Puppies are so playful because they have loads of energy. Because of this energy, they want to be busy most of the time, between eating and sleeping.
Puppy play is also a way for animals to learn how to interact with other dogs, environments, and people.
When dogs grow up in the wild, puppy play is a natural way to learn how to manage threats, a valuable skill for survival when they become adults.
But we aren’t talking about wild dogs here, so let’s take a closer look at puppy play through their growth stages.
Why Are Puppies So Playful?
As puppies grow, they learn new behavior to fit in with their circumstances. Here are the five primary stages that puppies go through and where puppy play must be balanced with proper dog training.
Birth to 10 weeks
Young puppies’ energy increases as they grow from birth to 10 weeks. A new dog is curious, playful, and learning how to behave in the early weeks of life.
Ten to 16 weeks
Puppies are teething during this time, which causes discomfort, so they chew on everything. They seem to disregard commands and do their own thing as if they are rebellious teenagers.
Puppy play involves testing their boundaries more and continues until their baby teeth come out between 12 and 16 weeks.
Sixteen weeks to six months
During this period, puppy play looks a little more like play fighting as your pup learns about domination and their place in a social group.
Puppies also tend to learn the meaning of fear in this timeframe as they get nipped by other puppies, or adults put them in their place. Obedience training your German Shepherd helps set behavioral boundaries and teaches them socialization.
Six to 12 months
Your puppy is maturing quickly by this stage, but they are still adolescents as big as they may be. Their energy is boundless; their curiosity is healthy, and it is time to direct that energy into purpose.
German Shepherd puppies especially need a firm hand to grow into well-behaved adults. They are larger than other dog breeds and have historically been trained as working dogs or for herding due to their high energy.
Pet owners should structure their play, exercise, socialization, and training in a meaningful way.
Professional dog training helps meet the GSD puppy’s need for mental stimulation.
If you don’t take your pet for expert training, you need to invest a lot of time to stimulate their mental capacity at home with regular games and exercise to work off their excess energy.
One to two years
A GSD puppy reaches maturity at this stage. Once they are over one year old, puppy play should have evolved into adult play and behavior.
Chewing furniture should be in the past, and chew toys should satisfy the adult dog’s need to occupy itself on one level.
A regular exercise and training plan for adult German Shepherd dogs should be well-established, consistent, and practical to make living with your pet a fulfilling experience.
What Happens If You Don’t Play With A Puppy Enough?
Dogs and people are social, which means they need interaction to remain balanced, happy, and healthy. If you aren’t giving your puppy enough attention, they will react much like small children.
Puppies will start acting out and acting up to entertain themselves when they feel you are neglecting them.
#1 Understanding affection and attention
Affection is a form of loving attention, but attention is more than speaking cute words and snuggles. Attention means puppy play with you leading the games.
Attention also means training, positive interaction, walking your pet, and socializing them beyond feeding your puppy and providing them with a safe home.
#2 Chewing on everything it shouldn’t
When your puppy is not receiving enough attention, it will exhibit undesirable behavior such as chewing shoes, furniture, rugs, and anything else in between.
Puppy chewing destroys your home and can come close to destroying the relationship with your pet. Except, chewing is natural for puppies, and it is up to pet owners to provide them with a healthy outlet.
Give your puppy chew toys and enough attention to using its energy positively. Engage your pet in more exercise to tire it out and avoid the anxiety that comes with boredom.
Your efforts may not guarantee that your pup won’t chew your shoes, but it may reduce chewing on personal items and furnishings.
#3 Your pet barks more
When pets are bored, they tend to bark more. Ignoring the barking or punishing your pet for barking won’t decrease the behavior
Not all barking relates to boredom, but more playtime and focusing your affection on your pet will reinforce positive behavior.
More love and attention from you will reduce barking as your pet is looking for security to know they are a valuable member of the home pack.
Puppies also whine to get attention. Ignore the whining and wait until they are quiet before giving them praise.
Otherwise, any reaction during whining will let your pet know that their trick is working and will reinforce negative behavior.
Pets paw at owners to gain their attention, or they need comforting. Observe their body language to understand whether they are anxious or in need of attention.
Comfort your puppy if anxious and engage in puppy play if your pet needs a positive outlet for its energy and curiosity.
#6 Nipping, biting, and nose bumps
Nipping and biting in puppy play is cute but can lead to later problems as the dog matures. If your puppy is constantly nipping and biting to get your attention, it is your responsibility to give your pet obedience training.
