You don’t need to be a professional dog trainer or use old school methods of obedience to train your dog. There are lots of games to play with dogs that can help establish good behavior. Read below for ways to refine your pup’s canine etiquette with fun games and play.
The Benefits Of Training And Playing
A properly trained dog is more than a well-behaved dog. They’re also a healthy dog. Training provides important physical and mental stimulation that can help keep your pup to feel their best.1
Playing – A Positive Way To Train
Dogs are very smart. While they may not understand everything you say, they comprehend tone and associate certain words with outcomes. So, choosing a positive and active form of training can help encourage good habits and a happy dog.2
Reward-Based Training – Focus On The Good
Reward-based training rewards good behavior, rather than punishing bad behavior. When your dog does misbehave, the best course of action is not to acknowledge it. Don’t punish your dog. Instead, withhold rewards and attention. This will encourage your dog to abandon these unwanted behaviors.3
When your dog behaves well, encourage that behavior by offering up a treat, a favorite toy, or kind words.4
Fun Games To Play With Dogs
Now that you have a sense of what playing can help you accomplish, it’s time to check out some of the activities.
Fun Indoor Games For You And Dog
Don’t let bad weather stop you from playing games with your furry friend. There are all sorts of great indoor activities for you to do together.
Teach Your Dog To Solve A Problem
Dogs are highly creative and smart. They can learn hundreds of words and can often understand complex social situations.5
Set-up a problem for your dog by tying a string or rope to a treat. Then, hide the treat somewhere that the dog can’t directly reach it. Help them figure out how to pull at the string to reveal the treat with encouraging words and gestures. When they do solve the puzzle, reward them with a treat.
Play Hide And Seek
This is a great way to play with your dog and practice commands. Tell your dog to “sit” and “stay,” and then hide in another room.
Shout for your pup to “come” to you from another room. When they find you in your hiding place, offer up a reward for obeying your commands.6
Start simple, and pick easy hiding spots. As your dog gets better at sitting and staying, you can hide in more challenging spots.
This is a little like hide and seek, except you hide a favorite toy or treat somewhere in the house. Practice commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “find” as your dog looks for their treasure.
Dogs have a tremendous number of scent receptors. It’s believed that sniffing is how they “see” the world and create context around their environment.7 A scavenger hunt lets your pup exercise those sniffing muscles with lots of positive reinforcement.
Outdoor Games To Help With Dog Training
A day outside or at the dog park can present all sorts of wonderful moments for you to sneak some training into your dog’s play schedule.
Have A Tug Of War Match
Use a game of tug of war as a way to work on your pup’s impulse control. Training like this helps your dog stay calm under exciting circumstances.8
Start with the “sit” command and reward them when they sit. Then, lower a tug toy slowly toward your dog’s mouth or head. If they jump or lunge for the tug toy, bring it back up. Start again at sit.
Repeat this until you can hold the toy close to your dog without them jumping for it. If they sit patiently, then you can reward them with the toy or a treat.
Make A DIY Dog Agility Course
Hold a hula hoop out. Lean a broom across two chairs. Set up some cones to run around. Use whatever you need to build an agility course for your pup to navigate. It doesn’t need to be fancy.
Agility courses are great fun for dogs and can really boost their confidence. If you run it together, then you also build trust between yourself and your pooch.9
Be sure to congratulate your furry friend when they complete the challenge. They’ll love the kind words almost as much as the obstacle course itself.
Play Fetch And Give
This activity has it all. Running. Jumping. Fetching. Tennis balls. For some dogs, like Golden Retrievers, this is basically heaven. They instinctively run after thrown objects and return them with gusto.
Other dogs, however, might need a bit more training and encouragement. That’s okay. You can start simple by dropping a ball or toy at your feet. Then, tell your pup to “fetch.” If they pick it up, offer to exchange it for a treat. This way, you can slowly establish a connection between retrieving and treats. Build on that until you’re throwing a tennis ball together across the park.
Note: Keep in mind that not all dogs want to play fetch and give. Don’t force your dog to do something they don’t want to do. There are lots of other games to choose from.
Activities To Play Anywhere
You can play the name game everywhere with your dog. It’s incredibly simple. Look at your dog and say their name. If they look at you, reward them with a treat, a pat, or even a “good job.”
It’s as simple as that. Use the name game to warm-up before harder challenges or as a way to practice reward-based training.
Learn Some New Tricks Together
Start with the classics such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come.” Then, work your way up to something more advanced, like playing dead. Use a calm voice and reward your dog’s successes with treats. It may take time, but with consistency and tenacity, you can train your dog to learn all sorts of fun tricks.
This sort of mental stimulation is vital to your dog’s health and happiness.10
A Happy And Well-Behaved Dog
Training your dog doesn’t need to be a chore. There are all sorts of fun games and activities that promote good manners. You can do them from the comfort of your home or outside in the park.
The opportunities are all around you. Take advantage of them when you can. Your pooch will appreciate the attention, especially when you turn the training sessions into play time. This lets them get some much needed physical and mental stimulation – all while working on their canine manners. That’s a training routine worth four paws of approval.
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