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10 Simple Games to Play with Dogs (with Pictures & Instructions)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

kennel worker plays with dog

As a dog owner, it is important to spend time playing with your dog. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a handful of games that you can quickly put into use when you have a bit of time to spend with your canine friend.

Games are a great way to keep your dog active, and they’re also a good way to reinforce their obedience training and to teach them a few new tricks. Dog games don’t need to be complicated, and in fact, it is usually the simplest games that will be enjoyed the most by your dog.

Below is a list of 10 fun and simple dog games to play today:

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Top 10 Dog Games to Play:

1. Tug of War

English springer spaniel and Boxer puppies playing_NewnardHouse_shutterstock
Image Credit: NewnardHouse, Shutterstock

Tug of war is a fun and simple game that you can play with your dog in almost any outdoor space. It is a great way to spend time with your dog and is excellent exercise.

The game essentially involves both you and your dog trying to pull a rope out of each other’s grip and only requires a 3-foot piece of thick rope with a knot tied in one end.

To indicate your willingness to play, pick up the rope at the non-knotted end, and offer or dangle the knotted end in front of your dog. It won’t take long for your dog to grab the rope, and when they do, a short tug on the rope will be enough to get them to start pulling back the other way.

The game is won when either party lets go of their end of the rope. Depending upon the size and strength of your dog, you may find that you need to go easy when you pull the rope, but it is important to let your dog win more often than not.

The one thing to watch out for is that your dog doesn’t get their mouth near your hand. If that happens, you should end the game and come back to it later. In this way, your dog will quickly learn that mouthing your hand is not a way to win the game.

2. Fetch

happy dachshund dog playing_otsphoto_shutterstock
Dog playing fetch with an apple. | Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Fetch is an incredibly simple and immensely popular game that needs little explanation.

The game involves you throwing a ball (or anything, really…) in a large open space and your dog running to fetch it and then returning the ball for you to throw again.

Most dogs are quick studies at this game; however, breeds that have been developed specifically as retrievers usually pick it up the quickest.

Occasionally, you may find that your dog wants to change the game, and instead of giving you the ball, they will run up to you with it before running off again with the ball still in their mouth. This is an attempt to get you to chase them, and it is up to you whether you want to do this. But be warned that if you allow the game to be changed like this, you may find yourself regularly chasing your dog for the ball, rather than having them give it to you.

3. Frisbee

Groenendael playing frisbee
Image Credit: Blaer, Pixabay

Another great game to play with your dog is frisbee. This game is almost the same as fetch; however, instead of throwing a ball as far as you can, you throw a frisbee, which your dog can run after and catch in the air.

Frisbee will appeal particularly to those breeds that have a high prey drive and is a great form of exercise that will get your dog running and jumping all over the place. While the game can be played with almost any frisbee, it is a good idea to get one that has soft sides. This way, your dog won’t be discouraged by a frisbee that hits them in the face.

4. Chasing Bubbles

Border Collie Bernard Dog
Image Credit: 825545, Pixabay

Chasing bubbles is a great game to play with a small dog or puppy. It involves using a bubble blower to blow a few bubbles for your dog to chase and pop.

At first, your dog might be confused or even a little scared by the bubbles, but by pointing them out and then popping them with your hand, you will show your dog that they are not harmful. As soon as your dog catches their first bubble, they will be hooked, and you may find that you get sick of blowing bubbles long before your dog tires of chasing them.

5. Find-a-Treat

doberman digging grass
Image credit: 889083, Pixabay

Find-a-treat is as simple as it sounds. The game involves hiding a treat somewhere in a room or yard and getting your dog to find it.

To play this game, you will need a few tasty dog treats, and your dog will need to know how to sit and stay. Alternatively, if your dog is yet to master the sit and stay commands, you can use a second person to hide the treat while you stay with your dog.

Before hiding the treat, it is important to allow your dog to smell the treat in your hand, as it is their sense of smell that they will use to find it. After hiding the treat, you or the other person who hid it should move far away from where it is hidden, then you can release your dog and give them the command, “find.”

Mastering this game can take a little while, and it is a good idea to play it inside in a single closed-off room until your dog gets the idea. Then, you can take the game outside and start expanding the search area.

Not only is find-a-treat a great form of exercise and a good way to reinforce the commands of sit and stay, but it’s also a great introduction to tracking or detection work.

6. Kong

terrier with red kong playing outside
Image Credit: anetapics, Shutterstock

A Kong is a commercially manufactured dog toy in which you can place a small treat for your dog to find and remove. Removing the treat involves playing around with the Kong until the treat is released.

The game can be played by either giving the Kong to your dog to work out how to release the treat or by hiding the Kong and having your dog find it, as they do in a game of find-a-treat. Regardless of which way you chose to play, a game of Kong is a great form of mental stimulation for your dog.

7. Build a Dig Box

Pug dog playing with plastic bubble in the box_ezzolo_shutterstock
Image Credit: Ezzolo, Shutterstock

A dig box is like a sandbox in that it is a dedicated place where you will allow your dog to dig. Having a dig box can be a great way to allow your dog to dig without having them rip up your lawn or garden beds.

Depending upon your dog’s interest, you may want to hide a treat or one of your pet’s favorite toys in the box, to encourage them to play.

8. Water Fetch

Terrier playing with water hose
Image Credit: sevenpixx, Pixabay

Water fetch is a great game to play if you live near a lake, river, or beach. It is essentially the same as a normal game of fetch, with the only difference being that your dog needs to swim out into the water to retrieve the ball.

Do note that unless you want to lose a ball or go swimming yourself, it is a good idea to ensure that your dog knows how to fetch in your yard before you throw the ball out into the water.

9. Build an Agility Course

australian shepherd dog training for dog show
Image Credit: LRuss, Pixabay

Agility training is a great way to give your dog confidence and is an excellent form of exercise.

Building a short agility course by yourself needn’t be hard or complicated, and you can do so using a wide variety of objects that you already have. A timber plank sitting on two large paint cans can be a great balance beam, chairs lined up in a row can easily be turned into a tunnel, and an old sawhorse could be used as a hurdle. The options are almost endless, and you are only limited by your imagination.

When you first start taking your dog through your course, it is a good idea to have them on a leash and guide them as they navigate the obstacles. Then, after they’ve done it a few times, you might want to try taking the leash off and having them navigate the obstacles on their own (perhaps following a treat in your hand).

It might take a while for your dog to get the hang of your agility course, but it is a simple game to play and will be enjoyed by both you and your dog.

10. Hide and Seek

hide & seek with dog
Image Credit: TeamDAF, Shutterstock

Hide and seek is a well-known children’s game and can just as easily be played with your dog. Of course, you will always need to be the one to hide, and you will need to call your dog to find you rather than have them count to 20 while you hide. Still, this is a game that your dog will pick up quickly, and if you have a treat for them each time they find you, you’ll have no problem trying to encourage your dog to play. This is a very fun game to play with your dog!

Related Read: How do Puppies Play? Does it Vary Between Breeds?

Featured Image Credit: Jayme Burrows, Shutterstock

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