We all know the classic games that dogs love – fetch, tug, steal a sock and run around the garden…and playing games with our dogs is a great way to tire them out physically and mentally. It’s a great way to bond and the right games can even help improve your training too. Dogs have been bred to work alongside their owners for most of the day, but modern living rarely allows this, so a walk might be one of the few times in the day that dogs get to enjoy being out with their humans.
We have a few suggestions of games you can play out on your walk that will get those brains working and improve your dog’s overall wellbeing.
The find it game
The find it game is a really simple way of getting your dog to use their nose and their brain, by hiding something for them to look for. You can do this anywhere, even indoors or on lead, as you don’t need a lot of space.
What is it useful for?
- Regaining focus if your dog is distracted
- Calmer play if your dog has got overexcited
- Reward if you are training or your dog has spontaneously done something good
If you’re worried about overfeeding, you can use your dog’s dry food or a favourite toy.
Ideas of where to hide: Areas of long or short grass, tree stumps, logs or fallen branches, snuffle mats or old rugs with long fibres.
How to play
Ask your dog to sit and wait or let a friend or family member hold their lead and hide some treats or a toy. The first few times make it nice and easy and let them watch you.
Once you’re finished, tell them to find it, or search (or whichever cue you prefer), and let them explore.
As they start to understand the game you can make it harder by not letting them watch you or doing some “fake drops” – pretending to place a treat or toy but not actually doing so.
Quick version: If you don’t have a lot of time or a way to keep your dog in a wait, you can always just scatter some treats and let your dog enjoy snuffling them up.
The In-between-us game
The in between us game is great for:
- Recall practise
- Tiring out your dog in a more engaging and controlled way
- Families and kids – everyone gets a chance to practise and bond
You will need two or more people
Once your dog has a basic understanding of their recall cue you can start playing the game.
Each person stands a little bit apart and you take it in turns to call your dog and reward them when they come to you.
A tasty treat is usually the best reward here as it is quick and everyone can have a handful of treats. But you know your dog so you can always get creative!
As they get better at it you can make it more difficult – move further away from each other, hide and move around so they have to search a bit more.
For most dogs the fun, the running and the interaction is reward in itself – they should be enjoying themselves, but that doesn’t mean completely drop the treats, as we still want them to make that association.
Extra safety: you can do this in a garden or secure field, or on a long line
Doggy accessibility: how can I play this with my dog with extra needs?
Make sure the surroundings are safe and consider using a long line for extra security
Don’t stand too far apart, at least at first.
Deaf dogs: you can get a vibrating collar and make sure you use clear, exaggerated visual cues
Blind dogs: don’t hide behind anything they could bump into, keep using your voice to encourage them and help them to find you.
As long as your dog is over one year old and doesn’t have any medical issues you can use fallen branches, tree stumps or driftwood to play a little bit of DIY agility. The simplest way to do this is to start with a treat and lure your dog, introducing a cue word like “over” or “up”. Don’t pull them with a lead or force them onto something, let them figure it out and give them lots of fuss and praise when they do.
Safety first: chose your obstacle wisely – don’t encourage them to jump anything higher or wider than themselves and check that it is solid, sturdy and not slippery, always stop if they seem to get tired or distressed.
Get creative: you don’t have to stick to jumping, you could find something to weave, or, especially with smaller dogs, go under instead of over!