Table of contents [Show]
- 1. Use a Flirt Pole
- 2. Play Tug of War With Your Dog
- 3. Play Frisbee With Your Dog
- 4. Create Your Agility Course
- 5. Use Kong Stuffing & Food-Dispensing Toys
- 6. Teach Your Dog to Chase Bubbles
- 7. Play Some Water Games With Your Dog
- 8. Play Find the Treats With Your Dog
- 9. Use a Digging Box
- 10. Play a Game of hiding & Seek
- What Are Your Dogs Favorite Games?
1. Use a Flirt Pole
Using a flirt pole is a fun way to keep your dog mentally and physically active. They’re especially great for high-energy dogs because one quick session can tire out your dog.
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 your dog use their natural prey drive in a non-destructive way. And they’re 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 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.
Remember to take it slow when starting. Using a flirt pole with your dog is very high impact, and it 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 to longer ones.
Word of caution for dogs with arthritis or mobility issues: If your dog has any joint or mobility issues don’t use a flirt pole. Because it’s such a high-impact exercise it can cause further joint damage, so opt for some of these lower impact exercises instead.
2. Play Tug of War With Your Dog
The tug is by far my dog’s favorite game. It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s great physical exercise and it’s a good way for dogs to practice their manners. And if you spent a lot of time training with your dog I’ve found a tug toy to be one of the 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 With Your Dog
Another fun game to play with your dog is a 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 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 Agility Course
Another fun game for dogs is creating your agility course. It’s a fun way to teach your dog some new tricks, and it’s a great source of mental stimulation for dogs.
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 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 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 make some agility equipment of your own. Check out these awesome DIY obstacle course plans:
- How to Make Your Dog Agility Course
- How to Build a Pet Agility Course
- How to Build Your Own 3 Part Agility Course
5. Use 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 freeze it overnight. 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 mealtime. 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. Teach Your Dog to Chase Bubbles
One of the funniest games to play with your dog is teaching 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 your 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 nontoxic but can upset their stomach if they ingest too much. And be sure to wipe off your dog’s face afterward because they can irritate your dog’s eyes.
7. Play Some Water Games With Your Dog
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 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 is 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. Play Find the Treats With Your Dog
When it comes to games to play with your dog “find the treats” is my absolute favorite. It’s super easy to play, and the best part is my dog never gets sick of it. 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 on to 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 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 dog's favorite toys in the box to encourage your dog to dig them out.
10. Play a Game of hiding & Seek
Another fun game to play with your dog is hide and seek. Laika loves it, 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 its natural scent tracking abilities in a fun and stimulating way.
To play hide and seek have your 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 are some of your favorite games to play with your dog? Which games does your dog prefer? Do you think playing games with your dog is an important part of the dog-owner relationship? Let me know in the comments below.