Dog Games


Photo by J. Nichole Smith |

Playing games with your dog is beneficial to his physical and mental stimulation, and it's also a great way to connect with your dog and enrich a meaningful relationship even further. It is important, however, to ensure that you don't inadvertently exacerbate potentially hidden kernels of behavior issues, so be sure to follow the tips below and have fun!

Tug of War
Tug of war is a great way to teach your dog to listen to you even when excited and distracted. It encourages bonding through play and is a great workout for you and your dog. Some people believe that tug of war makes a dog more aggressive, and indeed it is not a game for dogs that are easily over aroused or aggressively protective of their resources, but most dogs will not become aggressive while playing the game and tug-of-war actually builds up trust and cooperative skills if certain rules are followed:

  • If your dog wins the game and takes the tug toy away from you, feign disinterest and go and do something else. Never chase your dog to try and get the toy from him. You can either ignore him until he comes up to you with the toy or get another toy and put all your attention onto the toy you have. Your dog will most likely drop what he has in his mouth to come and investigate a better option.
  • If your dog reengages in the game and drops the toy in front or tries to give it to you, praise him and let the game continue.
  • Teach your dog a reliable take it and drop it cue before you play tug so that he understands what you mean when you ask him to drop the toy.
  • You do not always have to win the war! Give and take is best.
  • Play should stop on your cue and if play gets too rowdy either ask your dog to drop the toy or drop it yourself and walk away. Rowdy play, mouthing or over arousal stops the game.

'Go Find' or Retrieve
If your dog already enjoys carrying things in her mouth then this game is easier to teach, but you can also try to teach your dog to bring toys to you even if she does not like to retrieve something that you throw.

  • Bring your dog's toy a few steps away from where she is sitting, so that she can see it, and ask her to find it. You can use the cue 'go find', or the name of the toy or object that you hide and want her to bring to you.
  • Once she goes to the toy, praise her immediately, even if she does not touch it. Repeat this each time she is close to the toy and encourage her to take the toy into her mouth.
  • The first time she picks up the toy, praise her and let her play with it for a while.
  • When she has learned to take the desired object into her mouth, encourage her to bring it all the way to you. First praise her when she comes running with her toy, and then praise her only when she brings it to your hand. You can trade the toy for a treat.
  • When she becomes proficient at the game, start hiding the toy in more difficult places in another room or in the back yard and send her off on the hunt.

Hide and Seek
This is a fun game you can play with your dog indoors or outside and best played with two people.

  • Have one person hold your dog while you go and hide somewhere in the same room or area where your dog can see you hiding.
  • Call your dog’s name as the person releases your dog and praise your dog for finding you.
  • At this stage the game is easy but as your dog becomes more proficient start hiding in areas that are harder for him to find.
  • Motivate your dog to play the game by rewarding him with his favorite toy, some food or a game of tug if he finds you.
  • While your dog is coming to find you have the other person go hide and call the dog to them once he has successfully found you. This back and forth will test your dog’s seeking skills and tire him out.
  • Make sure you only repeat the game a few times so your dog does not lose interest.

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3 thoughts on “Dog Games

  1. A Better Dog

    Even though it might not be considered a "game", there is mental stimulation, some physical exercise, and relationship-building in teaching (or enhancing) obedience skills and developing different types of 'good manners' skills. 🙂

  2. han

    Great ideas for playtime here, a caution could maybe be added to the hide and seek game though... This game can maybe make an already clingy dog worse as the game rewards them for bring clingy?

    I only say this as my husband played that game with his dog since she was a pup andnow (she's 8 yr old) she follows him obsessively (the game is not the only cause, I know, but certainly won't have helped in this case)

  3. Sarah

    We have an older German shepherd and we practice all of his commands on the days we can't do the out door stuff... he thinks these training sessions are the best game ever and at eleven years old he's just learnt the name of a new room and will go there on command and learnt to take a lid off of a plastic screw top tub for the treat inside.

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