How Do You Teach Your Dog Games?

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 4, 2019

Do you ever wish you could teach your dog games beyond fetch? Your pup never seems to tire of chasing the same old toy, but maybe that’s because he’s never known anything else. There are dozens of fun, interactive game options to suit dogs of any breed, age or personality. It’s just a matter of choosing the one that’s right for you and your pal.

Dog games do more than keep playtime interesting, they also provide essential physical and mental exercise. Better still, they build trust and strengthen that special human-animal bond.

What The Heck Are “Dog Games”?

Dog games can refer to any playtime activity with a specific structure or goal. For example – scent work, an increasingly popular canine sport – encourages dogs to use their natural hunting instincts and superb sense of smell. Those who participate in scent work events with their dogs must first teach them the structure and rules of the game.

Dogs must learn to locate scents hidden indoors, outdoors, inside containers or in vehicles. Scent work plays off your dog’s natural desire to sniff and track interesting odors, but requires them to follow cues and respond to commands, as well.

teach your dog games

When teaching your dog games, it is these cues and commands that ensure structure and organization. Whether it’s something simple like fetch and round robin recall, or more advanced challenges like obstacle courses and the clean up game.

How To Teach Your Dog Games

While all games have different fundamentals, there are a few commands your dog must learn in order to be successful. If you have yet to master basic obedience with your pup, now is the time to get started! Your dog will need to consistently perform the Sit, Stay, Come, Drop It, Leave It, and Focus commands in order to play many of the games detailed below. You may want to work with a trainer if you have never taught canine obedience before.

teach your dog commands

Round Robin Recall

Round Robin is a fun, rewarding way to begin teaching your dog games. It is extremely easy to learn, includes lots of positive reinforcement, and can involve the whole family. To play, simply pass out treats to all the human participants, have your dog sit in the middle of the group, and take turns calling him over for noms!

Your dog will learn that responding to commands consistently results in treats, which will come in handy when you progress to more advanced games.

Find It

Teaching your dog Find It games can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Some people use puzzle toys, cups, or boxes, while others simply utilize the objects in the room. To play, have your pooch wait in a separate room while you set up. Hide some particularly stinky treats between couch cushions, under tables, etc., then call your dog in to search them out.

Be sure to start out slowly with treats in plain sight to prevent frustration (see video). Remember, when you teach your dog games, it should be all about fun and bonding. As your dog hones his detective skills you can begin to use more elaborate hiding spots or even take the game outdoors.

Hide & Seek

Teaching your dog to play Hide & Seek is an excellent way to teach or reinforce the stay and come commands. Have your dog sit and stay in another room while you hide. When ready, give the come command and offer tons of hugs and praise when he sniffs you out.

Once your dog has mastered the basics of this game you can begin to add in extra humans to hunt or head outdoors where the additional sights and smells will make it more challenging.

Hide & Seek is also a fun and easy way to exercise a chunky dog because it does not require treats. Your excitement and encouragement is the only reward your adoring pooch needs!

Obstacle Course

If you are interested in canine agility, home obstacle courses are the place to start. Once again, you can get as creative as your home and imagination will allow. Make tunnels out of couch cushions, bridges out of chairs, and jumps out of milk crates and broomsticks. In summer you can even have your pup hop through hula hoops or splash down into a refreshing kiddie pool. Simply use your commands and some treats to guide him through the course!

Clean Up

Why not teach your dog games that are useful as well as fun? The clean up game involves teaching your pup to pick up toys, clothes, etc. on command and place them in a specific place. Your dog can learn to tidy up his own toys, choose a specific toy from the bin, and even place your dirty laundry in the hamper!

Using simple positive reinforcement techniques, your pooch can start helping with household chores and recycling neighborhood trash in no time!

If you’d like to learn more about dog games and how to teach more advanced activities, check out these fun, cognitive training games from the American Kennel Club!

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 4, 2019

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