Games to Play with Your Dog
Your dog wants to play games with you, make no bones about it. And while dogs at play can look like dogs at war, chasing, tugging, and mouthing are all normal for them; completely discouraging these intuitive behaviors in your dog makes for a very frustrated canine. Fun, active dog games are excellent for him when the play is controlled, and that is the key: the human always starts the game, the human always ends the game. When your dog understands this important rule, he will benefit from years of active, safe playtime with his beloved human and other companions.
The Best Dog Games
If your dog is unaccustomed to finding and bringing you his toy, begin with a simple exercise, where you place the toy very close to him, say “Find it!” and praise him when he goes near it, even if he does not pick it up. Continue like this, treating him when he picks up his toy; then praise him when he brings it to you, and trade the toy for a treat. Place it further and further from him, until you can take it to another room and hide it. This is also an excellent training tool for a dog who is reluctant to surrender a toy that has been thrown for him.
Or play with two people: have one person stay with the dog while you hide. When he is looking for you, the other person can hide and call him. Repeat this game only a few times so he does not lose interest.
Alternately, hide treats throughout the course in tough-to-find spots and rub the scent of the food in various places to encourage your dog to find his way to the treats. This game can be played outdoors or inside on a rainy day; it gets everyone involved and intellectually stimulates the canine in your crowd.
Dog Games to Avoid
These games reinforce undesirable dog behaviors and should be avoided:
Endearing though it may seem, this behavior should be discouraged in your puppy to prevent mouthing as an adolescent or adult.
Healthy, active games with your dog are not only fun, they’re essential: he needs playtime with you and with other dogs to exercise his natural instincts, to stimulate his intellect and develop social skills, and to release the bottled-up energy that is part and parcel of living among humans. He wants nothing more earnestly than your time and affection—what better way to show him your love than engaging him with fun dog games.
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