Have all of your regular pup-pleasing activities started to go stale? While your dog might be perfectly fine with bounding over the same path on your lawn each day, playing the same games with your pup can easily get old for us human counterparts.
This article should inspire you with some ideas for five new games to play with your dog. While these games can be adapted for indoor play when you’re staring down a rainy Saturday indoors with your four-legged friend, or you can go wild in your own backyard.
Hide and Seek
Great for training your dog to keep within your line of vision, you can engage your pup in a few rounds of the classic Hide and Seek game the same way that you would with a child.
Materials: You don’t need anything for this one -- no equipment needed! But your dog will need to understand the “stay” command to give you a couple seconds to hide.
How-to: Start by instructing your dog to sit and to stay. Dart off somewhere relatively close by, but somewhat out of sight -- you don’t want to be too well hidden, at least until your dog catches on to the concept of the game. Once you’ve hunkered down in your hiding spot, call your dog’s name. It shouldn’t take long before your dog comes bounding up to you, breathless and excited to have “found” their favorite human!
Repeat the exercise, hiding yourself better each time. Since dogs have an incredibly sophisticated sense of smell, they should be able to sniff you out pretty easily once they understand the object of the game.
If you want to up your hide and seek stakes a bit, a scavenger hunt will provide lots of amusement for you and your pup. As an added bonus, this game activates your dog’s problem-solving skills and olfactory senses.
Materials: You’ll need a couple of your dog’s favorite treats or biscuits, along with a few treasured dog toys.
How-to: You’ll need to do a little prep work for this one as you scatter your dog’s favorite things around your yard or in your home. Try to be inconspicuous and use spaces where your dog doesn’t frequently go. Don’t conceal everything equally -- some objects should be so simple to find that they are practically in plain sight.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, your dog should start in sitting or, better yet, laying down. Give your dog a signal -- something like, “Fido, let’s FIND!” Then lead your dog to the first semi-hidden object. You might have to “show” your pet a few of the objects before they start to get the idea, but they will catch on. Then you can watch as instinct takes over and your dog excitedly sniffs out the toys and treats you’ve hidden for them.
“Look at That!”
This game is great if you’re working with your dog to develop focus and attention. If your dog is prone to running off to chase squirrels instead of listening to your commands, this activity can help.
What you’ll need: You don’t really need anything besides dog treats and a leash to play this game, but you can use a training “clicker” if you would like to. If you don’t have treats handy, cut up a string cheese or a hot dog to dispense as rewards.
How-to: Place your dog on its leash and start walking as you normally would. Once you see an object or animal that tends to distract your dog (whether it’s a car, a person, or another dog), say the word “Yes!” or use the clicker to get your dog’s attention. As soon as your dog looks at you, reward them with a treat. Do this for the duration of your walk together, and it will soon become automatic for your dog to look at you instead of acting out when they see a tempting distraction.
Also called a flirt pole, this toy-based game encourages self-control and obedience for your pal. This game can also come in handy if your dog gets a little too excited when they’re outside or on a walk, as it can quickly tire your pooch out and “take the edge off” before you embark on any outdoor adventures.
What you’ll need: You can buy this kind of toy at any pet supply store, and you can also make your own. You’ll need a sturdy stick, a length of rope, and a dog toy. Firmly secure the toy to your pole using the rope, and voila -- you’ve got a chase stick.
How-to: Instruct your dog to lay down, and don’t break eye contact. See if your dog will stay in a prone position while you tempt them with the object on the end of the pole. You’ll see your dog struggling against their impulse to grab the toy. After a few passes of dangling the toy in front of your dog, release them with a cue word like “Get!”
You can let your dog tug and chew on the toy for a few moments before instructing them to “Drop!” Instruct your dog to lay back down, and start the cycle over again. It may take a few tries, but most dogs actually enjoy the process of being teased, released, and teased again. This is also a great game to work on impulse control, and doesn’t require a lot of exertion on your part.
Puzzle toys are great because they don’t require much effort from you as a dog owner and they can keep even a high-energy pup occupied for twenty to thirty minutes at a time. If you have a dog that tends to go a bit stir crazy without constant one-on-one interaction, this is a great way to distract your dog.
What you’ll need: Puzzle toys come in many shapes and sizes, but revolve around the same concept -- they challenge your dog to manipulate the toy in a certain way to get a treat (or some yummy peanut butter) out of the center. These toys tend to be relatively inexpensive and should stand up to extensive chewing action.
How-to: Fill the toy with your dog’s treat of choice, paying close attention to the toy’s instructions. You will want to make sure to purchase a toy that lines up with your dog’s specific size. Roll the toy to your dog and watch them go to work!
Don’t forget that the classics, like frisbee and tug of war, never get old for most dogs. You may also want to consider playing fetch if you haven’t tried it in awhile or even building your own backyard agility course.