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Games are a great way to bond with your dog and form a closer connection. They are also tools you can use to mentally stimulate and enrich their lives. Enrichment is a hot topic in animal shelters, because it prevents dogs from developing any behavioral issues. These games are also designed to keep your dog active with fun distractions, instead of allowing your dog to engage in undesirable behaviors at home, such as jumping or nipping. Try the games for a few days during the week to see if your dog catches on, and change it up each week!
Image by Leslie Black from Pixabay
Any dog that likes going to the park will love doing an agility course; some dogs are even bred for this game. You can compete competitively or make a creative course in your backyard. The courses usually consist of a few jumps (shoulder height), a tunnel, a seesaw or A-frame, and some weavers. This is a fun, easy game and a great DIY project to do at home that is affordable.
Agility course DIY - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM9UoqSdIxE
See also, The Beginners Guide to Dog Agility book on Amazon.
Hide and seek is a childhood favorite and it turns out dogs love it too, especially if your dog is highly motivated to find you. The “find it” cue can be used to search for many things. It is important to hide with treats or a toy to reward your dog for finding you. Once he or she masters hide and seek in the house, you can even play it outside or in the woods. Strategically place treats or toys around the house or the backyard. Some breeds may be more motivated to search than others, but it is still worth a shot!
Hide and Seek - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCn6wt8YBLQ&t=179s
The shell game, also called cups, involves hiding high value treats under cups. Scramble the cups around and let your dog choose which cup the treat is under. This may take your dog a few tries to get the hang of it, so go slowly during the first couple of training sessions.
Shell Game - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DQrGvGH7d4
Some dogs are born to run and chase. Many dogs have very high prey drives, so tying a small string or piece of fabric that is scented to the end of a remote control toy makes the perfect game. You can even use a plastic bag instead of a real carcass, but chasing the scent is great stimulation and exercise for dogs.
Prey chasing - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J74hOBr349w
Set up a kiddie pool or a bowl of water for your dog and plop in some treats, pieces of apples, or toys. Dogs who love water will absolutely love this game! The others that may be hesitant to water may learn to like it after they stick their snout in water for some goodies.
Bobbing for treats - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KykUsktB2GM
Image by Jeff Klugiewicz from Pixabay
No matter what size your dog is, you can teach them to play soccer. Just get the right size ball for them to dribble and an appropriately sized net. Some dogs would rather destroy and pop the soccer ball, so make sure you take that into consideration when choosing soccer as a fun game for your dog.
Instead of kisses, dogs will get a treat reward from this fun DIY project. Simply run a piece of string through the middle of a plastic water bottle and tie each end taut. Place the treats in the water bottle and watch your dog play with the water bottle and spin it upside down to let the treats fall out.
Spin the bottle game - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u35OVNX18c
If your dog is a treat lover, this may be the best game for them. If your dog is obsessed with tennis balls, they may be too distracted to play this game. Place a few treats in the cupcake tin and cover them with tennis balls. Watch your dog go to town trying to remove the balls and try to get to every treat. This is also a great way to feed your dog if he or she eats too fast at dinnertime.
Cupcake tin and tennis balls - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFnWnejG_IU
Messy, playful dogs can also learn this fun game to help you clean up. Teach your dog to pick up toys around the house or backyard and place them in a basket. They will spend time searching, sniffing, and carrying the toys all around the house. Be sure to add new toys to the mix here and there to make it more interesting and rewarding.
Clean up Toys Game - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW_N-dujGXw
Ring toss is one of the most difficult games to play with your dog because it includes fetching the rings and placing them on the pole. Some dogs are extremely intelligent and have no problem learning this game without treats in-between as reinforcement. But, others will need a lot of encouragement and patience to learn each step. This game may be challenging to train, but it impresses every crowd and puts a smile on their faces.
Ring toss - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ovc58K1u1A
Image by Katrin B. from Pixabay
You can always opt for simple games like fetch, Frisbee, or tug of war as well. Some breeds are better at retrieving than others because it is an obsessive behavior. Herding breeds like border collies can even perform backflips for Frisbees! Contrary to popular belief, tug of war does not increase aggression if you are the one to control and initiate it. Take a look at the videos attached to get started with these doggie games.
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