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From the End of the Leash: The Genius of Play

From the End of the Leash: The Genius of Play

Hello Internet world, Tiberius here.  As I’ve often reflected, humans and canines have more in common than we sometimes think, and together they can keep one another fit, friendly, and mentally sound.  Taking Spot for a walk isn’t just good for him, its good for you too.  Giving Muffy cuddles doesn’t just make her feel warm and loved; it also gives your person-heart a sense of belonging and comfort.  Dream team, huh?  Another thing humans and canines have in common is the ability to get stuck in a rut.  Do you ever feel like you always walk in the same place at the same time, eat the same food, and chase the same toys?  Play and novelty are important to keep the mind agile and resourceful, and you don’t have to climb the highest mountain peak or sail around the world in seven days to spice things up.  The following are a few ways to tap into the health benefits, not to mention – fun, of play!  Incorporating new experiences and exciting challenges can also be a preventative for destructive habits arising from boredom.

On your next free Saturday, seize the moment and create an obstacle course.  You can construct your obstacle course with items from around the house, such as boxes, furniture, and crates.  You may have to think back to your childhood adventures in building living room forts.  You can use the scent of your pup’s favorite treats to invite him into the course and keep him going.  The treat can be hidden at the end of the obstacle course and will give your dog a tremendous sense of accomplishment and joy.  In the process, you’ll reconnect with that young, imaginative part of yourself that experiences even the smallest of things as grand epics.

Another fun idea for you and your best friend is to spend an evening playing memory games.  There are dog memory games that are packaged and sold, but they are also easy to engineer at home.  All you have to do is hide favorite toys or yummy treats underneath objects such as hats or bowls.  These can then be moved around or lifted up so that your dog can sniff out where the treats are kept while he fine-tunes his memory palace and detective skills.

Speaking of new learning, if your dog has already mastered the basic commands of “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” maybe its time to expand his repertoire.  Dogs, like humans, grow in both skill and satisfaction by meeting challenges and completing projects.  You can chew on new tricks like “play dead” or “shake hands” together, or even join an advanced obedience course.   Whatever you choose to do, remember that the best part is that you’re getting to spend time together and strengthen your relationship.

Finally, one of the best ways to invigorate an old routine is to add some new scenery.  If you always play fetch in the back yard, head over to the local dog park and make some new friends.  If you always walk around the neighborhood, pack a picnic lunch and drive out to a gorgeous hiking trail or nature preserve.   And wherever you go, don’t forget your leash!

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