There are so many benefits to be had from playing games with your pet – from teaching them useful skills and good manners to strengthening the bond and trust between you. Having a pet should be fun for everyone so here are some games that you might like to try with your dog. They’ll give your pet a good physical and mental workout too, ensuring they are stimulated and content.
Even if your dog has no intention of retrieving, most will enjoy chasing after a dog ball, frisbee or other dog fetch toys in the park or garden. It’s a great way for energetic dogs to burn off excess energy.
The rules are simple, chuck something and watch your dog race after it. Try encouraging your dog to bring the item back to you – perhaps by offering a dog treat or another dog toy – and they will soon learn that good things happen quicker when they retrieve.
For owners who struggle to throw very far or have dogs that like to run a good distance you could try a dog ball launcher. These also have the added benefit of you being able to pick up a slobbery ball without using your hands.
Hide and seek
This is a game that you can play either indoors or outdoors. It’s particularly useful if the weather is too bad to go outside yet your dog still needs some stimulation. By getting your dog to use its nose to hunt out treasure, they’ll get a good mental workout.
You could hide your dog’s favourite dog toys or a selection of tasty dog treats around the house for them to find. Treasure hunts like this are a good way of exercising a dog’s problem-solving skills and they will soon be tired out.
If you have a dog with a high prey drive who can’t resist chasing small furry creatures, get yourself a flirt pole – the local squirrels will thank you for it!
Essentially, a flirt pole is a stick with a rope attached – a bit like a fishing rod – and something enticing on the end. You can buy flirt poles but it is also easy to make your own with a bit of plastic pole, some rope or bungee cord and an old fluffy dog toy.
Use the pole to drag the dog toy along the ground to get your dog’s interest so that they chase it. This engages their natural hunting urges and gives them a great workout. Make sure you let them ‘catch’ their prey from time to time so that they don’t become despondent and lose interest.
Agility training takes patience, practice and discipline, and gives a dog a really good physical and mental workout. If you can’t or don’t want to join an agility class, you can always set up an obstacle course at home. There are lots of companies selling agility equipment but it’s easy to make an obstacle course using things you would find at home.
Here are some ideas of obstacles you could use:
· Balance a broomstick between two upturned buckets as a jump
· Use a sturdy box as a raised platform for your dog to jump on
· Find a large cardboard box and open both ends to create a tunnel
· Fill plastic bottles with water or sand and line them up so your dog can weave between them
Tug of war
Most dogs love a game of tug of war and experts say that playing tug strengthens the bond and builds trust between dog and owner. The action of tug also uses a different part of the brain to that used in chasing games.
Tugging imitates the shaking and killing of prey, as well as tearing meat off of a carcass, which is probably why dogs love it so much. It doesn’t seem to be about winning as if you let your dog have the tug toy, they’ll almost always give it straight back to you for another go.
Playing with a tug toy is a good way of teaching bite inhibition so your dog knows to watch their teeth, and chewing on rope will also help keep their teeth clean.