old Lab/Pit mix. He is an easygoing guy who likes to mosey around in the play yards. He gets along with most other dogs and has really come out of his shell since first coming to HSCAZ as a stray. He used to be scared and would bark at everyone, now he enjoys giving kisses to his friends, new and old.