Level up playtime—by tailoring it to your pup’s personality
Turn playtime into a classroom, gym, charm school, and team retreat all in one—with professional tips from a dog behaviorist
Your dog is different. Now playtime can be, too.
Playtime is how dogs express themselves—but without the right type of play for their personality, dogs won’t engage. Let’s figure out what your dog needs to get into the deep end of the fun zone.
You’ll always have to scope out a new-to-you pup…but old dogs DO learn new tricks. So even if you know your dog through and through, their play personality will probably shift as they age. Either way, let’s see who they really are when it comes to playtime.
First off, age.
Play personalities change the most as your dog enters different life stages.
Puppies love to explore ALL the play styles, have short attention spans, can be rowdy one moment, and crashed out napping the next.
Adolescents have energy to spare. Typically, play at this age is exuberant, enthusiastic, and maybe even a little aggressive—they’re up for looooong fetch sessions or endless tug-o-wars.
Adults like their routines, and generally settle into mellower versions of their bombastic adolescent play styles. These are pooches in their prime who still have a lot of energy, but it’s a nice downshift from those wild “teen” years.
Seniors still want to play, but usually less often and in shorter, gentler sessions. For a very elderly dog, even fetching a soft toy thrown just a few feet or winning an easy tug-o-war keeps the magic alive.
Tip: If your dog is sick or injured, switch to senior style play until they’re feeling better. A little fun keeps spirits up without causing further harm.
Just like people, dogs can be introverts, extroverts, and everything in between.
Lone wolves love their own company—they’re happiest gnawing on a Skamp, solving a Tux, or chomping an automatic sprinkler spray all by themselves. (But if they have to hang out with someone, Wilson’s alright.)
Loyal introverts play with the humans they’re bonded to most—you, and maybe a few close family members or friends. Tugging a Bumi with a trusted member of their small circle is usually a good bet.
Party animals love the dog park and doggy day care—they’re happiest frolicking in their pack with all their best furry friends (who they just met that day). Toys are optional, but a plush bed for recovery is a must.
Then, favorite toy mode.
Most dogs play in every mode at one point or another, but usually pick a dominant fave.
Chew-baccas need to sink their teeth into something—for a few satisfying gnaws or a few grindy hours. For some dogs, it depends on the situation. Alone time might be chew time, but when people or other dogs are around, they’ll ditch their Hurley for fetch, chase, or tug-o-war.
Go-getters (usually retriever breeds) crave fetching you the “prize,” if only so you can throw it again. For some, a few Tizzi tosses is plenty; for others, it’s can’t-stop-won’t-stop.
Yankees want to bond with you through tug-o-war. It’s not about who wins or loses an epic Bumi standoff, it’s about the give and take. As soon as there’s a victory, they’re already ready to start the next round.
Snugglebugs just need a full-time friend—somebody to carry around, cuddle with, and take to the vet. Fluffy toys like Lewis and Peet make excellent company (and their fur is tougher than you’d think).
Add up to equal fun
When you consider a dog’s age, sociability, and play mode, it’s pretty easy to see the best ways to get them pumped to play. An adolescent lone wolf is going to love long afternoons working their teeth on a Rumpus, while a senior go-getter just wants to fetch a Judith for you.
And probably? Your dog would be up for playing right now. So enough reading—get out there, or at least plan a play date.
Play it safe—always supervise a new toy
When it comes to a toy your dog has never had before, always watch your dog interact with it for a bit to see how they do. (Even if they’re a lone wolf and just want some me-time.) That said, you’re already on the right track: West Paw’s toys are 100% safe and non-toxic. And for extra peace of mind? Our chew toys are pre-tested through the West Paw chew squad, a team of 500 dogs (and their humans) on the hunt for durable, sustainable chews.
Next up in our series:
learning the ropes of playing fair, according to dogs.