There are all sorts of fancy toys and games on the dog market. But most of them are just expensive ways to destroy the planet’s resources. You don’t need much more than a ball, some rope, or an old slipper to have a great time. The most important thing is the time and love you put in to playing with your dog.
Games for dogs: things to know
Every dog is different. It’s stunning to watch a guest dog come into your house and go mad for a toy your own dog resolutely ignores. Probably this will make your own dog jealous, and suddenly she wants to play with it, too.
The lesson? There’s no right or wrong to playing with dogs. There are some general guidelines and ideas, but you need to find what your dog is into if you are to give her the stimulation and exercise she needs.
But do remember that while a dog loves to play, she still needs to keep her discipline. Be careful not to contradict her training when you play. Don’t let her jump up, or chase children – even if it’s all in good spirits. And reward her with treats and compliments when she does as she should.
When you’re playing with a puppy, always use a toy or rope. Otherwise your hands and face will quickly become something to chew on – and wow, do puppy teeth sting.
Remember that a dog doesn’t always want to play. Some dogs are less social than others. And older dogs can get tired more easily. So keep an eye on your dog, and always quit playing before she gets fed up.
Games for dogs #1: Hide-n-seek
You know how to play hide and seek, right? Well, dogs are searchers, and they love to play it too. When she’s already excited from playing with you, tell her to ‘stay.’ Then go and hide, and call for her to come.
Unless you use a webcam, you won’t be able to see it, but – she’s having a great time out there! (Or she went to bed and you’re alone in the closet waiting for Godot.)
Games for dogs #2: Tug of war
The classic. You have an amazing rope or slipper. The best in the world. You want it, your dog wants it. There’s only one way to resolve this situation.
Find the toy your dog is playing with and give it a tug (don’t persist if she growls). Or call her over and offer her one end of a rope – and surprise her when you don’t let go. And now pull!
Be careful not to hurt her teeth. And you should also reinforce her training, by using the ‘leave’ command occasionally, and giving her a treat when she does so. Don’t play this game for too long at once, as her enthusiasm is cumulative: the more she pulls, the more she wants that rope!
Games for dogs #3: Fetch
Unless your dog is an actual retriever, she may need to be taught that when you throw something you expect her to return it. So you can start by doing it at point blank range. Give her the toy, ask her to leave it, and when she does then you can treat her.
Great. Now you’re ready to toss it across the carpet or through the garden so she has to run for it. You don’t need to give her a biscuit every time she returns (she’ll soon get fat despite the exercise!) but you should always compliment her and make her feel special for doing what she’s supposed to do.
Be careful doing this indoors, because even if you can throw it into an appropriate space with pinpoint accuracy, her momentum is liable to see her run right past it and into the TV set.
Best games for dogs: how to learn
As hinted above, a dog needs to learn how to play responsibly. So when your dog is a mere pupper, play with her alone before you introduce another dog into the situation, or you’ll have chaos on your hands.
Be gentle and don’t tell her off when she does something wrong. But be sure to compliment her when she plays by the rules.
That way she’ll soon learn right from wrong, and you can have a long and fun gaming life together!