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Everyone needs ways to keep their pup entertained and out of trouble.  Playing games is a great way to keep your dog active, stimulated and busy.  But it is so easy to get bored with the same old games like fetch, tug and frisbee. 

Here’s five of our favorite games to strengthen the bond you have with your dog and get you out of that rut:

Hide and Seek

We all know this game from our childhood, but it is also an exciting game to play with your pup because it lets your dog use their natural scent tracking abilities in a fun and stimulating way.  To play, put your dog in a ‘Stay’ position while you go to another room and find a hiding spot.  Once in your hiding spot, call your dog.  When they find you, give them lots of praise and even their favorite treat so they will want to play again.  Start with easy hiding spots and increase the difficulty as you go.  If your dog doesn’t have a good ‘Stay’, enlist the help of a friend to distract your dog while you go hide; plus, this gives you something else to work on to get those brain muscles working! 

Treasure Hunt

Dogs love a chance to use their powerful sniffers, and what better way to use it than to find hidden treasure?!? Find something extra smelly that your dog loves like a favorite bone, treats or food filled toy.  Show it to your dog and let them smell it.  Put them in a ‘Stay’ while you hide the item.  Tell them to “Find It” and watch as they sniff their way to their reward.  You can adjust the difficulty level based on your dog’s expertise.

Name Game

The Name Game is a great way to teach your dog to differentiate between objects and expand your pup’s vocabulary skills.

  • Start by choosing 2-3 objects for this game.  If you think toys will get your dog too excited, pick random items that mean nothing to your dog like a stapler, a candle and a mug (can you tell what’s on my desk right now?). 
  • Then, have your dog sit or lie down and position yourself on the floor facing them.
  • Place one of the items on the floor in front of your dog, close enough that they can touch it with their snout.  When they reach forward to sniff or target the item, immediately click or say “Yes!” to mark the behavior.  Give them a treat away from the object, but close enough that they do not need to get up.  Repeat this process until they are familiar with targeting the object. 
  • When your dog reliably touches the item with their nose, it’s time to give that item a name.  Say that name when they lean toward the object, click or say “Yes!” as they touch the item with their nose and reward. Repeat this often so they associate the word with the item. 
  • Now it’s time to introduce the 2nd item.  You will now have item A and item B on the floor.  Let your dogs explore the new object, but do not mark or reward.  Then say the word you have for item A and mark and reward your dog when they target the first item. 
  • When your dog continuously targets item A when you say its name, you can increase the difficulty level by changing locations (even by a few feet), increasing the space between the 2 items and even by introducing new items to the mix.

With practice, time and repetition your dog can learn the names of several items, but not all at once!  To name additional items, start back at the beginning with a different item so your dog becomes familiar with its name. Remember, your dog does not need to learn it all on the first try!  Keep sessions short and fun, making sure your dog gets plenty of positive reinforcement to keep them interested.

Red Light, Green Light

Another fun game from our childhood that we can share with our pup is Red Light, Green Light. It teaches impulse control by having them listen to cues even when excited.  This game can be played in the home, out on a walk or in an open field.  When you give the command “Green Light”, or whatever you want to call it, the dog should walk or run alongside their person.  When you give the command “Red Light”, or whatever words you want to use, they must stop and sit or lie down, depending on the skill you’d prefer. Remember to mark and reward the desired behavior, especially in the beginning, making it more fun and worthwhile for your pup.

Pup Basket-ball

We all wish our pets would pick up their toys – why not make it fun for them to do so?  Plus, it’s not that hard of a trick to train if they already know how to play fetch.  Situate your dogs toys in a pile in the middle of the floor and stand or sit next to their toy box or basket.  Point to the toy pile and say “Take It” to prompt your dog to pick it up.  Next instruct them to “Bring It” to have them bring the toy to you (or really, to the toy bin).  And finally say “Drop It for them to release the toy into the basket.  Each time they do this, reward with treats and praise.  After your dog puts the entire pile of toys in the basket, say “Put Your Toys Away” and reward.  Start with just a few toys and work up to larger piles.  Start with them all in one area and increase difficulty by spreading them out more and more.  Eventually they won’t need all the individual commands and you’ll be able to just say “Put Your Toys Away”.   For even more fun, you can even mix this up with the Name Game! As with all training, remember they won’t get it one session.  Keep your sessions short, rewarding and interesting to encourage your dog to learn in a fun way. They’ll be cleaning up their toys in no time!

We hope you have fun engaging with your dog in new ways.  Trying a new game?  Let us know how the training progresses.  Have another favorite game to play?  Tell us all about it.

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