Training Games to Play With Your Dog
Playing games with your dog can be really fun for both of you, but there are other reasons to do it, too. First of all, you will strengthen the relationship or bond between you and your dog by spending time with him and playing games together. People who regularly play with their dog develop understanding, respect and communication with him. Dogs are social animals, and game playing is an important part of developing any social relationship. Also, you can actually teach your dog several important commands – and to obey you – by playing games that make following your instructions fun.
(By the way, playing with your dog will also keep him from getting bored and doing things you don’t want him to do – like chewing on your new pair of shoes or harassing the cat – and keep him active and healthy.)
Here are some games you can play with your dog that will teach him some basic training and obedience:
Hide and Seek
Give the “sit” command and get your dog to wait. Then go and hide in another room or behind a door or tree. Call your dog when you are ready. Act excited and give him a treat when he finds you. Start by hiding in an easy spot and move on to harder to find places. This will teach your dog to wait until he is called.
While some dogs are natural fetchers (Labrador and golden retrievers, for example), other aren’t. The good news is any dog can be trained to fetch successfully. Start by throwing a toy, ball or stick a short distance away from your dog, and give the command to “fetch.” When he fetches it successfully, praise and reward him with a treat. Once your dog can fetch from short distances, start throwing the object further and further away. You can also practice the “drop it” command while you’re playing fetch. If your dog refuses to return or drop the ball when you give either the “fetch” or “drop it” command, stop playing the game.
Another way to train your dog to “drop” an object is to give him a large item to hold in his mouth, and then offer him a yummy treat in exchange for the object he’s holding. Wait patiently until your dog notices the treat and drops the object in exchange for it. Keep on practicing until your dog is dropping the object regularly, at which point you can give the “drop it” command before each treat.
Clean Up Your Toys
For this game you’ll need a box and a bunch of your dog’s toys. Scatter the toys on the floor near the box. You’ll probably have to help him at first, but get your dog to pick up one toy at a time and give them to you (by holding out your hand). Each time he gives you a toy, reward him with a treat. Then show your dog how you put each item he gives you in the box. Have him do the same by showing him the box and pointing to it every time he picks up a toy in his mouth. Eventually, he will drop each toy into the box – remember to treat him every time he does this successfully. Pretty soon, your dog will be helping you clean up the whole house!
This is the same concept as Hide and Seek, except you’ll be using a toy to hide instead of yourself. Get your dog's favorite toy or an object he really loves and let him watch you as you hide it behind a door or under a chair or towel. Then tell him to “find it.” When he does, reward him with a treat and give him lots of praise. Eventually, don’t let your dog see where you are hiding the toy (go into another room while he waits for you somewhere else). This is a great game to teach your dog to “stay” while you are out of his range of sight.
If you have the right attitude as a dog owner, then you can make obedience training into a game of Simon Says! Let your dog prove how clever he is by going through all of the basic commands: sit, stay, down, etc. Try giving the commands with your eyes closed, your back to your dog or in a strange position, like lying down or even standing on your head (if you can)!
Start the game by gently kicking a soccer ball along the ground toward your dog, encouraging him to get the ball. Since the ball is too big for him to pick up with his teeth/in his mouth, it’ll take him a few minutes to figure out he has to push it along with his nose or bat it with his paws. Give him tons of praise as he starts to catch on. As your dog gets better as pushing the ball along, you can get more people to join in the game. If your dog is too small to handle a soccer ball, you can use a soft rubber ball that’s slightly too big for him to pick up in his mouth, instead.