Five fun games for You and your Dog

Playing with your dog can provide all-important mental and physical stimulation, as well as deepening your bond. Here are a few popular games to try with your canine companion.

Fetch!

Whether you use a frisbee, ball or just some rolled up socks, fetch has long been a favourite for dogs and owners alike. Not only does chasing after an item give your dog some much-needed exercise, it appeals to their canine instincts. Thousands of years ago, it was the dogs who were good at hunting and retrieving food that were chosen for breeding.

Despite this, when you first start playing, you may need to give your dog some extra encouragement to get involved. Start off small: throw the toy just a few feet away and point to it, and then lavish your dog with praise when they retrieve it.

What objects you use to play fetch will depend on your dog. Frisbees travel further so are perfect for bigger breeds and energetic dogs. However, it’s never a good idea to use sticks as they can break in your dog’s mouth and cause internal blockages if swallowed.

Find the treats

This canine version of hide and seek involves hiding their favourite treats around the house and then sending them off on a treasure hunt. Start by showing them the treat and letting them have a good sniff, and then throw it across the floor or tuck it away behind an object and say: ‘find it!’

Remember to praise them for a job well done once they’ve found the snack. When your dog is used to the game you can up the ante by getting them to stay in one room while you hide treats in another.

You can also play this game using their favourite toy or even get a family member to hide…

Agility course

Lots of dogs love the challenge of an agility course and the good news is that are plenty of household objects you can use to create your own Crufts-style challenge in the garden. Chairs are perfect for jumping on or crawling under, or you can use an empty cardboard box as a tunnel.

You can also create your own jumps using cheap pipes as a bar – just make sure they can be easily knocked down to avoid any risk of your pup getting hurt.

To start with, you’ll need to walk your dog through the course a few times so they get the hang of things, but once they are up and running, it’s a good idea to mix thing up a bit to keep things challenging.

Tug of war

Tug of war can be a great game for dogs – if played properly – and is also a useful way of teaching them control. You should always be the one to start the game, and say when it ends.

To maintain control, encourage your dog to release the toy every 30 seconds and reward them for good behaviour. If they try to take the toy before you tell them to, or bite you, have a 30 second time-out before resuming play and if they keep misbehaving, end the game.

Shadowing

The object of this game is to get your dog to follow you wherever you go. It’s Simple, but can keep some dogs entertained for a long time. To start with you may have to tempt them to follow you with treats or toys, but they should soon get the hang of it.

You can then make things more challenging by encouraging your dog to follow you along an assault course or by making your movements more complex.

This is a great game for improving your pet’s recall skills and can also help boost your bond.

Top tips for playing with your dog

Whatever game you choose to play, there are a few things to bear in mind when playing with your dog:

Remember to take breaks
Dogs may seem like they have boundless energy, but they tire just like humans. Make sure you take regular breaks and put a limit on playtime.

Practice makes perfect
Your dog won’t necessarily understand a game straight away, so be patient and make sure you reward them for getting it right with treats or plenty of affection.

Stay in control
If your dog is getting too over excited or frustrated with a game, swap activities or encourage them to have a rest.

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