German Shepherd puppy playing outside

Here are 6 of the best games to play with your puppy.

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What games are good for puppies? Six of the best games to play

By Greta Inglis Dog Behaviourist | Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the

Games can be a great way to bond with your puppy and to keep them both mentally and physically stimulated. Here we take a look at our top six games for puppies.

Puppies are bundles of fun. Anyone who has spent time around a puppy will have experienced the joy and enthusiasm with which they approach everything in life. With this, also comes endless energy and an active mind, ready to absorb any learning and life experience going.

It can be hard to keep puppies mentally and physically stimulated, but it’s essential they receive both things in order to grow into happy, balanced adult dogs.

How do I entertain my puppy all day?

Entertaining a puppy can feel like an impossible task. Puppies seem to become distracted at the drop of a hat, making training a process that demands bundles of patience and time. They also seem to be ready for the next thing just as soon as the first one ends, meaning you’ll need lots of activities throughout each day to prevent boredom.

Games can be great fun to play, strengthening the bond between you and your pup, and helping them learn and experience new things along the way. The number of puppy games you can play is really only limited by your imagination, and lots of good games can be carried out at home or in your garden.

How do I entertain my 8-week-old puppy?

If you’ve just brought your 8-week-old puppy home, you may be wondering whether puppy games are an option when you’re not able to use outdoor parks and dog walking areas. With your puppy stuck at home until their vaccinations are complete, it can feel isolating and tiring trying to think of ways to keep your canine companion happy and busy.

All of the puppy games we’ve chosen can be carried out at home, no need to go anywhere or wait until your puppy has had their full set of vaccinations. In fact, starting to play and engage in puppy training games can be a great way to teach your dog to enjoy the learning process and to focus on you during sessions.

What games can I play with my puppy?

When it comes to playing with puppies, there are certain health and behaviour considerations worth thinking about. Age may influence which puppy games you choose, as young dogs are in a sensitive developmental phase of their bone growth, and over exertion could put pressure on their joints. Keeping games frequent but short, will help your puppy stay focused, leave plenty of time for them to rest, whilst keeping them mentally and physically stimulated.

Behaviour may also play a part in which training games you choose to play. If your puppy has a tendency to become over-excited and mouth during play, it may be worth keeping away from games like tug of war whilst you work on decreasing the behaviour. If they have a tendency to become distracted outdoors, focus games can be an excellent choice. Let’s take a look at six of the best puppy games to try.

What are good brain games for puppies? Six games for your pup to try

When it comes to fun games to play with your pup, there’s plenty of choice out there. With puppies learning so quickly, games are the perfect way to help get their brain working.

Game one: Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is not only a fun activity for your dog, it can also be great practice for recall. Have someone hold your pup and hide yourself somewhere your dog can’t see you. Once you’re hidden away your puppy can come looking for you.

At first, to help them get the hang of the game, call your puppy’s name to guide them towards you. Once they get to you, make a big fuss and praise them for finding you. This can be a great way to encourage your dog coming to the sound of their name, and they get you and your attention as a reward.

Once they’ve got the hang of the game, you can make it slightly harder by not calling them over. Your dog will have to use their brain and sense of smell to find you, and they’ll have great fun doing it!

If your puppy seems reluctant to play or confused by the game, this may mean you’ve gone too quickly with them or are asking something they don’t understand. Take things back a stage and offer plenty of praise and tasty treats. Puppy games should always be kept fun and rewarding for both you and your dog.

Game two: Around The Group Recall

This game works brilliantly for both socialisation and recall. It helps your puppy learn that approaching people is fun and helps them learn their name.

You’ll need to find some friends to help you with this game. Ask them to stand in a circle, and pop your pup in the middle of the group. One friend starts, calling your puppy over using their name and in an excited tone. Once they reach the person, offer praise, attention, a toy or high value treat, depending on what your dog prefers. A different person goes next, in exactly the same way. Let your puppy move between the group, always receiving reward for approaching when their name is called.

If your puppy seems reluctant to approach someone, have them toss a treat nearby to help build positive associations with new people.

This game is not only asking them to use their brain, but involves lots of movement too, so remember to keep the game short so your puppy has time to rest and doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

Game three: Destruction Box or Digging Box

Both options can be great fun for puppies, offering an outlet for behaviour that could otherwise be destructive in a home.

If you have a garden or outdoor space, fill a large box with some dirt or sand and throw a treat or toy in. Encourage your dog to search for it and dig around. They’ll soon learn how the box works. If you see them digging anywhere else, direct them back to the box and encourage play-time here. A digging box is a great way to let them satisfy a need to dig, without any destruction to your favourite flowers.

If you don’t have outside space, the digging box idea may seem unappealing. A destruction box works much the same way, offering your dog the chance to scratch in the box and chew, without ruining anything they shouldn’t. Take a cardboard box and fill this with scrunched up paper and high value treats. Encourage your dog to dive in, scratching and tearing the box if they want to. They’ll burn some energy and use their brain, resulting in a happy and relaxed pup.

Game four: Puzzle Feeders and Food Toys

Puzzle feeders and food toys are great for slow feeding your pup. Working for food is a great way to satisfy your dog’s need to use their nose and mind. With food toys, stuff the toy loosely at first, gradually making the food more compact as your dog gets the hang of things. Freezing the food toy can work well for clever canines, as they’ll have to work extra hard to get their food reward out of the toy.

Play is an essential part of any dog's development. Click here for our list of the best dog toys.

Game five: Find the Toy

This puppy game can be great for teaching your dog to focus on a task, working with you to get what they want. Find a toy your dog loves and encourage them to take it from you. Exchange for a food reward if you need to get it back and hide the toy partially under a towel or blanket. Prompt your pup to find it and pick it up. Reward them for taking it out, with a high value food treat or a game with the toy. They’ll have fun freeing their toy, which can be covered increasingly more as they grow in confidence.

Game six: Flirt Pole

If you’re wondering what puppy game is good for very active dogs, you may want to consider investing in a flirt pole. With the option of fast movement and a fluffy end, a flirt pole is a great way to mentally and physically tire your dog.

Move the flirt pole slowly at first, encouraging your pup to grab the end. As they become more confident chasing it, you can move faster and change direction more frequently. This will tap into the natural prey drive of your dog, in a non-destructive and controlled way.

Teaching your dog to “leave it”  when asked, can help your puppy practice impulse control as well.

Playing with your puppy has lots of benefits. It helps them bond with you as their family, focus their attention and burn off any excess energy. Start with short, easy puppy games to keep things fun. Clever as they are, your dog will get the hang of it in no time.

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