Play, play, and more play! We love our dogs, love spending time with them, and especially love to play fun dog games. Here’s a few to add to your routine.
Play is an important role in the canine-human bond. But sometimes we get stuck in a rut and play the same old game of fetch over and over. Today’s the day to think outside the box and learn some new, fun games to play with your dog.
1. Find-it games
Dogs love using their noses to interact with their world. Teaching your dog a sniffing find-it game is a great way to engage his senses. Ask your dog to sit/stay as you place a healthy dog treat five feet from him. Tell him, “Find It!” Repeat this process ten times. On day two, repeat the steps above, except place the treats in the next room over. Gradually start to hide the treats in more challenging places. The find-it game can also be played with your dog’s favorite toys.
2. Hide and seek
Similar to finding an item, you can teach your dog to find you. When your dog is relaxing, sneak away into the other room and tuck behind the door. Call to your dog in a chipper voice, “Come find me,” and then be quiet. Allow him to hunt around for you. If he seems confused, repeat your “come find me” cue. When he finds you, praise him with affection.
Reverse your roles by instructing your dog to “lie down”. Place a light blanket on top of him and say, “Where’s Fido?” Laugh and ooh and aah as your dog wiggles his way out of the blanket. When he pokes his head out, say, “There you are!” as you give him a treat. If your dog seems uncomfortable when he’s covered by the blanket, stick to letting him find you!
Teaching your dog to chase or catch you is a great way to improve his come-when-called behavior. Tag is usually hardwired in dogs, since they evolved from prey-chasing predators. Simply say, “Catch me,” and run off, encouraging him to follow. Allow him to catch up and touch your hand before you run off again. After a few runs, give him a tasty treat!
4. Make a dog obstacle course
An obstacle course is another great way to challenge your dog’s mind in a fun way. Buy an inexpensive home agility kit, or take a look around your home for ideas and inspiration. What can he walk on, jump over, balance on, or go through?
Place a few pillows across the floor and ask him to walk over them. If he seems reluctant, lure him with a tasty treat. Can your dog sit or sit pretty on one of the pillows? Once he’s mastered these tricks, grab a broom, place one pillow under each end, and teach your dog to jump over the “hurdle”. Please keep safety in mind at all times. If your dog is jumping, keep it low and not on a slippery surface. If your dog hits it with his back feet, make sure it will fall over and not stay stationary and cause injury.
5. Bubbles, anyone?
A lot of dogs enjoy a good bubble pop. Simply blow and encourage your dog to chase them. If you have a-fenced in yard, this activity is excellent exercise.
6. “Kill it” and “eat it”
This game isn’t as scary as it sounds. A piece of fabric and tasty dog treats are the only things that are going to be “killed” or “eaten”. Take a large piece of fabric and place a few treats in the center. Lightly tie the top. Toss it to your dog and encourage him to “get it.” If he needs a little help, grab an end and start to unwrap the treats, still encouraging him to join in. After a few trials, he should get the idea. Monitor closely and be sure to remove the fabric once he finds the treats.
7. Doggie in the middle
In this game, you will need at least one other family member. Stand about ten feet away from each other playing catch with your dog’s favorite toy. Encourage your pup to “get it” as you toss it back and forth. Be considerate and allow your dog to catch the toy every few tosses so that he can win and have fun.
8. What’s on the walk?
Use your dog’s daily walks for playtime. Instead of staying on the sidewalk, veer off course, jump on a log, venture into the woods, show your dog the leaves, toss them in the air – you get the idea. Make your daily walk an adventure and find new things to smell, walk over, and chase.
9. Take a dog training class
When you run out of new games to play, look to your local dog training club to find a fun class. A lot of dog training schools offer a variety of fun classes such as trick training, flyball, agility, tracking, disc, freestyle, barn hunting, Treibball, and rally. This can be a great way for both of you to learn new and fun things.
When learning how to play with your dog, it’s not just about rules and goals – it’s about having fun! These games are just ideas and starting points to get the ball rolling. …pun intended. Listen to your dog, learn what he loves to do, and go from there. When you consistently connect and play with your dog, you will build a beautiful relationship and many cherished memories. Now, go play!
Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (raisingyourpetsnaturally.com).