As soon as my son was born, I was counting down the days until I could get a puppy and let them grow up together. (My spouse told me I had to wait at least six months to bring home a dog.) A dog doesn’t just have to be a pet, he can be a companion and a source of entertainment and fun. With the proper training, you can get your dog to do just about anything. I’ll make my dog a champion frisbee player yet! Here’s a list of some of my favourite games to play with my family and our dog.
1. Fetch. This classic game teaches kids about teamwork and can be a lot of fun. Some dog breeds, like retrievers and shepherds, are better at this game than others, and it can be a bit frustrating to teach your dog the basics. But once he knows how to play, it will be endless hours of fun. Plus, this is a fun way to tire out the dog at the end of the day. The key is to use the same toy, ball, or stick each time to help the dog know what game is being played and what to do with the toy. Another important aspect of fetch is teaching your dog to drop the ball when he brings it back. Always reward a job well done with a treat to reinforce the learning.
2. Pet Tricks. Just like David Letterman’s famous Stupid Pet Tricks segment on The Late Show, you too can teach your dog to do some fun and silly things. Start out with the basic shake command, and soon your dog will be be rolling over and playing dead.
3. Frisbee Toss. A little more involved than simple fetch, Frisbee Toss will have your pup catching a frisbee in mid-air. While not a great game for all breeds of dog, this can be excellent exercise for the right kind of pup. Australian Cattle Dogs excel at this game, especially if you start training them young. Start by rolling the frisbee along the ground so the dog gets used to it as a toy and can snatch it up easily. Then graduate to tossing it low to the ground, and eventually you can let it soar! Try not to encourage your dog to leap to catch it, as that can be bad on their hips.
4. Doggie Soccer. Your kid and dog can challenge each other with a soccer ball, basically playing a version of keep away. It’s a great way to work on ball dribbling skills, and is also fun for the pup. Be sure not to let the dog nip at clothing or feet. If they are getting overzealous, try to calm them down with a rest. If you want to get even more advanced, you can teach your dog how to score a goal. They can use their snout to push the ball towards the goal line.
5. Hide and Seek. Instruct your dog to sit and stay, and then go hide in another part of the house. When you are hidden, call out to them and they can come find you. It’s a great exercise for teaching your dog to wait until called. You can reward them with treats when they find you.
6. Find the Treat. Similar to Hide and Seek, this game is played by hiding treats throughout the house instead of yourself. Instruct your dog to sit and stay and then hide a few of his favourite smelly treats in another room. Then call him and watch him sniff around the room like a bloodhound finding his favourite snacks.
7. Go Find. An even more advanced game is to play Hide and Seek with doggy’s toys instead of treats. If your pup has some favourite toys, and he knows their identity by name, you can hide them and have him go on a hunt through the house to find them.
8. Over, Under, and Through. Ever seen a dog show where the animals run through a complicated obstacle course jumping over hurdles, crouching under bars and running through tubes? You can construct your own course in your backyard using some simple materials like PVC pipe and old kid’s toys. Then your kid can teach your dog how to run through it and master the art of over, under, and through!
9. Indoor Obstacle Course. If you don’t want to construct an elaborate course in the backyard, you can set up a simple course using towels and blankets in the living room. Create a hurdle and then teach your pup to jump over it. He’ll be ready for the Westminster Dog Show in no time.
10. Tug of War. This may sound like an obvious game to play with your pup, but it can actually be really beneficial to their learning and behaviour. It lets them get out a bit of their inherent canine aggression, and also can teach them the concept of letting something go on command. Get a good rope toy and teach your dog to hold one end while you tug on the other. Teach pup to let go and reward with doggie treats when he gets it right.
11. Blowing Bubbles. Dogs love to chase things, and they go crazy for bubbles. They love to chase them down and snap at them until the pop. Let your kids go wild with some bubbles in the backyard and your dog will have a grand old time.
12. Doggie Dancing. Do some searching on YouTube and you can find some pretty skilled doggy dancers. Have your kids teach your pup how to dance on their two hind legs and they can put on a show for the whole family.
13. The Name Game. Dogs are incredibly smart about language. Give each of their toys a distinct name and be sure to teach your dog what each one is called. Once your pup has learned all of her toys’ names, you can train her to fetch specific ones. Set out a bunch of her toys in a line, and have her collect each one by name. Reward each one she gets right with a treat and a celebration.
What’s your dog’s favourite game?
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