Most dogs are social creatures and playful by nature. Playing games with your dog helps the two of you bond while you learn to communicate and work with one another. Teaching your dog fun games also trains him to follow your commands, but makes it an enjoyable, safe training experience for both of you.
Playing fetch with your dog gets him exercising without you having to do the same. Start out by showing your doggy a toy and throwing it about 6 inches away from you. If he doesn't follow that toy, try tossing different toys until he chases after one. Praise him when he chases the toy and again if he brings it back to you. Don't chase him if he doesn't, however, because that just encourages him to take things and run. When your dog returns to you with the toy, tell him to drop it and give him a treat and more praise when he does. Keep repeating this process and your dog should learn the "drop it" cue and you can start throwing the toy farther away from you. Some dogs will need continuous bribing with yummy treats, while others will decide that your throwing the toy again is sufficient reward.
Most dogs have a natural urge to grab onto things with their mouths and start pulling, so tug-of-war is a popular canine game. Tug-of-war gives your dog a little workout while teaching him to listen to your commands, even when he gets excited. Start the play session by picking up one end of a tug toy or rope and tell your dog "Get it!" Once he latches on, just start wiggling the toy all around. Allow each tugging session to last for just 10 to 20 seconds. End the play session by telling him to drop it and give him a treat when he does so. Only use ropes or tug toys long enough to allow for plenty of space between your hands and your doggy's teeth.
Hide-and-seek is a fun interactive game that exercises both your dog's mind and his powerful sense of smell. He'll also learn to come when you call him. Grab some dog treats or your pooch's favorite toy. Make him sit or lie down and tell him to stay. If he doesn't stay well on his own, have another person hold on to his collar. Go into a different room and hide. Call your doggy and wait quietly as he searches for you. When he finds you, reward him with praise, treats or a few minutes of play time. Start out with easy-to-find hiding spots and gradually make it more difficult for him to find you.
The "find it" game gives your doggy an opportunity to use his natural tracking skills while teaching him to stay focused and listen to your commands. Put him in one room, and head to another to hide one of his favorite toys. Start off by hiding the toy in spots where your dog can easily find it, like out in the open or partially hidden behind a chair leg. Go back to your dog and tell him “find it” and encourage him to look for the hidden toy. When your dog finds it, reward him with praise and allow him to play with the found toy for a few minutes.
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