Playing with a dog can be one of the true joys of becoming a dog owner. If you’ve never spent time around dogs, though, you might not know exactly how to play with one. Fortunately, doing so is just as simple as you might imagine.
The Best Games to Play With Your Dog
While there are many types of unorganized play that you can enjoy with your pup, the very best games out there are fun games that not only help your dog to get some physical energy out but also those that help to stimulate your dog’s mind. Each of the games below is not only designed to help your dog stay in great shape but to make sure that he or she has all the mental stimulation that he or she needs to stay sharp and alert for years to come.
One of the classic stereotypes about dogs is that they will chase pretty much anything that moves. We’ve all seen dogs seemingly chase after cars when they drive by, so it’s no surprise to learn that most dogs really do have an instinctual need to chase after anything they perceive to be prey. While this is an instinct that’s certainly stronger in some dogs than in others, it’s one that’s so universal that you can make use of it to create an excellent game to play with your pet.
Prey Chase is a very simple game that allows your dog to not only indulge in his or her instincts in a very safe way but will also help you to work with your dog on some major dog training skills. It’s one of the most popular games to play with your dog. You’ll need a bit of equipment or ingenuity to make this game work, but you will almost certainly find that doing so is worth the effort.
The main tool you’ll need here is called a flirt pole. While there are professional-quality poles out there, you can use just about anything for this tool – a long length of pipe, a solid stick, or even an old fishing rod. You’ll take the pole and tie one end of a rope or strong fishing line around the pole, then tie the other end of the rope around a toy. Once you’ve got your tool assembled, you can drag the toy along the ground and allow your dog to ‘hunt’ his or her ‘prey. Doing so slowly and deliberately will help your dog to develop tracking skills and help him or her to learn to focus on the motion of the toy.
While it might be fun for you to let your dog chase around the toy, it’s vital that you let your dog catch the toy every once in a while. This reward is what will keep your dog engaged, after all. If you fail to let your dog catch the toy for too long, he or she will lose interest in the game and move on to other pursuits.
Hide the Treat
One of the most important things you can do for your dog is making sure that he or she stays mentally engaged. Not only is this very important for your dog as he or she ages, but it helps to stop him or her from becoming destructive when bored. For this game, you’ll just need a treat and a good hiding space.
To start, you’ll first need a favorite treat – usually one with a strong scent, but any treat can work as the game progresses. Take this treat and drag it along a specified route so that you can leave the treat’s scent behind for your dog. When you’re done, hide the treat in a space that’s not easy to find, and then go get your dog.
Once your dog is in the room, you’ll help him or she find the treat through simple clues. Many people like to use the word ‘hot’ (in a friendly, excited voice) to let the dog know he or she is near the treat and cold (in a calm, disinterested voice) to let the dog know that he or she is going the wrong way. Using these verbal cues can help you to make sure that your dog learns some valuable communications skills as he or she hunts for the treat. This can be one of the most fun games to play with your dog.
If you really want to up the difficulty level on this game, substitute the treat for a toy or even for a person. This can be a great game to help out dogs who are training for search and rescue, of course, but it’s also a very great tool for helping your dog to learn some basic commands while also working to ensure that he or she gets all the mental stimulation he or she needs to stay calm and happy no matter what else is going on in his or her world.
Fetch is perhaps the most common dog game, but it’s common for a good reason. It’s a game that really lets your dog not only get in touch with all of his or her animal instincts, but it’s also one that gives your dog permission to run all-out and exhaust himself or herself in the pursuit of a fun game.
As with virtually every other game out there, there are easy versions of fetch and harder versions of fetch. The easiest way to play fetch is with a soft toy or ball, which is perfectly shaped for your dog to catch in his or her mouth. If he or she is a big fan of the game, though, you might want to make things a little tougher by switching from a ball or toy to a Frisbee. Frisbees are not only a little harder for your dog to catch in his or her mouth, but they are much more challenging to track and intercept in the air.