Obedience training challenges your pet’s mental capacities and increases its sense of belonging, and adds value, increasing its sense of security. Once a pet feels secure, it tends to cease undesirable behaviors.
A dog trainer will help train a pet that behaves well and understands its social boundaries. Nose bumps are typically your pet’s way to request attention. Make time for puppy play to keep your German Shepherd happy.
#7 Back rolls
If you don’t play enough with your puppy, they can also roll onto their back and expose their belly. This action is an invitation for a belly rub and as much attention as you can give your pet at the time.
Puppies tend to whine or howl when they feel lonely, isolated, or neglected. Give your puppy some loving affection to reassure it that you love it and that its presence is valuable to you.
Unsurprisingly, dog owners can give their pets too much love, creating poor behaviors, anxiety, and over-dependence.
Strike a balance between sufficient love and affection, positive reinforcement, and pet training to raise a puppy that understands how to socialize.
Things To Do With Your Puppy
Puppy play can be quite challenging for new German Shepherd pet owners. Our list of things to do with your puppy to entertain it and positively channel its energy should be a huge help.
This list of activities should stave off puppy boredom and prevent them from finding their own ways to keep busy–usually at your cost.
Here we go…
- Hide treats and encourage your puppy to find them. This is a great game that positively reinforces puppy play as it challenges your pup to find hidden treats while having fun. Crate your dog and let it see where you hide the treats. Hide the treats in a Kong, open the crate, and watch him run for the goodies.
- Practice basic commands outdoors while keeping your pup on a long leash. Teach the puppy one command at a time–sit, stay, down, and come. Only begin teaching a new order when your puppy has mastered one learning experience. Give your pup treats when it obeys you.
- Increase puppy training to teaching commands like fetch, crate, heel, place, leave, drop. Training is part of puppy play because you engage with your pet and stimulate its physical, mental, and emotional senses. Remember to reward your puppy with treats to reinforce good behavior.
- Use dog toys such as a frisbee, tug toy, puzzle toys, which are all fun games. Or you can try a Kong, a treat filled with kibble to keep your puppy happily chewing away while entertaining itself.
- Teach your puppy new tricks with a game of fetch, hide and seek, and others to keep it busy.
- Teach your pet impulse control at feeding time or when going for a walk. Over-excitement can lead your pet to forget its training. If the puppy becomes excited, wait it out until it obeys commands before allowing it to eat or go for a walk.
- Test your pup’s recall regularly by repeating commands and waiting for it to respond appropriately or reminding them of the desired response.
- Play games like tug of war which can build self-esteem, and can be used to teach commands like drop.
Puppy play is an enjoyable way to channel your pet’s energy and train them to behave positively.
While bonding with your puppy is fulfilling, remember that it also needs some alone time to learn independence and to chill when you’re not around.
Things Not To Do With Your Puppy
Read through this list of things that you should never do with your puppy:
- Ignore negative behavior as attention will also reinforce undesirable actions.
- Don’t rub your puppy’s nose in its poop, as this does not teach it anything other than fear, which is negative reinforcement.
- Don’t hit your puppy when it doesn’t obey commands. Hitting puppies generates fear and loss of confidence which can lead to aggression.
- Overly rough play can also cause aggression—avoid rough play.
- Do not overfeed your puppy with too many treats, as overfeeding leads to overweight adults and health problems.
- Feed your puppy meals according to its age. If they don’t finish a meal, throw the food away rather than leave it later.
- Safe proof your home to avoid your puppy hurting itself.
- Do not give your puppy boundaries and then change the rules as this is confusing for your pet.
- Avoid exaggerating greetings of goodbye and hello as this behavior may create dependency.
- Avoid repeating commands as this teaches your pet to obey you after the fifth or tenth command.
- Console your pet in unusual situations without being overly attentive as your pet may learn manipulative behavior or become anxious in similar situations.
- Do not avoid crate training, as this teaches your pet how to be alone, travel well, and when you both need a time out.
- Do not scold your pet hours after an event as they do not have the same reasoning abilities as people and will become anxious if they cannot relate an immediate action to a reaction.
- Do not avoid training your pet as training provides them with boundaries, socialization, and a positive way to channel their energy.
Puppy play is a beautiful time to bond with your pet and teach it socialization, boundaries, and other positive behaviors.
Set a routine for practical puppy play to avoid anxiety, depression, and other adverse outcomes while building a bond of trust and love between you and your pet, helping it become a cherished family member.