4 Fun Games to Play With Your Pup
by Jane Meggitt - 7/31/19
Do you want to know how to make a dog happy? It’s simple–spend time and play with him as much as possible. Games for dogs are more than just fun. They’re also good training and bonding experiences, providing exercise for both of you. How to play with a dog? Just bring your enthusiasm!
For dogs and their people, fetch remains the classic fun game. It’s the rare dog who doesn’t like a good game of fetch, and those dogs are far less common than the ones who never want to stop fetching. For a successful game, you throw the ball or toy and the dog returns it to you. The latter is the part that often requires some schooling.
Before teaching your dog to fetch, teach him to come. That’s the most important command he’ll ever learn, and could prove literally life-saving. Clicker training remains one of the best methods for teaching this command and most others. Once he comes reliably when you call, find a suitable fetch toy. Use some type of motivator–whether it’s treats, praise or a combination of the two–to get him excited about the toy. When he grabs the toy as you dangle it, give him a treat and/or praise. Throw the toy and when he nabs it, shower him with “good boys!” Repeat this several times. Eventually, tell him to “come,” praising him whether he brings the toy back or not. With practice, he’ll learn to return the toy so you can throw it again, repeating ad infinitum.
If your dog tends to run away after grabbing the toy, put the toy on a long rope so the dog can’t run off with it. When he tries to run away with it, gently reel it in. Give your dog a treat and praise when he brings it back, even though that wasn’t his original intention. Before long, he’ll get the idea.
2. Flirt Pole
Few items are more effective and few games more fun for dogs than a flirt pole. A flirt pole consists of a long stick with a rope attached to it and a lure on the end of the rope. Before using a flirt pole, make sure your dog knows how to sit or lie down on cue. Hold the flirt pole up above your pet while your dog is sitting or down. Wait until she takes her eyes off the lure for a second and is paying attention to you, then tell her it’s OK to go after the lure. Let the lure drop on the ground or floor so she can chase it. At the beginning, let her chase it for just a few seconds before allowing her to catch it. Wait until she calms down a bit, and start playing again.
While the flirt pole is a fine way to exercise your dog, don’t overdo it until she builds up some stamina. If your dog suffers from arthritis or other mobility issues, using a flirt pole isn’t advised.
Playing Frisbee will not only provide hours of sport and exercise for your dog–if he’s really good, Frisbee competitions beckon. Also known as disc dog competitions, this sport requires the human half of the pair to throw the disc from various distances and heights. The canine half of the team is judged on how well he can run and catch the disc before it lands.
While most dog owners aren’t interested in training for formal competition, they do enjoy tossing a Frisbee back and forth in the backyard or local park. Playing Frisbee benefits any dog, but it’s especially valuable for the many pooches who need to work off excess energy.
An indoor-outdoor favorite, playing tug of war with your dog serves as a good prelude to fetch training. For best results, use an actual tug-of-war toy rather than an old towel or piece of clothing, since you don’t want to encourage your dog to sink his teeth into similar items. Just be sure to let your dog know that playtime’s over if his teeth ever touch your skin. By stopping, you will send the message to your dog that such contact means the game is done. Soon, you should find your dog will avoid making contact with you with his teeth.
Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, The Alternative Daily, nj.com, The Happy Cat Site and The Nest Pets. She is a graduate of New York University.