Games are a great way to stimulate and educate your puppy. Not only will running around get them huffing and puffing, but certain games will also help you teach them valuable skills like recall, patience and focus. This article will explain:
- The difference between training and playing games
- Whether there is an age limit for training or playing with dogs
- How to play 2 Ball Fetch, The “Oops!” Game, The Elevator Game, The Muffin Tin Game, Treat Toss, Hide and Seek, and The Mouse Game
- What other pet parents are asking about puppy training games
What is the difference between training and playing games?
Playing games is part of training! This is because playing games gives you and your puppy additional opportunities to practice behaviors like “Come”, “Drop it” and “Wait” that you work on during dedicated training sessions.
Is there a time or age limit for training and playing?
It’s never too late to train or play with a dog! Both training and play helps dogs build confidence, gain social skills, exert mental and physical energy, and build stronger bonds with their pet parents.
7 games that you can play with your puppy
2 Ball Fetch
Playing fetch with your dog is great mental and physical exercise, and can also help build your dog’s impulse control. To make sure they’re safe, always play in a fenced in yard and only move to an open space if your dog reliably comes when called. To play two ball fetch:
- Grab two identical balls and head to a fenced in area
- Show one ball to your dog, say “Fetch” and throw the ball
- After your dog picks up the ball, run in the opposite direction and make silly noises. The goal is for you to seem interesting enough that your dog will want to run back to you
- When your dog arrives back shower them with praise and show them the second ball. Squeak the ball and make it seem really awesome; you want your dog to drop the ball in their mouth
- Immediately after your dog drops the ball, say “Sit” and wait for your dog to sit. This will help teach them impulse control
- After your dog gets into the sit position, say “Fetch” and toss the second ball
- While your dog is running after the second ball, pick up the first ball from the ground
- Repeat this game of two ball fetch as long as you and your dog are having fun!
The “Oops!” Game
The “Oops” game is a great way to teach your dog that good things happen when they're not jumping. You will only play this game if/when your dog jumps on someone. Here’s how it works:
- When you’re about to meet a new person, keep your dog close to you and have the person approach slowly
- If your dog jumps, say “oops” and have the person take a step back
- Once your dog stops jumping, have the person walk towards your dog againRepeat this sequence and heavily praise your dog every time they stop jumping
- Over time your dog will associate not jumping with being able to say hello!
The Elevator Game
Teaching your dog the elevator game is great for impulse control. To play the game:
- Grab your dog’s dinner and hold it close to your chest
- Slowly bring the bowl down to the ground
- If your dog moves towards the bowl, lift the bowl back up and start the game again
- Once your dog doesn’t move, and allows you to place the bowl on the ground, say “OK” and give them their dinner
The Muffin Tin Game
The Muffin Tin Game is a do-it-yourself (DIY) game that uses a muffin pan, kibble or small treats, and tennis balls to create a mentally enriching experience for your dog. The goal of the game is for your dog to use their sniffing and problem solving skills to find all of the kibble. To play the game:
- Grab the necessary supplies. You’ll need a muffin tin, tennis balls, kibble or small treats. If there are 8 holes in your muffin tin, grab 8 tennis balls. You’ll cover each hole with a tennis ball.
- Set-up the game. Drop a treat or 1-3 pieces of kibble in each muffin hole, and cover each hole with a tennis ball.
- Place the muffin tin on the floor. Once all the muffin holes are covered, place the muffin tin on the floor, call your dog over and let them get to work finding their reward!
The Treat Toss Game provides a great opportunity for your dog and child to build a good association with each other, while maintaining space. Once your dog and child are calm:
- Place a bowl on the ground and have your kids stand five feet away
- Next, give your kids a handful of treats and have them toss one treat at a time into the bowl
- Make sure they wait for your dog to finish eating the first treat before throwing a second treat
- This game will help your dog get used to your kids and associate them with good things like treats!
Hide and Seek
Being able to call your dog away from a thing or situation that’s dangerous, is a crucial skill and could potentially save your dog’s life. Thankfully that can help you practice your dog’s recall! Hide and Seek is a fun game to teach your dog to come. Here’s how to play:
- Invite a friend over and ask them to hold your dog on one side of the room. Use a leash if your dog isn’t totally comfortable being handled.
- You grab a treat or your dog’s favorite toy, show it to your dog, and then run and hide.
- Once you’ve found your hiding spot, yell “Come!” and have your friend release your dog.
- When your dog finds you, give them their treat or toy and shower them with praise. You want your dog to think, “When I respond to ‘Come’, good things happen!”
Pro tip: To make sure your dog doesn’t get frustrated, choose easy hiding spots at first. Once your dog gets the hang of the game, and they have more reliable recall, you can make things more challenging by hiding in less obvious places!
The Mouse Game
The Mouse Game is a great game to help your dog focus, and it can be especially helpful to build confidence and encourage playfulness in dogs that are fearful or nervous. To play the game:
- Show your dog a treat and then make a fist with your hand around the treat
- Bring your hand down to the ground
- Move your hand back and forth, and then flick the treat so that your dog has to chase it. To keep your dog on their toes, flick the treat in a different direction each time!
Frequently Asked Questions About Training Games for Your Dog
How can I make training more fun for my dog?
To make sure your dog is always having a good time during training sessions, be aware of how they’re feeling. If they’re disinterested or unengaged, it may be time to pack it in for the day, try different rewards, or play a game such as 2 Ball Fetch or Tug-o-War. By playing games you can work on behaviors like “Come” and “Drop it”, while simultaneously having fun and giving your dog the opportunity to burn energy!
What games do dogs like to play?
Every dog is different, but games that dogs commonly like to play involve sniffing, chasing, tugging, eating, digging and retrieving items. A few of the most popular games are 2 Ball Fetch, Tug-o-War, The “Oops!” Game, The Elevator Game, The Muffin Tin Game, Treat Toss, Hide and Seek, and The Mouse Game.
Do dogs get bored of training?
Yes, dogs can get bored of training. This can happen if the length of the training session is too long, the rewards are underwhelming or there are other distractions capturing their attention. To reduce the likelihood that your dog gets bored: keep training sessions short (5-15 minutes per day), ensure you have treats and other rewards that capture your dog’s attention, and practice training in quiet areas of your home.