Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

5 Fun Doggo Games

by Kris Phillips

Dog staring out window

I don’t know about you but Floki & I really miss getting out of the house. Especially now that the sun is out and the weather is AM-A-ZING! It finally feels like Spring and as much as I’d love to be hiking, or photographing right now, I’m also trying to do my part and follow the rules by staying at home.

But then there’s Floki. While he’s loves our daily walks, the other 23 hours of the day he just looks soooo BORED!

So I did a little digging and found some really fun games to play with your dog.

You wont even need to leave your house.

Game 1: Puppy Push Ups. 

Puppy push ups are a great game for dogs of any age. It reinforces two of the most important commands your dog probably already knows and encourages them to pay close attention to what your actually asking. It’s super easy.

A) Ask your dog to sit. – Reward

B) Ask your dog to lay down- Reward

Now’s where it gets tricky.

C) Ask your dog to go back to sit….

For a lot of dogs this is where they get confused. Most of us teach sit, then down in succession. But rarely teach dogs to go the other way. If you’ve tried a few times and they’re not getting the concept. Have your dog go back to standing, then strait to down- then reward.

Keep going back and forth from sit to down until your dog has it reliably. And if you’re bored too  you can also teach your dog to do push ups with you once they reliably follow verbal cues.

Doing push ups with your dog

Step it up: You can start throwing in other commands in random order. With big rewards every time.

Game 2: The Tunnel Game

Tunnels are popular in dog agility training. You can make your own with a little tape and a couple of those big Amazon boxes you haven’t been able to take to recycling. Tape 2-3 boxes together to make a tunnel. Then have your dog sit at one end, while you go to the other end of the tunnel and call them. You might also try throwing treats into the tunnel to encourage your dog to make his way inside.

A dog playing a tunnel game.

As your dog gets more comfortable you can make the tunnel longer by adding more boxes. I was surprised how quickly Floki learned this game. In fact, I called his dad out to show him how much fun we were having. After a couple more rounds I ran out of treats, but Floki kept barreling thru the tunnel un-requested. We made sure to praise him big time. The most difficult part was finding boxes big enough for Floki to get through. Fortunately we’ve been doing a lot of Amazon shopping lately and with the recycling center closed I had a nice stack to work with. I did have to prop them up on either side.

Game 3: Hide And Seek

This one might require a partner in crime, or it might be a great time to work on your dogs “stay” command. But it’s a super simple game that your dog will love. Either ask your dog to stay or have someone hold them in place while you run and hide in another room. Then you can either have the other person give the command to go find you or you can call your dog from your hiding spot. Once they find you give them lots and lots of praise.

Game 4: Magic Cups

For this old street magician game you just need some cups you’re not overly fond of and a really good treat. Set your cups out on the floor and show your dog the treat. Then let them watch you put it under a cup. Mix them around a bit. And tell your dog to “find the treat”. Ideally, you want them to indicate in some way which cup they think it’s under. But when I played this game Floki just knocked the up over and enjoyed the treat. Once your dog understands the concept you can add more cups or even hide the treat while they’re in another room to make it more challenging.

Full disclosure: Floki did NOT find this game particularly amusing. It turns out he prefers active games over thinking ones.

Game 5: Over the Obstacle. 

You’ll need some bricks (or pots) and a plank of wood or rake handle for this one. Plus a little bit of space, most dogs need 4-5 stride to get a good jump in. You’ll want to place the broom handle on something that about the height of halfway up your dogs legs, at least to start with. Also, this should only be done with dogs who are over a year of age and have healthy joints. If you’re at all concerned talk to your vet beforehand.

You’ll want a good treat in one hand and it might be easiest if your dog is on a leash. Ask them to jog along and jump over the hurdle with you first using a command “up” or “over”. With lots of praise and a reward when they do.

As your dog gets more comfortable with going over the bar you can try raising it a little bit depending on their athleticism or adding more jumps. No matter what you want to praise BIG even if he knocks the jump over.  You might be able to graduate to playing fetch over the jumps as well.

Our little obstacle course isn’t exactly pretty, but look at the smile on the big guy!

Bonus Game: Add an Under

If you have a few jumps made you can try raising one or two of them and teaching your dog to crawl under as well. For this one ask your dog to lay down on one side of the pole, then drag a treat along the ground in front of him. As soon as he starts to crawl, big praise and treat. Then keep going. Eventually you can associate the request “crawl” and work toward doing over & unders.

Keep in Mind:

  • Training should be fun and rewarding for both of you.
  • Don’t get frustrated if your dog is confused or disinterested.
  • Your dog may like some games more than others.
  • The more excited you are the more excited they will be.

I hope these strange times find you & your fur-babies well and hopefully now a little less bored.

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