I can just see you sitting there scratching your head and wondering why I refer to dog training when writing about dog games. Well, this is because I am a dog. I know from personal experience that all dog games are really training and all dog training is really games. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Valentino Spock Bone. You can call me Valentino for short. My human has quite a sense of humor. But that is another story. Oh, by the way, the title about games that will wear HIM out is a pun intended because dog games will wear out a dog or a human! I guess it depends on who is reading this article!
Playing dog games is one of the most effective and fun ways to give your dog the physical and mental exercise he needs. It also provides a personal way to get to know your best friend in a casual environment. Unlike standard training routines that I will discuss in future articles, this article is just for fun, but in a healthy training-type way.
The thing is that I get bored with just plain old "fetch" or "Valentino come", even if it is for a treat. I'm very intelligent and so is your canine pal. He wants variety and lots of excitement. Even experts agree that in order to keep your pooch happy, you need to provide exercise and a challenge along with positive reinforcement … my favorite is those little treats that are soft and look like a tiny t-bone and they just tingle in my mouth and make me want to do cartwheels and run around the block … Sorry, I sometimes get carried away by the thought of another treat.
So here goes:
1) Fetch: Try to think out of the kennel and get creative with a ball or favorite toy instead of a stick. My human does not let me chew on sticks but she does let me chew my toys, so I get to use safe items to play fetch. I know this sounds funny, but not all dogs are created equal. Some dogs just don't like to play fetch! If not, keep reading because there are plenty of other dog games to play. Oh, I am sure that your dog already knows how to bring it back to you and to "drop it" before you start playing fetch.
2) Backyard Bobbing: We do this in the summertime using a small inexpensive wading pool that fits me to a T! All you have to do is fill it with a few inches of water and place a rubber toy in the middle and watch your dog have lots of fun getting into and out of the pool! If your dog gets too excited doing this be sure to let him calm down by getting his attention on something else or by emptying the pool and putting it out of his reach.
3) Mystery Tour: You can create a maze of boxes and other simple shapes in the back yard and use those treats to get your dog to run through the maze with you at his side, or not. He may want to go by himself while you watch. This is really great for helping your dog learn to move with fluid motion and it helps him to be OK with new and different shapes and situations, giving him confidence and mental balance. You can also purchase equipment for this, but simple is usually best unless you are training for obstacle course trials. Sometimes I just get all goofy and just jump ON the boxes in the maze … it drives my human crazy!
4) Hide and Seek: I love using my awesome natural ability to follow scents and with just the right amount of encouragement your dog will be an expert at finding you or whatever toys you hide in this game. If you and your dog are new at this, give him the stay command then hide yourself or a toy where your dog can see you, then give a come and get it or find me command. When he finds whatever you hid give him a nice treat and praise him like silly. After you get used to this, your pup will be able to find you or the hidden object by scent alone, even if he cannot see you. Start simple then get more complicated by adding more distance. Did you know that tracking dogs will sometimes track a scent by walking several feet away from where the trail is? The nose knows.
This is a great way to spend time indoors on those cold winter days or just rainy days when inclement weather prevents you from taking your best friend outside. Please be sure to keep those treats close by. And, be sure to give the "stay" command before you hide, otherwise, he'll be right behind you!
5) Swimming: I know this may be hard to believe, but some dogs do not like water! If your dog thinks that water is evil, do not force him. But if he does love water, please take him now! Swimming is great exercise and you can have lots of fun watching him do the dog paddle! Remember to take lots of towels and dry him off afterwards to keep him from catching a chill.
6) Frisbee: Ah, catch. Catching a flying object is almost too exciting for me to talk about. I'm young, though and this is easy for me. If your dog is older this may not be so good for him as it is very physical and requires lots of movement and jumping and sliding all over the place. You will want to throw the Frisbee a short distance to start and then you can throw it farther and farther when fido gets the hang of it. This reinforces the "fetch" instructions of going after something, bringing it back and then "dropping" it so you can repeat the process for him. Did you know that there are actually Frisbee competitions? It just doesn't get better than this.
7) What's That ?: I just can not get enough of this one. My human sits in her easy chair and out of nowhere, she takes a rapid breath IN and says in her most inquisitive voice, "What's That"? My ears perk up and I'm off and running in the direction of wherever she points her finger! OK. I know there's nothing there but she gets me every time. This is good for getting my attention and it helps me focus on whatever my human wants me to focus on. Then when the game is finished, she uses other commands to end the game; come, sit and stay. Oh, and sometimes, she stands up or moves around when she does this. So many ways, so little time.
8) Saddle Bag: This one is really cool. This is when I get to carry water and snacks for my human. If you don't already have a saddle bag you can make one with a nice piece of fabric that fits around your dog's belly and chest … and it has to have a pocket on each side to carry the water and snacks … my human uses it to carry my treats, too. This is so cool because I just look cute and gets lots of praise and treats for just walking! And, of course, it's good for me to walk quietly by her side for exercise. If your dog has been used to wearing doggie sweaters and coats, he will ease right into this. If not, just give him time to adjust to the feel of doggie clothes before you expect him to be comfortable with it. My human started by dressing me in sweaters because I was such a wiggle worm. After I calmed down and didn't mind the clothes, she gave me a saddlebag to wear. She started by putting small items in the pockets and then she added her water bottles after I was OK with the extra weight.
9) Horse and Buggy: No, I don't mind being thought of as a horse pulling a buggy. People also call this carting or pulling in some circles. This requires practice to get the hang of it, but once you do it can be a lot of fun, great exercise and it helps build stamina. My human uses a little red wagon. She removed the handle and added a fabric hitch that fits over my back and attaches to two round dowel rods that she got at a craft store. You could also use a sled or cart. I have to walk steadily and pull the wagon that usually contains a child or just stuff like groceries or debris in the yard that she wants to get rid of. It makes me feel like I'm part of whatever my human is doing at the time.
10) Leave It: I really love this because I don't have to do anything and I always get a treat! At first you just hold a favorite treat in your hand and say "leave it" and let your dog sniff at it but don't give it to him … the minute he stops trying to get it, you give it to him and praise the heck out of him. I'm guessing that your dog will get it by day two. After he really gets it, you can use it for almost anything such as leave the cat alone, leave the rug alone and leave anything alone that has his undivided attention.
11) Grand Ole Opry: I have one more, well, actually two but since I can't really count. My human gets up and 1) starts twirling around and 2) starts singing at the top of her lungs! All I want to do is be part of this madness so I stand up on my two hind legs and I howl! It is truly a sight to behold and afterwards I feel exhausted! So this is probably good for those days when your dog hasn't had as much exercise as he should have. A little goes a long way with this one. If you are not able to twirl, then just sway a little side-to-side is sufficient. And, if you can not sing, all the better 'cause it will drive your puppy into howling heaven.
Dog games are so good for your dog and with a little time will have both of you in sync with what makes your best friend happy and healthy.
by Leona Berrian