5 Amazing Things That Happen When You Play With Your Pet

Turns out fetch and tug are as beneficial to humans as they are to our furry friends.

by Becca Strassberg

There’s no doubt that playing with your pup is fun — and let’s be honest, pretty adorable — but have you ever considered the benefits that a simple game of fetch can provide? Just as important as providing your dog with good nutrition, quality playtime is a huge factor in overall well-being.

But play isn’t some rigid activity you have to practice or get good at. Instead, your dog should take the lead, choosing to participate when they’re physically well, excited, and energetic — and the easiest way to ensure all three of these boxes are checked is to switching your dog to a quality food. For example, Blue Buffalo’s meat-rich recipes are made with the optimal blend of protein, fat, and healthy complex carbohydrates — all of which work together to promote healthy muscle development, keep joints healthy, and provide your pet with the energy and endurance they need to make the most out of play time.

No matter if your dog’s play style is to gnaw on a rope toy, toss around their squeaky stuffed animal, run laps around your space, or simply play one-on-one with you, they each provide their fair share of benefits for everyone involved.

To dig a little deeper, Elite Daily and Petco chatted with some canine experts to get their take on this fun subject. From building an unbreakable bond to stripping away stress, here are just some of the many perks of playing with your pet.

You Get To Know Each Other

Until your dog can talk (I, for one, am counting down the days), playing is the absolute next best way for you to get to know each other and enhance their social health. “When you’re playing, both parties are present — and that presence is where this incredible connection happens,” says Christie Catan, a certified professional dog trainer, knowledge assessed (CPDT-KA) at Tails of Connection. While cellphones and environmental factors often cause distractions on walks or outside the home, one-on-one play can fill in any gaps in the relationship.

“Play involves a lot of reading physical cues from one another. Interactive types of play tend to be filled with laughter and joy, which is just a really connected experience. Having that type of fun bonds you,” Catan tells Elite Daily. “And when your dog associates those types of fun feelings with you, it shows up in other areas of life.”

It Counts As Exercise...

While humans may prefer to put in miles on the treadmill and declare an entire day of the week as dedicated to their legs, dogs are simpler beings. Social play may look like all fun and games to us, but it provides mental and physical exercise for our four-legged friends.

Dr. Antje Joslin, a small animal veterinarian and veterinary consultant for Dogtopia, suggests playing fetch with a big stick, tennis ball, frisbee, or any kind of active toy that you can get at a health and wellness pet store like Petco. Another option could be engaging your dog’s nose (and subsequently their tummy) by hiding treats like Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Tender Beef Dog Treats around the house for them to sniff out. And to keep your dog’s joints and muscles healthy, plus keep their energy level up, consider switching them to one of Blue Buffalo’s age-appropriate foods for puppies, adults, or seniors.

Whatever the exercise method, the advantages are clear: “​​Pet parents that provide physical and mental exercise for their dogs often reap the benefits of having a well-balanced, healthy dog who behaves well and is fun to be around,” Joslin says.

... And Adds Joy To Your Life

The stress of life may never cease, but taking a few minutes every day to appreciate your pup is sure to help. No matter how much responsibility you have at work or how many bills need to be paid at home, your dog will always be there, ready to give your mind a break.

“It’s so funny how as we grow up in our human worlds, we often lose [connection to] play. Play and silliness kind of seem to go out the window,” says Catan. “So this dog that you live with is offering you and inviting you to regain some of that — to just let go of some of the pressure that we feel in this human world.”

As a dog mom of two, the trainer practices what she preaches. “If I feel really overwhelmed, I just get on the floor and play with my dogs. And three minutes of that will completely shift the entire headspace I was operating in.”

In addition to all the benefits our fuzzy friends get out of fetch and tug, it’s vital we don’t forget what it does for us. “It’s a really, really cool opportunity for dogs to remind us of a core need of ours, which is to just be present and to play, to have fun and feel joy.”

Play Can Help Desensitize Your Dog

According to Joslin, “It is our job as humans to provide [dogs with the] tools to adapt to their environments, as well as provide balance, stability, and predictability in their daily routines and interactions.”

Let’s say you just adopted a dog in New York City, but the little guy came from a ranch in Texas. It’s possible that skateboards, strollers, and sirens will scare him — but here’s where playtime can save the day by strengthening their mental health and help curb anxiety in new situations.

“[It can be helpful] to allow dogs to engage in play at a distance from environmental factors that could be distracting or a little bit concerning,” explains Catan, referencing Dr. Amy Cook’s The Play Way method. “You’ve got to get far enough away for the dog to notice [the skateboard or other stimulus], but not really be concerned about it. [Play] can be a really, really cool way to start to shift some of their behavior and emotions toward those things.”

You Build Trust And Engagement

Frequent and connected play will not only help your dog make the connection that you equal fun, but it also “encourages your dog to see you as a really valuable person they want to be around” and can work wonders for their social health, says Ali Smith, trainer and founder of Rebarkable.

“[Building engagement] is a dog choosing to engage with you over other [things] in their environment,” adds Catan. “The more that we practice some of these types of play, typically you will see a dog who is just going to choose to pay attention to you.”

It’s easy to work this training-type play into your time spent together with a game of fetch or soccer. “Anything that gets the two of you interacting and enjoying time together is perfect,” Smith says.