If you look on any puppy forum the question ‘ how much time should I spend playing with my puppy? is a common one.
Is there a simple answer?
I doubt it. Certainly not an answer that fits all.
I know, because when we brought our 1st puppy home I was one of those people asking the question
For starters what our puppies need in terms of play and interaction when they first come home is very different from what they will need at 9 months. It will also vary by breed and individual pup.
In this blog, I share my thoughts and experience of life with a new puppy and the conclusions I have come to.
“What a difference a day makes Twenty-four little hours”
One thing we all have in common is the total amount of hours we have in a day. How we fill those hours varies amongst us all.
However whilst puppies have the same number of hours unlike us they fill their hours doing the exact same thing as other puppies.
.. and that thing is napping and sleeping.
The average puppy will spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping.
So, whilst this still doesn't answer the question of how much time they should be playing, it does give us a clear indication of how they spend most of their time.
( so stop your inner chat that's questioning ' is my puppy sleeping so much because they are bored and I am not playing and stimulating them enough? 🧐)
It could be an easy assumption to make at this stage that if they are sleeping 16 hours then what is left is up for playtime...
Well, before you decide if that is the correct answer let’s look at what else our puppy is doing with their waking time.
Making sense of the world
It is easy to forget when we bring our puppy into their new home that their senses are being bombarded. New sights, sounds, smells, textures. Every room they walk into has a different surface to explore and that is before they step foot into your garden or outside space.
Imagine how tiring it must be putting order to everything and making sense of surroundings!
Housemates, people, and animals
It’s not just you that your puppy needs to get to know, it's other family members, large and small, maybe a furry sibling in the form of a cat or dog. Ideally, your puppy needs to be familiarised with anything they are likely to encounter as an adult.
New puppies will usually have their daily food allowance spread across 4 meals. Depending on your pup this can be a drawn-out affair or could be over very quickly ( our Springer Spaniel is always up for eating so meal times have the potential to be over quickly)
Toilet/ house training
Puppies all mature at different stages, some get this very quickly others take a little longer, but one thing is for sure that a lot of their waking time (with those little bladders) will be taken up with creating a puddle in the right place, or the wrong place.
Initially, you will be in and out of the garden to your or their chosen spot for this activity whilst they get the idea that this activity takes place outside.
If their chosen spot seems to be in your house then check your clean up. Those little noses can smell a teaspoon of salt in an Olympic size pool so a little puddle of wee on your new rug that hasn't been totally eliminated is going to linger for ages. Good Housekeeping has some good cleaning advice!
We all want a well-behaved dog. One that knows how to behave in the house, around people, and with other dogs. We need our pups to learn some skills that will keep them safe too. Like waiting at a door before exiting. Then of course we want them to walk nicely when we put on a lead and when they are off lead return.
Phew.. I don't know about you but for a little pup, we are expecting a lot from their waking hours. No wonder they sleep for on average for 16 hours.
Playing with your puppy is an essential part of bonding for you both. Play develops optimism and confidence in your pup and builds closeness and trust in their relationship with you.
In Steve Mann's book Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy he says ' Believe it or not, when we are playing with puppy, we are helping them to develop their social learning skills, capacity to communicate, psychological robustness, and a good old- fashioned love of a game ...'
' Play is the highest form of research'
- Albert Einstein-
Your young pup has so much to learn, see, and do. Games-based training is a great way to combine playing with your puppy, whilst helping them make sense of the world.
Games and play can be woven into their introductions and interactions with people, situations and, experiences.
When these bags appeared on Harvey's regular walk he was nervous around them. So I played a game with him that we play at home. Suddenly the big scary bags were just something in his environment and not something to be scared of.
So the conclusion I came to, and the answer to the question -
'how much time should I spend playing with my puppy?'
little and often!
Follow us on Instagram to see how I play with Harvey and the fun and games we have.
I would love to hear about your puppy play sessions, best games, and what your pup's favourite is .