Playing with your dog is not only fun, but it gives them all-important mental stimulation to keep their brain sharp, reduce stress and develop a playful and loving personality. If you’re looking for something a bit more than just fetch, Lucy Proctor has given us her top tips and fun games for you and your dog to keep them happy and healthy all year round!
First things first – when you start playing with your dog, always set your dog up to win. That means showing them the aim of the game and making it easy for them to start with and then gradually increasing the difficulty. You need to be the most important and fun thing in your dog’s life, as well as someone they can trust, so play games that involve interaction.
Remember to treat these games as training session and keep them short and sweet. It could take a few weeks for some dogs to learn some games, but the learning is all part of the fun for them. Here are my favourite games to keep your dog mentally stimulated and happy.
Kids love a game of hiding and seek, and dogs love it too. It’s easier if there are two or more of you as one person can distract the dog as the other person or people hide. You can do this anywhere, but practice at home first and build it up to a game they absolutely love anywhere.
When your friend has got your dog’s attention, go and find somewhere easy for them to find you initially. Call your dog once you are in your hiding spot and give them loads of praise when they find you. Increase the difficulty over time.
If there’s one thing dogs excel at, it’s using their nose. If you have a dog that has a better sense of sight than the smell, then get them using their noses instead. Simply throwing a ball isn’t always very mentally stimulating, so get them sniffing and hide some treats in the house and/or garden.
Make it easy to find to start with, let them see where you are hiding the treat. With someone holding them, or tie to a tree or table leg. Then release them with a cue of “find it” to let them search. Do this a few times so they grasp the idea of the game, and then gradually increase the difficulty.
This is for the brainiacs of the dog world. Get a couple of opaque plastic cups and put a treat under one of them. Let your dog see which cup you put it under, give them the cue of “get it” and watch them work it out. If they choose the correct cup, let them have the treat. If they don’t, then start the game again. Do this eight to ten times, letting your dog really understand the game. Then when they understand it, alternate which cup you place the treat under.
Once they’ve got the idea, increase the difficulty and do the same again. But now, move the cups in front of them so they swap sides with the treat under one of them.
Starting with a ground-level kitchen cupboard or drawer, open the drawer or cupboard just 2- 4 inches and place a treat on the top of it. As they go to get the treat, give them the cue of ”close the door”. As they naturally place their paw or nose on the drawer/cupboard, which closes it. The treat will drop to the floor and reward their efforts. Keep doing this until they are doing it confidently, then change location/cupboard/drawer. Repeat it again in the new location and keep doing this until they are consistently getting it. Then say the cue without a treat in place and if they do it, hand them a treat and give lots of praise.
Alternate treats and praise, and gradually decrease the treats, but keep up the praise. Once they understand the cue fully, you can swap to internal doors in the house. The day will come when you come in with your shopping and you can ask your dog to close the door behind you!
We hope you have lots of fun trying these games with your dog – they will definitely thank you for it! Has your dog mastered one of them? We’d love to see your videos, share them with us on our Instagram.
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