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Why Does My Dog Get So Excited about That?

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5 types of play and why your dog might love them
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A smiling red golden retriever.

From chasing a stick to chasing their tail, few things are as quintessentially "dog" as playtime. But have you ever wondered why your dog prefers certain types of play over others?

Vets and behaviorists have several theories about why dogs do what they do. Here are a few reasons why your dog might enjoy their favorite forms of play.

 

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A golden retriever on their hind legs trying to catch a tennis ball.

Why Does My Dog Play Fetch?

Some dogs just aren't interested in fetch - and that's OK! The behavior of picking things up and bringing them back is so common it often seems embedded in a dog's DNA.

Perhaps retrieving a thrown toy mimics a wolf's impulse to bring food back to their pack. Some young wolf pups have even shown a seemingly innate ability to play fetch, suggesting it may be more of an inherited wolf trait than a learned dog trait!

Why Does My Dog Like Balls and Squeaky Toys?

After fetch, chasing a squeaky ball or chew toy is probably the next most common form of play among dogs. A ball is fast and unpredictable, but easily tracked and chased, making it a good simulation of hunting small prey.

And the squeak? A nice reward for your dog, perhaps - until they learn how to use it to get your attention ...

 

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An Australian kelpie mix playing tug of war.

 

Why Does My Dog Love Tug of War?

Some behaviorists suggest a dog's tugging instinct could come from hunting small prey that they would pull from a burrow or tunnel. Others say it might have evolved as a way for pack members to communicate and establish hierarchy among one another.

No matter where it comes from, it's clear that tug of war is one way your dog builds trust with you and other pups. Just be sure to steer clear of fragile furniture - this kind of play can get intense!

Why Does My Dog Chase Their Tail?

Tail-chasing offers a few unique ways to play: It doesn't take up much space, require a toy or demand a playmate. It might mean your dog could use more physical activity, but it's often just a way to burn off excess energy, get your attention or entertain themselves.

 

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A smiling black Lab enjoying a car ride.

Why Does My Dog Love Car Rides?

With a sense of smell like theirs, a windows-down ride around town is an all-you-can-sniff buffet. And because your dog sees you as their "alpha," a car ride may also invoke feelings of being "on a hunt" with the pack.

Just don't forget to buckle up in the back seat with a safety harness or crate for safety!

Every Dog Is Different

Since every breed was domesticated differently, dogs have a variety of play preferences. Even their age, size, environment and upbringing can influence what they enjoy.

Ultimately, the time you spend together matters more than the form it takes. Yes, play is a shared language that builds understanding and trust - but most importantly, it's fun!

 

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A Dachshund mix with its tongue out.

Tip: Keep a Close Eye on Playtime

If your dog is hurt or not feeling well, it will often affect the way they play. If you notice abrupt changes in behavior or anything else that concerns you during playtime (or other times), reach out to your vet.

 

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