When you think of dog games, what do you think of? Fetch? Ball? Tug toy? Well, all of these games work well when you are outside. And generally speaking, games work perfectly for physical exercise with energetic dogs. Today, however, we will talk about mental stimulation games that you can and should play at home.
What are the benefits of these dog games? Well, I use them to practice dog training. We use them in our training to repeat and reinforce some good behavior and improve dog manners.
And the best part about it? You only need food, kibble, or some dog treats if you like to make it more stimulating and engaging.
Here is a quick breakdown of all the benefits of playing games during your training:
- Your puppy learns new tricks and commands
- Your puppy reinforces what he already knows and learns that the same command applies in different environments and situations
- They serve as mental stimulation for your puppy, reducing destructive behavior in the process
- Encourage your dog to think and solve the task at hand
- With hand feeding, you create a stronger bond with your dog
- Handfeeding teaches your dog to come to you for survival and learns dog food comes from you
With that in mind, here are some dog games we practice often with Milo.
Run and get the treat
I have to stress that most of these games work best when you hand feed your dog. Yes, you can use dog treats, but kibble is a much better option.
This game, for example, helps reinforce recall and teaches your puppy that good things happen when he comes back to you.
We start off sitting on the couch or standing anywhere in the home where you want. Keep kibble in your hand, or a bag, or anything you want. Throw one kibble away from you, and tell your dog to go get it. Your pup gets the kibble, and then it should come back to you. Now, when your puppy comes back, give him lots of kibbles, not just a single piece.
Eventually, your dog will automatically come back to you and sit for food. The goal of this game is to show your puppy that while he can get one kibble if he goes away, he gets a lot more when he comes back.
Go find it
Yes, we want our dog to come back to us. But we can also play nose games at home. These games encourage your dog to think and solve the problem at hand. Keep in mind that dogs have a lot more receptors in their nose than we do. They are naturally programmed to sniff and search.
Usually, I play this game after dinner, to give Milo his dog treats, one or two treats, nothing more. What do we do? I have him sit somewhere in the living room, while I hide a treat in the hallway, kitchen, or even bathroom.
Then, I give him the command “go find it”, and guide him with “hot and cold” while he searches for the treat. He loves it. This dog game serves as a great mental stimulation for him.
Sit and wait
One of the main things you want to achieve in dog training is your dog focusing on you. Impulse control if you like to call it. Any good dog owner should have his dog focused on him.
This indoor game helps you with that. You can play it outside as well, but I practice it indoors almost every other day with a dog toy.
I have Milo sit in the middle of the living room. And I give him command stay, and repeat sit as I walk in circles around him clockwise and anti-clockwise. After two or three circles, if he remains sited and focused on me, I give him a toy to play with.
Bonus: you can have a tug toy for this game, and have your puppy even more attached to you. After all, he has to play with you.
Repeat basic commands
Milo doesn’t get free dog food. That never happens. He has to work for food. And what I have noticed is that since I have started making him work for food (the past three years), he loves kibble. Before that, he was being picky when it comes to kibble. Now, he loves it.
Every night, I give him dinner while repeating basic commands like sit, lie down, under, give paw, high five, left paw, right paw, and so on. You can choose your own set of commands.
Think of it as a fun game to practice and engage your dog. Once you have him engaged, you can even try a new trick.