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Simple ideas for playing with your dog

Why play games with your dog?

  • Games help build a relationship, they are fun for both human and dog and can also be used to practice your training cues. For example, sits, downs, stays, fetch, take it, drop it etc. This mean that whilst your dog is playing and enjoying himself he is also learning to do as you ask.

  • If you have a young puppy and you’re just starting these games, don’t ask for too much too soon. Let the puppy learn the game is fun rather than putting too much obedience around the game. A puppy isn’t going to want to play with you (or may lose interest quickly) if you’re constantly asking for ‘sits’, instead play the game and gradually build in the cues you are training after the puppy has created lovely associations with playing with his human.

  • Playing games with your dog enriches both of your lives. A stronger bond means your dog is more likely to do what you ask when it counts.

  • We provide food, water, a bed, fuss and attention but what about your dogs’ physical and mental needs? Without good physical and mental stimulation dogs often ‘misbehave’. They find other things to do, such as chewing your table legs or stealing remote controls.  As humans we take on the responsibility of meeting our dogs’ needs (much as a parent would with a baby or child) and therefore need to make sure we provide suitable outlets for these needs.

  • By giving games structure over time you can create games which can involve the children too. When both dog and child understand the rules of the game, their relationship will develop in a way which works for both.

Top Games for a Tip Top Dog!

Hide and Seek. Ask your dog for a sit or down stay (or get someone to hold him on his lead if you haven’t trained these yet) and then hide yourself behind a tree. Make it easy at first so that he finds you easily. Make a big fuss of your dog when he does find you. Do it as many times as you like on a walk and he will love searching for you. As he gets good at it make it harder for him.

Practical use: Good for recall – your dog comes to find you. Good for keeping the kids entertained on a walk! Mental stimulation for your dog. Good for developing a relationship with your dog.

Find it! With your dog in a sit stay, or behind a baby gate so he can see what you are doing, hide small pieces of food (hotdog or chicken breast) around the room. Make it easy at first until he gets the game. Once he understands, make it more difficult by hiding the food in more difficult places. Help him but don’t take over, let him use his nose and sniff out the treats. Sniffing is very tiring for a dog, not to mention a huge enjoyment. They love to sniff so take advantage of this by choosing to play games which incorporate sniffing. You can hide a toy if your dog prefers to hunt for a toy.

Practical use: Could be first steps towards starting ‘scent work’ a wonderful dog sport. Train your dog to sniff out your car keys or a glove on walks.

Ping Pong Recall. With two people a short distance apart, arm yourselves with yummy treats and call your dog using his name and the cue ‘come’ (or whatever your recall cue word is) and then reward him with a treat when he comes running.  Then let the other person call the dog back to them so that he becomes the ping pong ball going back and forth between you both. Do not ask for a sit if you are doing this with a puppy, the fact that he has come to you in the first place is brilliant as it is – no need to delay the reward by asking for a sit (add this in later once he loves the game). Practice in a calm environment at home in the house or garden at first. Move further apart once your dog understands the game. Then call from outside in the garden to the kitchen and vice versa (taking care the step between the inside and outside isn’t too much for your puppy). This really helps if your dog is not good at recall into the house from the garden.

Practical use: Great for improving recall and focus.

Teach Tricks. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. Teach your dog simple tricks such as rollover, hi-5, sit pretty, crawl (if you’re looking for how to train these I recommend Kikopup on YouTube). You’ll be surprised at how quickly most dogs manage to learn these and also get a huge sense of achievement when you have both accomplished a new trick.

Practical use: Showing off to your friends! Great for strengthening the bond between dog and owner.

Take the time every day to play with your dog, 10 minutes will do, and you will both be better off for it! Happy Training!



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