Written by: John Woods
Did you know that spending time playing with your dog is a great way for the two of you to bond? And that it can help young dogs develop confidence, trust, and stimulate mental development? Not to mention it’s incredibly fun for both of you!
In this article we teach you how to play 6 different games that both you and your pup will love.
The Name Game
If you’ve never raised a puppy before, you might take it for granted that dogs know their names. Most are able to pick it up pretty quickly, especially if you choose a unique name that doesn’t sound like many other words you use regularly.
Play the game by calling your puppy’s name in a bright, happy voice. When they respond (by looking at you or coming toward you), reward them with praise, pats, and a tasty treat!
Hide and Seek
In this game, you are the hider and your dog is trying to seek you out! Start off by hiding in a different room of the house or section of the yard. Then, call your puppy and wait for them to find you! This is also a great game for helping with recall. It is often a good idea to have a friend or family member distract your dog while you are taking the time to hide. You can switch who is hiding with each round.
If your pup is having trouble finding out at first, try hiding with a smelly treat so they can use their nose to help them out!
Treasure hunt works like hide and seek, but instead of you hiding, there is a “treasure” of treats or toys waiting to be found! Start with simple hiding places—in a corner or on a rock. As your pup gets more advanced, you can get more creative, and even bury toys outside in a sandpit for them to dig up!
This game works best if you figure out what motivates your dog the most—popular rewards are a favorite toy or treat!
Tug of War
Tug of war is a fantastic game to work on developing the bond between you and your dog.
There is some controversy in the dog training community about whether or not to let your dog win. Some think that by never letting your dog win, you are establishing a healthy hierarchy. Others suggest that your dog will lose interest if they always lose. It’s up to you to decide what’s right for you and your dog.
Make sure that you only use toys that are designated for tug of war—don’t play with socks or other items that you don’t want destroyed. This way your puppy learns that these objects are off-limits.
Puppy in the Middle
You’ll need a friend or family member to help out with this game. Take a favorite ball or other toy and start playing catch with the other person. Your puppy will be interested in the ball and will run back and forth chasing after it—a great way to tire out an energetic dog!
Be sure to give your puppy a turn with the ball, too. If they have a certain amount of smarts, they’ll realize they won’t be able to get it and lose interest. So help them out and “drop” it every now and then!
You’d be hard pressed to find a dog who doesn’t love the flirt pole! This is a healthy outlet for your pup to get out their natural prey-chasing energy.
You can buy one at any pet store, or DIY your own pole out of a rod or pipe, rope, and a small toy tied to the end.
With young puppies, there may be some concern that games such as this one could cause joint damage and mobility issues later on in life. For this reason, it’s best to keep the flirt pole game short and sweet!
With these 6 games in your back pocket, there will never be a dull moment again! Try more than one and see which your dog likes the best. Ready, set, PLAY!
John Woods is a graduate in animal welfare and behavior, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.