Not every dog thinks chasing a ball is a slice of doggie heaven. Some would rather slouch on the couch next to you or dig a hole as deep as he is long. Some would rather learn new tricks and show off how clever they are. Get to know your pooch and find games you can enjoy together. Playing will help you get connected, deepen your relationship, give him exercise and mental stimulation and will even help with obedience training. A busy and tired dog is a good and happy dog!
Here are some fun game ideas to keep all family members busy:
1. Hide ‘n seek
Place your dog in a sit and stay position. If this hasn’t been learned yet, you may want someone to hold him lightly. Keep some treats on you and go hide. Once hidden, call his name and reward him when he finds you. Start with easy locations at first or he will quickly become discouraged and refuse to play. Include other members of the family next time and make locations progressively more difficult if he shows enthusiasm.
2. Bubble fun
Some dogs will chase anything! Here is an interesting homemade dog-friendly recipe for bubbles. For best results, try it with a bubble machine.
1/4 cup of liquid dish soap, 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock, 1 tsp sugar. Stir all ingredients together gently in a bowl until combined. The mixture will be thick. For best results, let it stand in an airtight container for 24 hours before using.
If the bubbles do not last long enough, I’ve heard that either extra cornflour or corn syrup will make the bubbles more durable, but haven’t tried it myself. Glycerine is another recommendation, but I’d be wary of my pets ingesting this. Another thing I am itching to try is peanut butter flavoured bubbles! If you’ve had any success with making your own flavoured doggie bubbles, please let us know.
3. Find the toy
Start with two small boxes and a favourite toy. Let your dog watch as you place the toy under one box. Move the boxes around a few times and encourage him to pick the right one. You may need to point to it until he gets the hang of it – no reason you shouldn’t cheat a little at first! Reward him as soon as he starts scratching or nudging at the correct box. First prize is tipping the box over. Increase the number of boxes and use lids too for a more challenging game if he enjoys this one.
4. Track ‘n trace
Even old dogs can enjoy this game at a pace that suits them. Take something slimy, smelly and completely irresistible to your canine companion. Some frozen tripe or bonemeal covered in meat sauce should work well. Make sure he doesn’t follow you as you lay a trail – preferably somewhere outside! Leave the treat at the end. Then let him sniff your hand and point to the trail. If your dog loves tracking scents, then this is the game to try.
This game is great for those who love to learn new tricks and have boundless energy. It will help if some basic commands are in place before attempting this though, or it can become very frustrating for both of you. Try start with using either a flirt pole (stick, string and toy attached at the end) or a handful of small treats for your dog to follow. Begin with one or two simple moves and expand the routine slowly as he gains confidence.
Playing with your dog is not so much about “winning” a game as it is about getting connected and having a great time together. Never push the dog too hard or persist with a game he shows no interest in. Have fun!