Playing games with your puppy is a great way to teach them, bond with them and help them understand that you are in charge. Here are ten suggestions to keep them entertained and you in control.
- Master the basics. Sit, Stay, Lie Down - these are all commands your dog needs to know so don't stop teaching them just because the puppy classes are over. Using treats or a favourite toy as the reward reinforce these skills every day - even 5 minutes can tire your puppy out if they are concentrating.
- Get smelly! Smell is the most powerful sense in dogs and you can make up some great games that tap in to this natural super power. Using a favourite treat or toy they like the smell of, play Hide and Seek with them. You can play this inside or out and you progress the game and increase their learning by making them Sit, Lie Down and Wait before you give the command for them to hunt for the hidden treat. See what Cesar Milan has to say about it here
- Go traditional! Not all dogs are naturally good at Fetch but you can teach the most reluctant to enjoy this game (have treats and lots of enthusiasm on standby).
Ball is my favourite game
I don't care how muddy it is!
- Keep them guessing. Using their sense of smell again. Hold a treat in one hand (don't let your dog see which one) and then have them choose which one has the treat in using their nose. At first, give them the treat if they "nose" the right hand and then you can move on by asking them to "point" to the correct hand with their paw.
- Play Tug Of War - but have strict rules. Most dogs love this game and whilst it's important that they respect your commands in all games, it's particularly important with this one - see more tips from Cesar here and make sure you control when the game starts and finishes, not your puppy.
- Teach Them The Names of Their Toys - seriously. OK, so we're not all going to have a dog that can learn 1000 words but we can teach our dogs the names of their toys. Start off playing with one toy and give it a name whist you're playing with it. Once your dog has mastered that one, choose another and do the same with that one. Progress to include multiple toys and then ask them to fetch one at a time from the pile.
One of my first chew toys
And my first bone, now I'm a bit bigger
- Play Tag - you'll need a partner for this one but dogs love it, and it reinforces their recall at the same time! Each of you stand at one end of the room and call your puppy to you in turn. Make sure you've got the treats handy to reward them and teach them that recall is a good thing!
- Give your dog a bone - or a chew toy. Does your dog chew the furniture, your shoes, the kitchen cabinets? Chewing is fun for dogs, they really enjoy it so don't try and teach not to chew - teach them what to chew watch this to see how.
- Make grooming fun. It's hard work for a puppy to stand still sometimes and lots of them don't like being groomed so this combination might not sound like the ideal game but you can use it to reinforce sit, stay, stand and lie down while you calmly brush them and reward them for their patience.
- Master on lead work. OK, so this one might be just as much for us as the dogs. I'm sure we all want a dog that walks by our side without pulling. Read the Kennel Club's tips on how to get started Collar and Lead Training
- Before you begin to play make sure you can easily take things away from your dog.
- Don’t play rough and tumble wrestling games or allow your dog to chase children. Both are exciting for your dog but can encourage games that are out of your control.
- Keep toys below waist height so that you don’t encourage your dog to jump up
- Have frequent, daily, play sessions at home and when out for walks
- Play in short bursts of up to five minutes and finish whilst your dog is still keen to play
- When playing use an exciting voice with lots of praise and encouragement
- For dogs that are keen to play only start the game when they are doing something you want – such as lying down quietly. This will encourage good behaviour.
- Tidy toys away at the end of each play session
- Never force your dog to play
- Have fun!
Not sure how much exercise your puppy needs? Cesar Milan has some advice for us here. If you've got any games or suggestions that really worked for your dog, we'd love to hear about them so that we can share them. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in the comments, below. Thanks for reading!
I'm waiting like a good boy!
Please don't tell Charlie about this one
Well, nobody's perfect!