The importance of exercise and play for your dog

The importance of exercise and play for your dog

Dogs have been bred to want to work with us, cooperate with us, and of course, please us. It’s no secret that training and playing with your dog works in conjunction with this natural instinct and desire to build a great relationship and deepen our bond with our four legged pals. Not only is it good for our dog’s mental and physical wellbeing, but our own too.

In this blog I will share my top tips on playing and training your dog and fostering a good training relationship.

Dawn Greer, Professional Dog Trainer

Dawn has been working and training with dogs for over 15 years. She has a Certificate in Canine Studies and a Certificate in Canine Behaviour & Psychology.

She is an advocate for the use of positive reward-based training methods, and enjoys watching how each dog learns, what motivates them, and how they react to challenges. She participates in many online training courses with trainers across the globe about various aspects of play training, obedience, and agility.

She currently shares her life with her dogs ranging in age from 16 years to 12 weeks. She has represented Ireland at the World Agility Open and the European Open Championships and has also represented Ireland in the International Agility Event at Crufts. She is a spokesperson for the Petmania Puppy Club where she has demonstrated her knowledge and expertise in obedience training young puppies.


I cannot stress how important play is between owners and their dogs.  It’s not only a pleasurable pastime, but it’s an essential ingredient in the total wellbeing of most animals. Dogs thrive on interaction with their human friends. Playing with your dog is really what creates the deepest bonds with our pets, which in turn makes training them so much easier.

If you want the best relationship with your dog and for them to be happy and healthy, make sure they gets to play with you, with other dogs, and with toys. This also extends to training; play-based dog training is the most effective way of training.

Play-based training is the most enjoyable for your dog and leads to the fastest training results while also improving your relationship. If learning doesn’t feel like work, you want to do more and learn faster, which is no different for your dog.

Reward-based training

There is still this misconception that dogs should just do what we tell them to do, often not even with praise as a reward. Often I see a new group of trainees in my training classes come to class without any treats or a toy as a reward, and one of the regular questions I get is “when can I stop giving them a treat for sitting?” Some owners are in a rush to put the treats away because they see it as proof that their dog really knows how to do something. In reality, you don’t need to ever completely phase out treats and rewards.

By pairing rewards like treats and toys with training, you’ll be able to help your dog understand new skills much quicker while also developing their enjoyment for training in general. As your dog becomes more experienced, you can begin to change how frequently you treat or reward them, but it always should be part of training. It’s essential to make training fun and enjoyable regardless of whether we’re working on basic skills around the house or training a sport.

Benefits of training classes

There are many dog owners out there who think that taking your dog to a training class is almost like ‘admitting failure’. This could not be further from the truth! Having had a dog as child does not in most cases give you the skills on knowledge to train a dog as an adult, especially in the modern world where the demands on our own dogs to behave perfectly all the time has hugely increased. Training class is about teaching the owner how to train their dog.

Dog playing with Sports Pet Ball

Toy or Treat?

The kind of rewards you use in your training depend on the type of dog. Treats are often used for positive reinforcement training, where the dog is rewarded for exhibiting a desired behavior. Treats can be especially effective for training behaviors that are new or challenging for the dog, as they provide immediate positive feedback for the dog’s efforts.

A dog that loves to play will most likely find toy rewards highly motivating. There are so many toy options for dogs now that most owners should be able to find a toy that their dog loves.

If your dog is more food motivated, then there are many interactive toys that you can hide the treats inside. These toys not only keep dogs entertained but also help prevent destructive behavior by channeling their energy into productive play.

Playing with your dog

The value of playing with your dog every day should never be underestimated. Play should be interactive between the owner and dog and not just letting the dog play with the toy by themselves.

Games that involve constantly throwing a ball even for 10 minutes until the dog is physcially exhausted shoud be avoided as this can create obsessive behavioural problems for some dogs and even physical injury, such as a dog reptitively slamming to a halt. Tugging is a great game between owner and dog but there are a lot of misconceptions, such as ‘never let the dog win’. Well, who wants rto play a game they never win?

You should also stop the game if your dog growls. Not all growling is equal, and this is where a good dog trainer and class is so beneficial where the trainer can teach dog owners not only about training, but dog behaviour and body language.

Walking your dog

Daily walks are essential for a dog’s wellbeing. We all found out what it was like to be stuck at home constantly during Covid and this is often what life is like for dogs that are not walked.

Sniffing and exploring is so important for a dog’s mental stimulation, and lack of walks are often the root of many behavioural issues. Walks should also be an interactive experience between owner and dog, such as stopping throughout the walk to have a short game or even practice some sits. It’s also essential to keep your dog physically fit to prevent obesity.

dog and owner walking through wooded area-1 (1)

As part of Operation TransPAWmation, we want to encourage dog owners to spend just an extra 10 minutes a day playing, training and walking their dogs. Spending some quality time together, after all, is why we have dogs!

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