If you think of your dog as a perpetual 8-year-old, you might begin to understand how exciting games are to him, too.
Playing with your dog reinforces the bond the two of you have. You reinforce that you enjoy being with your dog, and he gets a chance to exhibit his skills, have fun and know that you are his pal. The two of you learn communication and how to work together.
In fact, the skills the two of you will develop by learning how to play together will help you if you decide to teach your dog a sport, travel with your dog or put him to work. He’ll be more likely to engage freely in those activities if you have established the good communication and relationship from the start.
But knowing that your dog likes to play games and understanding what games will be fun are two different things. In this article, we’ll give you some ideas for games to play with your dog. Some are of the basic variety, while others are a bit more complicated.
Hide and Seek
Yes, it’s the classic hide and seek. Most dogs figure this game out quickly and enjoy hunting for you. Of course, given that dogs have such an incredible sense of smell, it’s likely he’ll find you before you are ready to be found, but that’s the fun of the game for both you and him.
When you first begin playing this game with your dog, it might take him a little time to figure it out. You can create words if you like that your dog will recognize. You might start by saying, “Find me”, and that will signal to your dog that it’s time to play.
You can initially hide in easy spots – perhaps behind a door or a tree, and then work up to more complicated hiding spots, some of which might take your dog a bit of time to figure out.
Be sure to have your dog sit down and wait until you call him when you are playing this game. By waiting, your dog is learning the important task of waiting for you and waiting to be called. The more you play with your dog the more you’ll learn that there’s often an inherent lesson in it for them (and sometimes you, too!).
Follow the Leader
Create a fun obstacle course for your dog and lead them through it. This is particularly good for puppies, which are learning how to be led and how to follow.
Be sure to make the course fun. You can use orange cones, a partly elevated beam they can balance on, and in the summer, small swimming pools for them to walk through. Make this fun and when the game is over, give your dog some free time to play without direction in the course you’ve created.
This one is fun for dogs of all ages, and it’s particularly fun if you have more than one dog.
While your dog or dogs watch, hide a variety of treats in the yard, under things and inside things. Let your dogs watch you do this, but make them wait until you are done.
When you are done, you give your dog the cue and send him or her racing through the yard to find all the treats. If you have more than one dog, they will see this as a competition and have a lot fun trying to find all the treats quickly.
Don’t play this game with more than one dog if one of the dogs is at all aggressive, as it could create problems, but if everyone is happy with each other, it’s all good.
Clean up the Toys
We require our kids to clean up their toys, so why not the dogs? In this fun game, you reward your dog for cleaning up his toys and teach him a valuable skill at the same time.
In this game, you dump his toys out on the floor or ground (or if they are already out of the bucket or basket, round them up so they are in a small area) and encourage him to pick the toys up in his mouth, and drop them into your hand. This might take some practice for many dogs, but it’s a game they enjoy playing.
Each time your dog does successfully deposit a toy in your hand, reward him with food treat. Tell him or her “good boy” or “good girl”. Then you put the toy in the bucket or basket.
Eventually, most dogs will start putting their toys in the bucket or basket by themselves. If you’re lucky, your dog will eventually put his or her toys away without any prompting!
The Freeze game
This is a popular game with preschoolers, but it can be adapted for dogs quite easily and they love it.
This game is particularly good for active dogs that like to jump as it teaches them some self control and self-discipline and adds well to any obedience training you have already done with your dog.
If you have children, be sure to include them in this game. Your dog will find it much more fun.
When you say “get wild” everyone runs around, you and the dog included. Get crazy, have some fun and let the dog get as crazy as he or she wants (within reason). When you say “freeze!” the dog should stop running around and immediately become still. It might not be immediate and sharp the first time you play the game, or the first few times.
If you have children playing, your dog will begin to follow their lead. Since children love the “freeze” component of this game (as well as the “wild” part), your dog will quickly get the hang of the game.
If there are no children playing, that’s Ok, too. Your dog will still begin to pick up cues from you while the two of you play the game. He’ll get the gist of it in no time.
To extend this to when your dog jumps on people, use the same phrase – “freeze” – when your dog jumps. Before long, he will understand that it’s not OK to be “wild” when people come into the house, and instead he needs to “freeze”.
What games do you like playing with your dog? Please us know in the comments.
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