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What is Structured Play?
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What is Structured Play?

Structured play is an organized activity that is designed to provide physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction for dogs. It can take many forms, including playing with toys, participating in training or obedience exercises, and engaging in activities such as fetch or hide and seek.

Structured play can be done with other dogs or with an owner and can be tailored to the individual dog's needs and abilities.

The importance of structured play for dogs cannot be overstated. It provides an opportunity for dogs to engage in natural behaviors that are essential to their well-being. Physical exercise is important for maintaining a dog's physical health and can help prevent obesity and other health problems. Mental stimulation is important for keeping a dog's mind active and can help prevent boredom and problem behaviors. Social interaction is important for helping dogs practice social skills and can help prevent loneliness and isolation.

Structured play can also be a great way for dogs to bond with their owners and can help strengthen the relationship between a dog and their caregiver. It provides an opportunity for owners to engage in activities that are both fun and enriching for their dogs.

Structured play can also be an important part of a dog's training and obedience program, as it provides an opportunity to practice skills and reinforce good behaviors.

Structured Play With Other Dogs 

When engaging in structured play with other dogs, it is important to ensure that all dogs involved are well-socialized and able to play appropriately. This may involve supervising play sessions or setting boundaries to ensure that all dogs are comfortable and safe. Structured play with other dogs can be especially beneficial for puppies, as it can help them learn appropriate play behavior and socialization skills. It is important to choose playmates that are well-matched in size, energy level, and play style, and to monitor play sessions and intervene if any dogs become overly rough

Benefits of structured play with other dogs

There are several benefits of structured play with other dogs:

  1. Socialization: Structured play with other dogs can help puppies and adult dogs learn appropriate social skills and interact appropriately with their own species.

  2. Physical exercise: Structured play with other dogs can provide an opportunity for dogs to engage in physical activity, which is important for maintaining good physical health.

  3. Mental stimulation: Structured play with other dogs can provide mental stimulation for dogs and can help prevent boredom and problem behaviors.

  4. Bonding: Structured play with other dogs can help dogs bond with each other and can provide an opportunity for them to interact and play in a supervised setting.

  5. Training opportunities: Structured play with other dogs can provide an opportunity for dogs to practice obedience skills and reinforce good behavior.

Overall, structured play with other dogs can provide numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits for dogs. It is important to ensure that all dogs involved are well-matched and able to play appropriately, and to supervise play sessions to ensure the safety and well-being of all dogs involved.

How to ensure structured play with other dogs is safe and enjoyable

Dogs communicate with each other in a way that we can't. Whether that's reading body language, each other's energy, or even the way they growl, they are constantly learning when they're around other dogs. Choosing the right playmates is the first step in ensuring a safe structured play session.

Dogs have varying play styles, and they don't always mesh well together. Some dogs may just enjoy stalking, but not wrestling. It's important to choose playmates for your dog that enjoy a similar style of play.

Always supervise play sessions. If either dog is showing signs of discomfort, it's up to you to intervene and make sure they take breaks as needed. Enforcing break time also allows them to rest so they don't overexert themselves.

Reward good behavior during play sessions. If your dog decides to take a break on their own and walk away for a bit, use verbal praise to let them know that was a good decision!

Tips for choosing playmates

Here are some tips for choosing a good playmate for your dog based on similar play styles:

  1. Observe your dog's play style: Pay attention to how your dog plays with toys and other dogs. Do they prefer to play fetch, chew on toys, or engage in rough-and-tumble play? Understanding your dog's play style can help you find a playmate that is well-matched.

  2. Look for similar energy levels: It is important to choose a playmate that has a similar energy level to your dog. If your dog is high-energy, it may not be a good idea to pair them with a low-energy dog, as this may lead to frustration or boredom.

  3. Consider size: It is also important to consider the size of the playmate. A large dog may not be a good playmate for a small dog, as the size difference could lead to accidental injuries.

  4. Meet and greet: Before allowing your dog to play with another dog, it is a good idea to introduce them in a controlled setting and observe their interaction. This can help you determine if they are a good match. Slow intros are best, and you can start with parallel walks without the two dogs even meeting for several sessions together.

  5. Be open to trying different playmates: If your dog is not compatible with a particular playmate, don't be afraid to try a different dog. It may take some trial and error to find the right playmate for your dog. You may also discover that your dog just doesn't enjoy playing with other dogs, and that's okay too!

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your dog has a positive and enjoyable experience when playing with other dogs.

Structured Play With You

Structured play with you is play with a purpose. Play sessions are a great way to work in obedience without your dog even realizing it. Training should be fun, anyway! Playing with our dogs can bring their excitement level up, but it's just as important to know how to bring it back down.

Benefits of structured play with your dog

There are many benefits of structured play with your dog. First and foremost, it's a wonderful way to bond and build a deeper relationship together. It's also great for physical exercise, for your dog but also for you! Playing a game together where you establish boundaries and rules can provide mental stimulation for your dog, which can help prevent boredom or problem behaviors.

Lastly, you can incorporate training into your play sessions. See some examples of structured play and how you can incorporate training into it below!

Examples of structured play with your dog

While single-ingredient freeze-dried raw treats can be an excellent reward in dog training, so can play! Tug is one example of structured play, and how you can sneak in some training. Start the game by saying the same phrase each time, such as "Ready?" As you're tugging with your dog, say "Out" and stop moving. Make the game incredibly boring by standing still until they release the toy. Once they release it, you can say "Yes" to reward them by continuing the game.

Building in these pauses, or breaks, is a good way to bring your dog's energy level down for a bit.

Once you've built up this game, you can level up by adding some additional commands after you say "Out." For example, you can say "Out. Sit. Down. Yes!" Before your dog realizes, it, they're proofing obedience while getting rewarded with multiple games of tug!

Fetch is also another game you can incorporate some structured play into. Each time your dog brings the ball back, you can have them sit, down, or go into a middle before you throw it again. Positive reinforcement doesn't always need to be food—in this case, the reinforcement is the continuation of the game.

Making play sessions enjoyable for your dog

Think about the types of games your dog likes to play. If they like to stalk, try using a flirt pole in your play sessions. If they like to chase, fetch sounds like the right game for them! Choose a game that your dog enjoys, not a game that you want to play. Pay attention to your dog's body language during structured play sessions. If they seem stressed or uncomfortable, it may be necessary to stop the play session or modify the activity.

End the game before they do

As you play more with your dog, you'll be able to tell when they're winding down. If you want to be able to open and close the play windows and provide clarity into when it's okay to go wild and release pent-up energy and when it's time to stop, you can use "Enough" (or a word of your choice!) to close the play window.

Structured play with an owner can also be a great way for dogs to bond with their humans and practice obedience skills. It can also provide an opportunity for owners to engage in activities that are both fun and enriching for their dogs. Examples of structured play with an owner may include playing fetch, engaging in obedience exercises, or participating in agility training.

Structured play with an owner can be especially beneficial for dogs who do not have the opportunity to play with other dogs on a regular basis. It can also be a great way for owners to bond with their dogs and provide them with mental and physical stimulation. When engaging in structured play with an owner, it is important to choose activities that are appropriate for the dog's age, size, and ability level. It is also important to remember to use positive reinforcement techniques and make the play sessions enjoyable for the dog.

Overall, structured play is an important part of a dog's well-being and can take many forms. It is important for dog owners to find activities that are both enriching and enjoyable for their dogs, whether it be structured play with other dogs or structured play with their owners. Structured play can help dogs stay physically fit, mentally stimulated, and socially engaged, which can lead to a happier and healthier dog.

 



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