Tug of War
Tug of War is another one of the classic games for dogs, one that you’ll see puppies playing among themselves and one that can be a great way to bond with your dog. It’s also a game that requires much more attention than you might think, as going overboard with the game can actually cause problems.
Playing tug of war is incredibly easy, only because it’s something that your dog is naturally going to try to do any time you hold onto something that he or she wants. The best way to play this game is to get a dedicated toy – usually a dedicated length of rope – with which you play the game. Not only will this allow you to have fun with your dog, but it will also give you the ability to teach your dog that he or she should only pull on that single toy.
The most important thing you’ll have to teach your dog when playing this game is the ‘drop’ command. It’s very easy for tug of war to go from a fun game to a battle for dominance, so don’t let things progress to the point where your dog starts to get too aggressive. When you feel like it’s time for the game to end, either let your dog have the toy or tell him or her to drop the toy. In either case, you have to maintain control of the game.
Agility is more than just a game for some dog owners. It’s not only one of the best ways to keep certain dogs engaged and in great shape, but it’s a legitimate sport at which many dogs compete at various levels. It’s one of the most engaging games that you can play with your dog as well as one of the most physically tiring for both of you. This game is also one that’s going to test your ability to communicate with your dog and really make you work to help your dog have the best possible time when playing.
The best way to start training your dog in agility is to set up your own obstacle course. Doing so will require a bit of ingenuity, but most people can create a suitable basic course with items like boxes and cones. You’ll mostly be looking for ways to make your dog go through, over, and under different items to really put him or her through his or her paces.
Another great tool that you can use for your dog is a hula hoop. Hold this toy on the ground and try to get your dog to leap through. When he or she goes through successfully, give him or her plenty of praise and treats. Over time, you’ll start to raise the hoop higher and higher to encourage your dog to leap through.
If your dog seems to enjoy the game and is doing well, you may want to move on to a local agility course. Many dog parks now have at least a basic agility setup, and you can use these courses to judge whether or not you and your pup would like to pursue the sport any further.
Play, Don’t Overstimulate
It’s great to find games for your dogs to play and doing so can really help to strengthen your bond. Doing so does require a little bit of discretion on your part, though. You don’t want to play a game that encourages your dog to get aggressive and you certainly shouldn’t do anything that goes so long that it overstimulates or stresses out your dog. While your dog might seem like he or she would like to play forever, you need to use your judgment in order to end the game while your dog is still having fun.
Always try to take the time to find games to play with your dog even if they are not the games on this list. Doing so will not only help your dog to stay happy and healthy, but it will do wonders for your own state of mind. Sometimes one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to take the time to play with a dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are some games I can play with my dog?
There are many different games that you can play with your dog. Some of the best games, like fetch or tug of war, are also the simplest games to play. If you’d like to play games that are a little more difficult, you can try out games like ‘hide the treat’ or ‘chase the prey’. These games will allow you to work on your communication with your pet while he or she plays.
2. How do you mentally stimulate a dog?
The best way to mentally stimulate a dog is definitely through play. Taking the time to play games that not only give your dog a great deal of physical exercise but that also makes him or her think will allow your dog to expend mental energy and to feel much more relaxed. Try games like ‘prey chase’ or ‘hide and seek’ in order to make your dog think while he or she is playing.
3. How do you entertain a bored dog?
Entertaining a bored dog is as simple as taking the time to interact with him or her. For some dogs, getting rid of boredom is as easy as playing a good game of fetch. Other dogs need more mental stimulation, though, so you’re going to want to look into games that require your dog to do some more thinking. Games like hide and seek can be perfect for that, as they require your dog to use his or her senses to find a reward.
4. What is the best way to play with your dog?
It depends on the dog. If your dog loves to chase things, a game like prey chase might be the best for him or her. If your dog is more into tracking, though, finding a way to play hide and seek might be more fun. For most dogs, though, simply getting to play with a person is its own reward.