The Canine Guru


Fun Games to Play With Your Dog!

Posted on September 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

Games are a great way to bond with your dog and build trust. Since dogs learn most all of their behaviors and social skill from play, games are a great way to teach them how to be well mannered and balanced dogs. So if you are looking for some fun games to play, other than fetch, you'll find them below.


Musical Squares: This is a game that I invented for classes. I always start out with this game to see how each pooch parent handles their dogs. It is also a great way to get a feel of the relationship between dog and handler. This game is great for families with multiple dogs, or for doggy play dates, and parties.


                   What You'll Need: Towels, Place Mats, or Bath Rugs work great as the squares, and doggy music is a must. Atomic Dog by George Clinton, Who Let The Dogs Out by Baha Men, and Big Dog by Akon are my personal favorites.


                    How To Play: Each handler should have their furry friend on a 6 foot leash. Designate someone to be the DJ. The DJ starts and stops the music as he/she chooses. When the music starts, the handlers and dogs walk around the squares with their dogs walking nicely beside them. Treats can be used to keep the dogs in line. Once the music stops, each handler quickly moves to a square and has the dog Sit on it. To play for competition, take one square away at the end of each round. Just like musical chairs. I always start with 1 square per person/dog team. That way, everyone is successful at finding a square in the first round. After that, I take one of the squares away and the real competition begins. For doggy pros, you can have them do other things on the squares instead of sit such as; lay down, sit pretty, speak, etc.


                     Benefits: This game teaches focus, how to walk on a loose leash, sit on command, and aids in teaching dogs how to go to a specific place. This game is also great at teaching dogs social skills as they compete for squares. It can also be quite entertaining to watch two dogs competing for one square. Remember, whichever dog sits on the square first wins the square!


Hide and Seek: This is a great game to play indoors or out. The object here is to have your dog find you in your hiding spot. K-9 units use this game to teach and build Search & Rescue skills.


                     What You'll Need: Treats, hiding places (trees, bushes, furniture, etc).


                      How To Play: This game is very simple. You can have your dog sit/stay while you hide, or have someone hold him/her while you hide. If playing indoors, go to a different room to hide. Once hidden, call your dog to you. When your dog finds you, praise heavily and give him or her a treat. Then simply start all over again. If you have multiple family members, have them all hide. Just make sure that someone is designated to keep the dog still while the others hide each round. Playing outside in a yard is great too, because it provides extra distractions for your dog to learn to ignore while looking for you. If you don't have a yard and your dog is a runner, you can use a long line staked in the ground. Just make sure you hide within the range of the long line (the longer the long line the better). After a while, your dog should catch on to the game, and you may not have to call him/her anymore.


                       Benefits: This game teaches a reliable recall as well as strengthening their finding skills. Dogs love to look for and find things, and all dogs love this game (unless they are too fearful to play). These skills could come in handy some day as well. You never know, maybe your dog will find a lost person during a disaster someday?!


Recall Race: A great game for a family with multiple dogs or for play dates. It's a race between dogs to see who has the fastest recall!


                        What You'll Need: Cones are helpful, but not necessary. You can just draw lines, or set up boudries. Your dogs will need to know sit/stay if no one is available to help keep them at the starting line.


                         How To Play: Each handler lines their dog up at the starting line. Dogs can be lined up and compete in twos, or more. More than five dogs lined up to race is pushing it, but can be quite entertaining if accomplished. Once the dogs are all lined up, the handlers tell their dogs to sit and stay. Then each handler backs away from their dog. 10 feet for beginners, 20 feet for advanced, and 30 feet (or more) for experts. When all of the handlers have reached the finish line, they begin calling their dogs frantically. The winner is the dog that reaches their handler and sits in front of them first. To increase difficulty, you can add distractions like treats and toys between the starting and finish line. It also helps to appoint someone as a ref to manage fairness. The ref would tell the handlers when they can begin calling their dogs.


                          Benefits: This game teaches a relaible recall and sit/stay. Beginners may find it challenging to get their dogs to sit and stay while backing away simultaneously. The process of setting up the dogs can take some time for beginners. But once managed, people and dogs alike have a great time.


Reverse Recall Race: This is the exact same game as the Recall Race, but backwards. Instead of the dogs coming to the handlers, the handlers race to their dogs.


                           What You'll Need: Same as Recall Race.


                            How To Play: Handlers place their dogs in a sit, or down stay at the FINISH LINE. They then back up to the starting line. When the designated ref is satisfied that everything is fair, he begins the race by saying "Return to your dogs!" The handlers then race to their dogs. Handlers can run or simply walk fast (should be decided by group before race). If the dog moves from his/her stay, the handler must get the dog to return to the sit or down stay before they can win. The first dog/handler team to be in formation (handler standing up straight with leash in hand, dog sitting or laying at handlers side) wins. Distance remains the same as in the Recall Race. This game is best played outside, but can be played indoors if there is enough room to prevent injury.


                              Benefits: This game is great for reinforcing stay. Normally dogs learn to stay while we leave them. But this game teaches them to stay even as their handler is running towards them. Dogs tend to get really excited as they see their handlers running towards them, so this game can offer up some funny scenarios.


                               Variation: Instead of finishing the race once the handlers get to their dogs, the handlers must put a leash on their dogs while the dogs remain in the sit position. If the dog gets up, the handler must ask the dog to go back into the sit position before he or she can attach the leash. Once the leash is on, the handler/dog team race back to the starting line. The first handler/dog team to make it back wins. In this variation, the dog learns to stay while the handler leaves and approaches, sit while the leash is attached, and walk quickly with the handler.


So there you have it. Four games you can play with your dogs besides fetch. I encourage you to try these games with your dogs and experiment with them. You can practice any of these games alone with your dog, or play them with multiple dogs and handlers. Remember, have fun! That's what spending time with your dog is supposed to be all about.


If you have questions about these games, games you'd like to share, or variations of these games please leave a comment and let me know!



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