Why Play Games?
Because they are fun, puppies have the capacity to learn much like a 6 month old infant and they love to explore the world at a great rate of knots. Dogs have been bred to be mans best friend and they love a chance to interact with you and have your undivided attention, they will know if you are watching TV and half heartily playing tug with them so have fun with it and dedicate a little time every day to help your puppy learn and discover the world threw play.
First lets talk about some play basics to help keep things fun and engaging without you turning into a chew tow yourselves.
1. Keep toys low, by moving the toy around the floor you are engaging your puppies chase instincts. dogs are predatory animals and love to engage in a game of chase, there is many ways we can use that to our advantage in training and day to day life. by keeping a toy low to the ground you are also ensuring your puppy doesn't begin to jump or snap for the toy. practice moving it fast and slow, mimic a mouse, cat and rabbit.
2. Always have a toy in your hand, teach your puppy to chew a toy and wrap their teeth around a toy and not your hand, if they divert their attention to you you could either finish play and allow them time to simmer down or you could shake them off and re-engage their interest in the toy. By holding the toy with your whole hand keeping your fingers tucked away you will limit the accidents of teeth catching you.
3. Have a puppy toy box that they can access freely, put toys away and change up the ones left on the floor, you can also put treats and chews in the basket to keep it interesting.
4. Spend some time getting your puppy really interested in playing with you and keep your play sessions short, try to finish the game on a high before they become disinterested. If your puppy gets board and wonders off you have been playing for too long or you could have made the game a little hard for your puppy, keep your play easy for them to win.
5. Keep yourself fun and inviting, keep your voice high, use silly voices, wide open arms, mimic a doggy play bow, run away and just enjoy the opportunity to be a bit silly just for fun.
6. Keep the excitement in proportion to your puppy, if your puppy has the potential to bounce off the walls and start running away with shoes after nipping your fingers you might ant to keep the game toned down to elicit more control. you could then play and practice moments of stillness to break up the excitement and keep it from getting to much. if your pup is the opposite you could ramp up your excitement and spend some time getting to know what motivates your puppy to play.
7. Don't growl, when we play with our pups we do love to growl as we get excited but this is actually a sign of 'no' in doggy language and when a dog learns to growl in play this could later on be miss-understood by other dogs and humans. some dogs love to bark and growl when they play without our influence in this, you will find that when your puppy plays with another dog they might amend their verbal language slightly.
8. If a toy is broken you have 2 choices, throw it away or remove the gubins and have it as a stuffing-less style toy. You don't want your puppy getting into the habit of tearing apart their toys and discovering how much fun it is to tear out the stuffing, or you will constantly be hoovering and buying new toys. if we teach our puppies to chose the right toy for the type of play they want to engage in and look after them then everyone will be much happier feeling understood and the fun can continue. If your pup does start to chew on a toy simply say 'noooo..... and swap it for a chew' you are saying don't chew this but do chew this.
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Tug Of War
Teaching - Bite Control, Fetch, Play Rules, Self Control, Give, Hold, End Play, Bonding
The most obvious game we love to play is 'Tug of War' for this you will need a good tug toy, a fluffy teddy bear will just fall apart so pick a good sturdy toy. you could even take puppy to the toy basket and help them rootle about to find a good tug-able rope. Once you have the right toy if you need to spend some time getting puppy interested run the toy around the floor, go slow, nippy, quick and tap it about and once puppy grabs hold gently build up the tugging pressure and let them think they are winning by letting the toy move away and slowly pull them back in. When your ready let go and let them win the toy, if they bring if straight back to you continue to play. if you win throw the toy to encourage chase, if they don't instinctively run after it go with them and race to the toy.
If you want to end play just make the toy really boring and don't move it at all, when they let go you can praise put the toy down and walk away, or you could let puppy win and hold both hands up (to show there is nothing there) and say 'enough' then get up and ignore them for a minute.
Hide and Seek
Teaching - Come to Name, Power In Recall (i.e come when called), Distraction Training, To Use Eyes, Ears and Nose, Bonding with all the family, Excitement in Praise.
This is a really great game to play with your pup to get them used to their own name, to bond with you and begin to use all their senses as they where intended. There are many variations to this game and i will try to cover many of them here.
So to start with lets make it easy so your puppy understands the rules of the game if there is more then 1 of you, 1 of you can hold puppy or hook their collar with your finger just so they stay with you while the other person goes and hides in a fairly obvious place such as under a blanket, behind a chair or curtain. the person holding puppy can release and say find her/him/mummy/daddy etc... use your finger to guide puppy to the right location. You can make this harder by hiding in another room and the person with puppy can help them to look high/low in corners and go round the room before they find the other person.
if there is just one of you wanting to play you can use an opportune moment to run and hide then either wait for puppy to find you or call them... keep your voice nice and friendly and fun while you call them and keep calling until they find you. once they do find you really praise them or play with them, it can be very challenging for your puppy to do this and the more excited they are to find you the better the game.
