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Many dogs spend their days lying around on floors or outside in their human’s yard. Often, the highlights of their day are the 2-3 times a day when their human attaches a rope to the collar around their neck, and they walk around the block for about 10-15 minutes, step-in-step with their “masters.”
But having a dog is a big responsibility and should be treated as such. Like all animals, they need mental and physical stimulation, and one of the best ways to give them those things is by playing games with them. Here are 8 games you can play with your dog that will tire them out, keep them sharp, and will be fun for the both of you.
1. Chasing Bubbles
If you have an older dog or a dog that is physically impaired, this may become one of their favorite games, especially if they used to enjoy a game of fetch. Some dogs may automatically chase after the bubbles, but if they don’t, then you can give them an example by swiping the bubbles out of the air and popping them before they hit the ground.
To make the bubble mixture all you need is some water and some non-toxic dish soap. You can even find bubble mixtures that smell like food and bubble machines that blow bubbles for you. Make sure to wipe your dog’s face after playing, so the soap doesn’t irritate their eyes.
2. Tug of War
Source: AJ Lambert/YouTube
Some people think you shouldn’t play this game with your dog because they believe it may lead to more aggressive or dominant behaviors. Sadly, this type of thinking seems to stem from the antiquated and unscientific notion that humans must be alpha and dominant with their dogs.
For those who seek to have a healthier and more balanced relationship with their canine companions, however, tug of war is an excellent game. It helps your dog build concentration and strength, understand boundaries, burn energy, and is a lot of fun! To play this game you’ll need either a stick, a rope toy, or any other toy that allows the both of you to get a good grip on either end. To start the game, you can often just put the toy near their mouth, or you can throw the toy a little bit in front of you and grab the toy just as they’re grabbing it and hold on.
You can also hand the toy off to another dog midgame and have both dogs go at it. Just make sure that neither of them is yanking too forcefully or wildly as it may injure the other dog’s neck. The same goes for you. And when you’re playing, try to get on ground level with your dog, so they aren’t straining their necks upward the whole time.
Source: Rachel Fusaro/YouTube
Most people are familiar with fetch. You throw some type of object (a ball, stick, frisbee, etc.), and your dog retrieves it and brings it back to you (tug of war can also be initiated here). If your dog has a ton of energy and is a strong chewer, investing in non-toxic rubber balls with some weight to them is a great idea. They can travel (bounce) long distances and won’t break down. To keep things interesting, you may also want to get an irregular-shaped ball. The awkward bounces will enhance your dog’s concentration and agility.
Another game that’s similar to fetch is throwing or kicking a ball in your dog’s direction and having them stop the ball before it goes past them. You’ll want to try and aim the ball, so it’s just within or just out of their reach. Make sure the ball is relatively soft and don’t kick or throw it too hard as it may accidentally hit them in the face. This game can even be played indoors if you have enough space and there are no sharp edges that your dog may run into. It’s a fun game for both parties and it fosters concentration and agility.
5. Agility training
Source: Dog Training by Kikopup/YouTube
Agility training is a great way to keep your dog both mentally and physically stimulated. To start, make sure your dog makes good eye contact with you and will follow basic requests such as come and stop. To get them used to seesaw, have them stand on a wobble board or a skateboard. It’s also fairly easy to make your agility course with some PVC pipe and wooden boards.
Of course, the intention of agility training is for your dog to have fun, burn energy, and keep their minds sharp, not for them to perform for you or others. While teaching your dog the course, always use positive reinforcement and never criticize or chastise your dog.
6. Chase the Prey
This is essentially the same game as you would play with your cat, except the instrument you’re using is a bit larger and sturdier. All you need is some kind of pole or stick, a rope, and a toy. Tie the rope to the top of the pole, the toy to the other side of the rope, and you’re good to go. Then drag the toy slowly along the ground, occasionally wiggling it and moving it as your dog gets closer. Make it challenging, but let them catch the toy occasionally so they don’t become discouraged and give up chasing it.
7. Hide and Seek
Source: Urban Dog Wellness/YouTube
This game can be played indoors or outdoors. The more space you have, the better. Request that your dog “stay” and find somewhere where you can hide. Then call your dog when you have found your hiding spot. In the beginning, make it easier for them to find you and gradually increase the difficulty. Make sure you have treats to reward your dog when they find you and so they can sniff you out too. If you haven’t taught your dog to stay, you can always distract them with treats while you go off and hide!
Most people with younger dogs are familiar with zoomies. Even older dogs can get the zoomies when they’ve been in the house for a while and are finally let out to run for a bit. These bursts of energy in which dogs are running around in circles or zooming back and forth are healthy and normal behavior. This is also another great time to bond and play with your dog. Do your own zoomies with them. Pat them gently on the butt as you pass them. Let them chase you and you chase them. Sometimes the best games don’t require structure or goals.
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