10 Fun Games to Play With Your Dog
Keeping your dog active and busy is important to their overall well-being. And when it comes to keeping your dog busy it’s hard to go wrong with games.
Like us, dogs are one of the only animals that exhibit playfulness well into adulthood. And research has found play benefits the dog-owner relationship, and that the ability of us to play together is part of what makes that bond so strong.
When it comes to keeping our dogs happy we focus a lot on exercise, often overlooking the importance of engaging in play. You can can make a big difference in your dogs life just by adding in a few short play sessions every day. Here’s 10 fun games to play with your dog.
1. Use a Flirt Pole
A flirt pole (also called a flirt stick) is a long pole with a rope attached to the end. On the end of that rope is a lure that’s used to entice your dog to chase. Flirt poles provide great exercise, and they’re mentally stimulating. They’re a way to let let your dog use their natural prey drive in a non-destructive way. And they’re a great for practicing some basic impulse control such as letting go on command.
When playing remember to let your dog ‘win’ or catch the lure on occasion as a reward. By letting them win you’re making the game more engaging and fun, and that will encourage them to keep playing. If they don’t get that chance to win they can become discouraged and uninterested in the game. You can make your own flirt pole with some pvc pipe, some bungee cord and a dog toy. If you’d rather buy one there’s plenty available on amazon.
Health Concerns: This is a very high impact exercise that can be rough on your dog’s joints. If your dog isn’t very active to begin with start with short sessions and work your way up. If your dog has any joint or mobility issues don’t use a flirt pole. They can can cause further joint damage, so opt to some of these lower impact exercises instead.
2. Play a Game of Tug of War
Tug is by far my favorite game to play with my dog Laika. It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s great physical exercise and it’s a good way for dogs to practice good manners. And if you spent a lot of time training with your dog I’ve found it to be one of most motivating rewards around.
When playing tug just remember to follow this basic rule – the game stops if your dog’s teeth touch your skin. Some dogs may struggle with this more than others since tug gets some dogs (puppies) pretty riled up. If you stop when their mouth touches your hand they’ll catch on that ‘the fun game stops when I mouth my person.’
And contrary to popular belief playing tug with your dog will not make him aggressive, nor will letting him win make him dominant. Letting your dog win makes the game more engaging, and it shows your dog that you’re a lot of fun to be around.
3. Play Frisbee
Frisbee is a game I refer to as an advanced game of fetch because it promotes your dog to chase over long distances. A game of frisbee is great exercise, and it’s a lot of fun for dogs that have a natural drive to chase.
If your dog doesn’t know how to catch a frisbee I’d start out by using a soft disc. Traditional plastic frisbees are pretty hard, so if they hit your dog in the face they can discourage them from trying to catch it. Practice by getting your dog excited about the frisbee by tossing it short distances or rolling it on the ground. Encourage them when they start to follow it around and chase. Once your dog is excited to chase it you can increase the distance and start tossing it.
4. Create Your Own Agility Course
Using an agility course for your dog is a fun way to give them some mental & physical exercise. I’ve found that having Laika run through our own little mini course is more tiring than a 2 mile walk. It’s that added focus of having to perform one thing after the other that’s really exhausting.
And while you can go out and buy plenty of obstacle course items at pet supply stores I prefer making my own. You can use a hula hoop to jump through, some blankets to jump over and some little mini cones to weave through. If you want to step it up a notch you can can make some agility equipment of your own. Check out these awesome DIY obstacle course plans:
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5. Kong Stuffing & Food Dispensing Toys
Using a stuffed Kong or some food dispensing toys is one of the easiest games to play with your dog. It’s fun, it encourages them to use some of their natural scavenging ability, and it’s mentally stimulating. If you’re not a fan of Kongs check out the West Paw Tux toy — it’s my favorite alternative.
Stuffing a Kong is my personal favorite because it can keep Laika busy for 30+ minutes. I’ll stuff it with some healthy treats and broth, and they I freeze it over night. If your dog gets a little stressed out each morning when you leave for work try giving them a stuffed Kong. It worked well for Laika, after a few days she was more interested in getting than Kong than she was with the fact that I was leaving.
