Games to Play With Your Dog
Playing with your dog is a great opportunity for mutual bonding. But if you’re short of your own ideas of which games to play, try some of ours!
Dogs love to play and playtime can be deeply rewarding - a real chance to develop the bond between you, as well as healthy exercise for you both.
Play can also be an important part of a dog's education, as well as an opportunity to satisfy basic canine instincts. But don't restrict your idea of play to a routine walk to the local park to run and fetch in the drizzle!
Here are a few ideas to keep playtime interesting and fun - for both of you.
Hide and seek
Get someone to hide, having first made it clear that they have a favourite toy or a treat with them. At first you can make it easy, letting your dog watch where they hide. Encourage your dog to find the person, who can then hand over the toy or treat as a reward.
After a while make the game more difficult. Distract your dog while the other player hides, use different hiding places, or even move around.
Find the treat
Tell your dog to "Stay" and show him a treat or biscuit, which you then proceed to clearly put under a cushion or behind a chair. Go back to your dog with the instruction to "Seek".
After a bit of practice, you can pretend to hide the object in a variety of places around the room. Make the game even more difficult by using different rooms and shutting the dog out of the room while you hide the treat.
Tracking is great fun, but takes a bit of training. First of all, put your dog on a long lead or flexi-lead, using a fixed collar. Do not use a choke chain. Make your dog stay (or get a friend/family member to help) while you walk along backwards for about 20 yards showing a toy or treat, dragging your feet to maximise the scent trail and holding the reward near the floor to encourage the dog to search along at ground level.
Leave the reward at the end of your scent trail and return along the same path. With the command "Track", encourage your dog to sniff the ground where you walked until the reward is found. In time, you can lay longer trails, walking in different directions and patterns.
Try this once you've successfully taught your dog to track. When you are out, drop a toy without your dog seeing you, but continue walking for a few yards. Then stop and say "Look back", encouraging your pet to retrace the route (most dogs will be able to follow your scent even if they didn't see exactly which way you went) until the toy is found. You can use a long lead at first to help you keep the dog on the right track.
After a while, increase the distance and make the object a little more difficult to find. Don't throw it away from where you walked, though, or your dog won't be able to use your scent to find it.
You can teach dogs to play fetch without even leaving the TV! Offer your dog a toy, and as it mouths and sniffs it, say "Fetch" and reward it with praise or a treat.
Once your dog learns to touch the toy with its nose whenever you offer it and say "Fetch", offer it again with the command, but without the reward. This will be a bit puzzling, so say the command again straight away and your dog will be even keener to show you how clever he or she is.
Your dog will probably knock the toy with their nose or even take hold of it, and from then on this is the only action that gets the reward. By working this way, very slowly and in stages, you should be able to take your dog from sniffing to nosing to taking hold of the toy on your command. Never move to a new stage until you have a perfect response on the previous one.
Once you have reached this stage, drop the toy and say "Fetch". When your dog starts to pick it up, you can begin to throw the toy slightly further away each time. Only reward your dog when it brings the toy back.
Obviously, you don't just have to play in your living room. Try the game on a walk or in the garden, once your dog has learnt the principle. And be careful: a game of "fetch" can quickly turn into "chase me for it" or "tug of war", so watch out - it's too easy for your dog to win these!