By John Wood
Play is essential to every dog’s life. It is how they bond and communicate with their pack, letting them know how to play with others and finding out what makes them excited. Not only does it give our dogs some exercise, it mentally stimulates them, keeping them sharp and ready to take on new challenges. Physical and mental stimuli need to be in equal amounts when taking care of dogs because it leads to a very happy and healthy animal.
Here are a few games that will keep your dog occupied while strengthening your relationship with them. These games are perfect for when the weather is bad outside or for everyday use.
Hide and Seek – Person Edition
This game is a classic with children and dogs alike. It has them using both their senses of hearing and smelling to find their owner around the house.
Have your pooch sit in a separate room, using the stay command. This is a great game to brush up on certain commands! Leaving the room, hide somewhere nearby and call out to them after 10 seconds. Continue calling out to them until your canine finds you and reward them with lots of praise!
Repeat this game for however long you want in the house. To make the game more challenging, hide in different places and call out to them less and less each time so your dog has to rely on smell to find you. You can switch up the environment by playing in a park with a lot of trees or boulders to hide behind.
Hide and Seek – Treat Edition
Another take on this classic game is using treats. Smell is incredibly important to dogs, it’s how they navigate their world to find other animals, where they have been, and food. Playing this game allows them to stretch their nose muscles, if you will, and get an extra tasty reward for finding their targets.
Like earlier, sit your dog in a separate room using the stay command. In another room, ‘hide’
several small treats in very obvious places if they are playing this for the first time. Return to your dog, let them sniff the hand with the treats in it, and turn them loose to the room you hid the treats. Once they have found the last treat, praise them with lots of pets.
Once your pooch gets the hang of the game, they will search almost any room they enter, just in case you hid anything. Continue doing this with fewer amounts of treats and placing them in different, more difficult places like under blankets or in their toy basket.
Another option is to buy or make your own dog puzzles for your companion to ponder over in the house. These puzzles can range in complexity and size, all depending on the personality of the dog. Here are a few that can be made using items around the house…
- Treat in the middle of a knot made by an old sock or t-shirt
- Treats in plastic containers that have been stacked lopsided
- Water bottles without lids with treats inside
This particular game will take a bit longer than most because it involves teaching your dog the names of their toys. Dogs who like to play fetch and retrieve things for you will especially like this game.
Start off by choosing a toy and determine a distinct, short, and descriptive name for it; for example, duck for their bird toy or baby for another. Start by playing with this toy exclusively around your dog and refer to it by its name repeatedly. If you play fetch, throw the toy and encourage them to get the toy by its chosen name. Once your dog has given it back to you, reward them with praise and continue to use the toy’s name so they become familiar with it.
Continue doing this until you can ask your dog to bring you ‘baby’ or ‘duck’ and they bring the correct toy. After that, you can do the process all over again with another toy and impress any guests in the house with this new trick. This game is especially good for bad weather days because of the length of time it takes to teach your pet how to distinguish different toys from one another.
The tried and true way of satisfying your dog’s mental needs is to teach them new tricks. Start by going over already learn commands like sit, lay down, and stay to establish the game you are playing with your pup. Introduce a new command that builds off one of their commands that they already know, such as shake. Your dog is already sitting and it is an easy transition to give their paw to you.
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs. A publication built to educate over 40,000,000 dog owners on how to care for their dogs.