Puppy Play

Your puppy needs exercise and interaction with you. Playing with your pup is vital to his physical and mental development. However, because a pup’s body is growing and changing, certain types of “play” activities should be avoided. Different dog breeds and mixes of breeds have different energy levels and rates of growth; the growth plates in their joints close at different ages. Sustained vigorous running and jumping (even off the couch) can cause damage during the growth period. Focus instead on play that expends mental and physical energy without placing undue stress on your pup’s developing body.  Provide at least three structured play sessions per day and allow (or teach) your pup to rest in between.  

Safety First 

Don’t play running games on slippery surfaces. While those Internet videos of pups falling or tumbling may look amusing, the splaying or twisting of legs on a slippery surface can cause serious injury. 

If playing outdoors, be sure that there are no dangers that your curious and inexperienced pup can encounter. For example, if you are tossing kibble, your pup may find an acorn first and swallow it before your can stop him. Additionally, in any outdoor area your pup should be leashed to prevent him from running off to explore that fast moving truck or a neighbor’s less than tolerant adult dog.  

Games That Provide Appropriate Mental Stimulation and Exercise 

Chase the Kibble Throw a piece of kibble and encourage your pup run after it. Allow him to eat it.  After he eats it, call him back to you and reward again with more kibble.  Initially, toss the kibble only a couple of feet away from you. Over time, as your dog demonstrates that he will reliably return, you can increase the distance.  This game builds the foundation for “retrieving” play in the future.  

Musical Treats This game requires two people, ideally both from the pup’s “family.” The two people stand facing one another at a distance.  Make sure your puppy knows that you both have treats or kibble.  Call your puppy back and forth between the two of you; when he comes to you reward with a treat or kibble and praise.  This will teach him is name and the “come” command.  Again, you should initially stay within a couple feet of each other. Over time, as your pup gets better at the recall, you can increase the distance or even hide in different rooms or behind trees so he must seek you out when you call.   

Follow the Leader Give your dog a small piece of food.  As he is eating, run away and encourage him to catch up with you. When he does catch up to you, praise and reward with another piece of food.  As he is eating that food, move away from him again. Repeat several times. 

Find the Food Restrain your dog in his crate or have someone hold him. Allow him to watch you place the food behind furniture.  Then, release your puppy to find it. 

Walks I know . . . your puppy doesn’t have all his vaccinations.  If you walk him on the sidewalk or in the street, he will be safe.  Make sure you are walking briskly so the puppy is burning energy and not walking slowly and sniffing or picking things up in his mouth. 

For additional activities that can be done with platforms, my Platform and Stay Training Program can be found under online classes on my website: https://www.dog-trainer.biz/onlineclasses.html. This webinar will teach your puppy to pay attention to you, concentrate, and think. 

Games You Should Not Play. . . EVER 

  • “Chase the puppy” Though this is fun for your puppy, it will lead to a very big problem down the road for the “Come” command. 
  • “Chase the screaming human” If the puppy is chasing after you and biting at your ankles, running and screaming will just lead to more excitement.  Read the article on mouthing on my website.  
  • “Grab and run” If your puppy is able to get away from you with items he should not have, then you haven’t ‘puppy proofed” your house enough.  Anything you don’t want him to grab, chew, eat, or bite should be out of reach. 


Your puppy is growing so he needs to move and exercise, if he was still with the litter they would be wrestling all day in between naps and feedings. 

When you exercise your dog, it should be enough to tire him out so when you place him in the crate, he falls asleep.  If he does not, you didn’t spend enough time.  I can’t really give you a specific time limit, but usually 10-20 minutes does the trick.  The older your puppy gets, the more time you can add. This should be done as many times per day as needed to keep your dog mentally stimulated, exercised, and tired.  I understand that this is a big time investment, but trust me that it will pay enormous dividends in your bond with your dog and in your dog’s behavior and training.