This post was most recently updated on October 8, 2021
Puppy Games: Games to Play with Your Dog
Playing games with your dog is not only an enjoyable way to spend time together, it’s a training and bonding exercise. We all know the classics like fetch and tug-of-war, but it’s nice to mix up your pet’s play routine.
To provide fresh inspiration for games to play with your dog, Spot Pet Insurance talked to pet trainer and certified pet behavior consultant Sarah Hodgson. She let us in on some of her favorite stimulating puppy games!
Pick 1: Run Away, Come!
1. Call your dog’s name and run away.
2. As they follow, say "Come" in a happy voice.
3. Turn, stop, and hold your hand out like a crossing guard. Say, “Wait.”
4. Hold still and don’t look down if your puppy jumps in enthusiasm. Wait until they are still or sitting to reconnect to them.
5. Kneel or crouch to reward them!
Pick 2: Snoopy Soccer
1. As your puppy’s prey drive emerges, around three to four months of age, introduce balls or toys slightly bigger than your puppy can get their mouth around. Always play with more than one object so that you’re never taking away the one your puppy is focused on.
2. As with soccer, the same rules apply. Feet only, no hands!
3. If you want to get fancy, you can use goals to create a challenge for yourself, but don’t be surprised if your puppy blocks your every kick during the game!
Pick 3: Two Toy Toss!
1. Remember that sharing is something your puppy will learn over time. It doesn’t come naturally.
2. Find a ball or toy your puppy adores and buy multiples of them, at least three.
3. Go into your free play space inside or out. Hold the toy in front of your puppy until they’re standing or sitting calmly, and give it a short toss (remember, your puppy lacks depth perception) and say, “Fetch!”
4. Cheer them on until they reach their toy, but the moment they turn around, produce the second, identical toy, and begin playing with that one. Act like you have the better toy. Your puppy will return to investigate.
5. Say “bring” if your puppy returns with the first toy, and “drop it” as they spit out their toy. Present the second object and wait until your puppy follows the four paw rule to give it a toss.
Pick 4: Ice Cube Hockey
1. Play this game any time your puppy is bored or thirsty.
2. Ice cubes absorb into the bloodstream faster than liquid water, so play this game if your puppy is thirsty right before bed to avoid getting up in the middle of the night to take your puppy outside!
3. Take multiple ice cubes, so you never knock into the one your dog is focused on.
4. Using a plastic spoon, shimmy the ice cubes around on the floor as your puppy chases them.
5. Wipe up any water spills, so they don't get mistaken for pee-pee accidents.
Pick 5: Obstacle Course
1. Take household objects like ladders, gates, upturned chairs, hula hoops, agility tunnels, or trampolines to make obstacles.
2. Make jumps out of brooms balanced on soup cans. Make sure that the jump is no higher than your puppy’s elbow.
3. Lure your puppy through the course by holding a treat in front of their nose or using a treat cup to urge them to follow you.
4. As they navigate the obstacles, label their actions with words like “over,” “under,” and “through.”
5. Cheer them on and encourage them! Remember each puppy is unique. Discover your puppy’s passion and talents. Obstacle courses are great for boosting your puppy’s confidence.
Sarah’s Personal Favorite: Find It
1. Show your dog a treat. If they jump for it, calmly lift the treat above your head and wait until they've calmed down to prompt them again. If they jump, lift again. Don’t proceed to step two until they are on all four paws.
2. When they are standing calmly, request a "Sit" if they know the word.
3. Drop the treat at their feet and say, "Find it!"
4. Crouch down and point out the treat if the game is new to them.
5. Praise them enthusiastically. Every now and then, pet their back and touch their collar so they associate touch with happy times.
Enjoy these puppy games with your pal!