Why Do Dogs Play? (And Why You Should Encourage It!)

Have you ever wondered why dogs play? We’ve put together this article on some of the main reasons why dogs play and why you should encourage them to.

Developing their motor skills

study at Edinburgh University found that playing helps puppies develop their motor skills. Rolling around, pouncing, jumping, biting and generally pawing around are all behaviours that help them develop their co-ordination, balance and self awareness. When playing they learn how hard to bite, how to communicate with other dogs and when they should finish playing.

It’s key for their well being

A study of 4000 dogs by the University of Bristol showed that play is important for a dog’s overall well being. The study showed the dogs who engaged in less play tended to have more behavioural problems! So you should definitely stay in the park for 5 extra minutes and let your dog play!

An interesting fact is that humans and dogs are 2 of only a few mammals that enjoy playing right into adulthood.

We should always make sure we play with our dogs a few times a day. Not only does it keep them physically fit but keeps them mentally fit. Dog’s thrive when they are engaged in mentally stimulating activities. (Not just physical play either.) Mental treat puzzles etc are great for keeping a dog mentally stimulated. My dogs love a few of the puzzles mentioned in THIS ARTICLE.

Dog’s also prolong play! They’ve been known to slow down towards the end of a game to prolong it, such as walking slowly back to you during a game of fetch! Bigger dog’s also let smaller dog’s “win” some games in order to play for longer!


Dogs are very sociable animals. Play is used from a young age to learn how to spend time with their siblings and other dogs. It also helps build a sense of fairness as they learn to share and they learn to stop playing when the other dog doesn’t want to anymore. It can also help with anxiety problems. (Although never “force” a dog to play when they’re not ready.)

To release pent up energy

Fast and energetic play can help release up pent up energy. In our more modern times it can be harder for dogs to burn all their energy. A good play can help with this.

Walking is great for dogs but running, jumping and playing with another dog is always going to burn more energy.

Play Safely

Always make sure your dog is ready to play. You’ll know your dog better than anyone. You should make sure you let your dog play in a space they feel comfortable. This could be in your garden with a friends dog, or you could try a local dog park. You’ll more than likely have one close to you. These are generally a closed in space where you can feel comfortable your dog won’t run off. (Although during this pandemic please make sure to obey any social distancing laws / guidelines)

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