Food dispensing toys such as the Bob-A-Lot are great for giving your dog some more mental stimulation at meal time. You fill it up and they have to knock it around to get the food out. If your dog has never used a food dispensing toy you may have to practice a bit before they get the hang of it. After filling it up encourage them to play with it so they can see that ‘oh look food comes out when I move it around.’
6. Chasing Bubbles
One of the easiest games to play with your dog is to teach them to chase bubbles. I had my doubts, but it’s one of Laika’s all time favorite games. As soon as I start walking over to the kitchen sink where those bubbles are she starts to get excited.
If your dog doesn’t know how to chase bubbles start by blowing a couple at a time. Point them out to them and encourage them to chase. Catch some yourself to show you dog that there’s nothing to worry about, and that the whole point of the game is to get them before they touch the ground.
We use bubbles made for kids (they also make flavored bubbles specifically for dogs). They’re non toxic, but can upset their stomach if they ingest too much. And be sure to wipe off your dog’s face afterwards because they can irritate your dog’s eyes.
7. Play Some Water Games
Going to the local beach can be a lot of fun for dogs, especially those that already love swimming. (don’t forget a doggie life jacket for safety) You can bring along some dog toys and play a game of fetch in the water. Just remember to check if they float first – we’ve lost a few toys in the water much to Laika’s dismay.
If your dog isn’t a great swimmer, or if you don’t have any beaches nearby you can play some water games in your own backyard. Get a plastic kiddie pool and fill it with water. Many dogs love splashing around and having a nice little pool of their own to keep cool in. Toss in some toys and turn it into a ‘bobbing for apples‘ game.
Some dogs go crazy for the hose. I know all I have to do it get within 10 feet of the hose and Laika’s by my side waiting for that fun stream of water to begin. But the hose is pretty intimidating for some dogs. If your dog isn’t into the hose they might prefer playing in a sprinkler that doesn’t let off such a strong stream of water.
8. Find the Treats
My dog never gets tired of the find the treats game. It doesn’t matter that I pick the same 20 hiding spots and that we always play with chopped up carrots – she loves it every single time. My lack of creativity doesn’t bother her at all. Find the treats, like all nose work games, are mentally stimulating and a fun way to let our dogs hone in on their natural sniffing abilities.
To play find the treats you’ll want to start by putting some treats on the ground while your dog is in the stay position. Give your dog their release command and encourage them to ‘find the treats.’ Point to them and help them along if they’re struggling. Encourage them along the way by praising them each time they find one.
Once your dog understands what ‘find the treats’ means you can slowly start to increase the difficulty of where you’re hiding them. And once you’ve practiced enough in one room you can move onto hiding treats throughout the house.
9. Use a Digging Box
Some dogs love digging, and having a dedicated digging box for them is a way to encourage them to dig in one approved area – one that doesn’t include your landscaped garden. You can make your own digging box with some wood and sand from your local hardware store. If you have a lot of cats in the neighborhood you might want to build a top to keep it from becoming a litter box.
Some dogs will be thrilled to have a place to dig to their heart’s content. If your dog doesn’t dig right away you can make it game by burying some of your dogs favorite toys in the box to encouraging your dog to dig them out.
10. Play a Game of Hide & Seek
Laika loves a game of hide and seek, and it still surprises me that she’s not sick of it even though I keep picking the same 3 hiding spots over and over. Hide and seek lets your dog use some of their natural scent tracking abilities in a fun and stimulating way.
To play hide and seek have you dog stay while you go find a hiding spot. Once situated call your dog and praise them when they find you. If your dog doesn’t have a good ‘stay’ you can enlist the help of someone else to distract your dog as you hide.
What Are Your Dogs Favorite Games?
What games do you play with your dog? Which ones does your dog prefer? Do you think playing games with your dog is an important part of the dog-owner relationship?
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