You can then take this game outside on your walks and play in the same way by hiding behind trees and bushes and get the whole family involved. a point to remember and this also applies across all training and recall especially in that only 1 person calls puppy at 1 time, take it in turns and don't call puppy at the same time as someone else. keep your voice and body language fun and friendly and have fun making a huge fuss of you puppy when they manage to find you.
Teaching - To Use Nose, Eyes and Ears, To Follow your Lead, Learn Your Cues, Lure Training, Excitement in Praise, Bonding, Food Manors.
This much like is played much like hide and seek but with some adaptations, if there is more then one of you, one of you can hold puppy and stop them going for the treat too soon while the other person hides the treat. Firstly you want to hide the treat in plane sight and make it very easy for puppy to win. When you release puppy to find it lead them to the treat using your finger to point to its rough location and let them discover the treat, use your command 'find it' when puppy is looking and praise when they find it. Reset and go again but make it slightly harder for puppy to find and continue to lead them around the room to the location and point in its rough location.
If there is one of you, you may want to use a stare gate or close the door for a second when you come to hiding it in another room but until then you could distract puppy for a brief second and place a treat for them to find when they return to you.
Practice placing the treat high and low and even a trail of more then one, starting in plane sight and moving to out of sight and continue to use your command 'find it' while they look and praise highly for finding it, you may want to use smelly treats to begin with such as liver cake or cheddar cheese. After a lot of practice you can transfer this skill to other items such as keys, the TV remote and your imagination is your limit. Games like this lead on to other skills like bringing things to you or helping you find lost items.
Chase me, Chase you
Teaching - To Stay With You Off Lead, Recall Strength, Play Well With Others, Overall Self Control.
When you watch dogs play you will see the way they engage in a very exciting game of chase me now i chase you, they run back and forth each taking it in turns. Your aim is to mimic this, please do wear appropriate foot wear and could be a great game for the more nimble family members. Start the game by mimicking a play bow if you wish, place a treat on the floor and run away, call puppy in and run with them before placing another treat on the floor and running away again.
Another variation of this is to use a toy and when you throw the toy during a game of tug run in the opposite direction and call them to you, take hold of the toy and move with it and puppy, when they let go throw it again and run away, call them in and keep going. This is a very energetic game and not for the faint hearted, pick your timing when playing this one, you don't want to rial puppy up before a nap and remember to take them out for a wee before and after you play, the act of running can help a puppy to feel the need to go.
Teaching - Take Nicely, Wait, Sit, Touch, Food Manors, Distraction training, Bonding, Self Control.
This is a great game to play while the adverts are on the TV and with the game being so simple there are plenty of variations.
You can begin this game by being sat on the sofa, stood or sat on the floor as long as you have your pups attention, have some treats at hand and place 1 in your closed fist and hold both hands with closed fist out to your puppy and say 'which hand' they will go to sniff one and when they do open that palm flat with treat or no treat there. If they found it great if they didn't open both hands and close again and say 'which hand' they should sniff or paw at the correct hand this time so they can get the treat and your praise. To make it harder you can hold the treat and place both hands behind your back before bringing them out for your pup to sniff.
Once you have done this a couple of times you can place the treat under objects and ask them to find the treat, you could also ask for an extended touch with their nose by slowly with holding the quickness you release the treat. If puppy barks or paws for the treat be sure to not release it then and ask they sit and wait first before playing so they can show a little more control, if you would like your puppy to start learning to give paw and they offer a paw naturally you can capture this and begin teaching how to give paw.
Give, Take, Leave
with your chosen toy and with doggy in front of you practice clearly giving the toy to them, them giving it back and on the odd occasion leaving it alone.
dog toys with a difference
im referring to the non conventional toys such as snuffle mats, search games, bottle spinners, and of Course there’s agility and hoopers
Of course nothing beats good old fashioned training games, this is 1on1 time with you and your dog really challenging their mind and your training abilities. Some things you can teach them are:
Hold & Give
Fetch my slippers
Get your Lead or a specific toy
Ring a bell
Jump into your arms
Jump threw a hoop
Scooter or Skate board
Stand on a ball
Pick a card
Wave Bye Bye
Empty the dryer
The list is endless and i could go on, as soon as your dog can do sit down and respond to their name you can teach them anything using treats, luring and praise, keep it fun and use clear signals and give them your undivided attention, they know if you have one eye on the TV as well...