Puppies have so much energy!

Which means that games are a great way to learn them anything.

But on the other hand…

Some dog breeds are also so smart and high-energy that they will outsmart you in any game if you keep playing the same games.

That’s why we created this list of 50+ playful puppy exercises for some extra inspiration for your next play session.

Use the Table of Content to easily navigate between types of puppy games.

Obedience/Recall Games

Why should I play Recall Games with my dog?

One of the most joyful things is to have your dog running back to you with glee! 

You don’t want it to be the opposite…and find yourself screaming after your dog at the park. It’s only a matter of time until you encounter a person that’s actually called Alfie, and replies to your screams with a loud ‘WHAT?!”  

These recall games will help you get the walks in the parks and thrilling games of fetch you’ve always dreamed of. It all comes down to teaching them to come back!

PRO TIP: If your recall is a little…err patchy, use a long recall line like this one, or start the games off indoors to keep your dog safe while you play.

Okay, okay! We know you’re ready to play, here we go!

Chase Recall

Where:  Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Recall

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

Up the level of your recall, and play chase with your dog. Dogs are naturally excited when they see fast movement, and it’s even better when it involves us – so let’s have them running towards us full of joy!

How to play:

  1. Have your treat pouch stuffed some super yummy treats
  2. Say ‘come’ in a nice happy voice, and take a few step backwards
  3. Repeat 5 times
  4. Start running back further so your puppy has to cover more distance to get to you each time
  5. Repeat this 5 times
  6. As you’re running backwards, turn your back on your dog and keep on running (forwards though…don’t start running backwards towards your dog. You’ll look awks).
  7. Don’t forget to reward when they get to you!
  8. Now, try adding a ‘sit’ at the end of the recall – it’ll help stop your dog playing ‘keep away’ and it looks flashy!

Make the game even more fun: Try adding a ‘wait’ cue so you can get further away before you call your dog.

Problems you might run into: Tripping – no not like the Summer of Love, . make sure the area is clear so you don’t run into people!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Hide and Seek

Play Tennis with Your Puppy

Where:  Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Recall

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

You are gonna have a ball with this one (pun intended). Playing tennis with your dog doesn’t mean they’ll literally whack a tennis ball with a racket – it will be more of them embracing the role of the ball, and them running between you and a friend. The point is to teach them to respond to everyone; strengthening their recall in the end. Plus they get lots of yummy treats, can’t get any more fun than that!

 How to play:

  1. Give treats to each of your friends or family members and spread out in a triangle/square
  2. Have one person call your puppy.
  3. When your puppy gets to them, they’ll need rewarding. 
  4. Then, the next person calls them and rewards them when they get to them.
  5. There you have it – a puppy ping ponging between people for treats!
  6. Slowly spread out so your puppy has to run further for goodies. 

Make the game even more fun: Make the recalls unpredictable so your puppy doesn’t always know who or when they will be called next.

Problems you might run into: If your dog is going too fast towards people, they can make them sit at the end to slow things down.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Try the same game with toys as a reward…see how they like the change.

The Name-Game 

Where: Indoor/Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Recall

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description: 

Teaching your dog their name is probably the most important thing you’ll have to do…so why not have fun with it?When you call your dog’s name you want a quick fast head turn from them – we call it a switch back in dog training. Kind of like you do when an ice cream van starts playing their tune.  

This game is also great for getting some excess energy off dogs and puppies when the weather is terrible. In the UK, we all know this is kind of standard.

How to play:

  1. Load your treat pouch up with yummy treats.
  2. Throw a treat on the floor to take your dog away from you.
  3. Just as they’ve finished their treat, say their name in a clear happy voice.
  4. When they turn to look at you, say ‘good’ and then throw a treat the opposite way.
  5. Keep repeating this by throwing the treat across your body the opposite way.

Make the game even more fun – Start throwing the treat in unpredictable ways – toss it over your shoulder, bowl it down the hallway, chuck it between your legs…the possibilities are endless.

Problems you might run into: If you’re playing outside, distractions may make it difficult to play, so practice this game inside first.

If your dog likes this, you might also like:  Hand Target.

Hide and Seek

Where: Indoor/Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Recall

Suitable for Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

This is a great game to play with children, and is fantastic for working on your dog’s searching skills (good practice for when you want them to find your keys for you). Your dog will love to search for you (and your keys someday); especially when they know they’ll get a great reward. Start off indoors and nice and easy before moving outside so your dog has a good hang of the game. 

How to play:

  1. Load everyone up with some yummy treats – you’ll probably want to call some friends for this game.
  2. Hold your puppy in the room while someone disappears just outside.
  3. Have them call your puppy and reward them when they find them – clever dog!
  4. Now, get them to hide in the next room and call them.
  5. Hide further and further away all around the house.
  6. Now, outside try hiding behind trees or bushes. Did they find you? Yay!

Make the game even more fun: Switch out the treats for a toy and see if your puppy still wants to play when they get to the other person.

Problems you might run into: Don’t make it too difficult too early on as your dog might lose interest if they can’t find the person. Remember when they forgot about you when you played hide and seek in primary school? Wouldn’t want to relive that. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like:Try find the toy game

Hand Target

Where: Indoor/Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Recall

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Teaching your dog to hand target is great for building a very visual recall – it’s also useful for teaching them tricks, which we know you’re very excited about getting into.  Dogs enjoy this game because it doesn’t have to mean ‘I recall and the lead goes on’ it can just mean come and touch my hand for a treat. 

How to play:

  1. You’ll just need a treat pouch loaded up with yummy treats
  2. Hold your hand out to the side of your dog’s muzzle.
  3. They will likely go to sniff your hand – good, this is what you want. 
  4. Say your marker word ‘good’, and give them a treat.
  5. Hold your hand out again – the first time can be a fluke, so be patient and try to hold it there.
  6. When they touch it mark it ‘good’ and give them a treat.
  7. Now, bring your hand down a little bit further away and wait for them to touch it.
  8. Did they do it? Great! Mark it ‘good’, and then give them a treat.
  9. Gradually take your hand a little further away on each repetition.
  10. Your puppy should start really shoving that hand once they understand the game. Excellent.

Make the game even more fun: Try getting them to target your hand through your legs. The wonkier you look, the better.

Problems you might run into: Don’t make it too hard – your dog can lose interest if we make games too hard too soon. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Trick training

Best Dog in the World Recall

Where: Indoor/Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Recall

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

Each one of us has the best dog in the world, right? Well, this game lets our dogs know that. For the millionth time – since you probably tell them every day already.

How to play:

  1. Take your dog’s favourite toy in your pocket.
  2. Call your dog.
  3. When they come to you, get down on the floor telling them they are the best dog in the world, kissing, cuddling, stroking them (if they’re into that) and playing with their toy for a full three minutes.

Make the game even more fun: Play for longer, of course! Your dog will LOVE all of the attention they are getting from you. Who wouldn’t?

Problems you might run into: Every dog in the neighbourhood might come running to you when they hear what a brilliant owner you are. Expect dirty looks from jealous owners around the area.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: More recall games with them

Obedience/Lead walking Games

Why should I play lead walking games with my puppy or dog?

Too often, we try to teach lead walking out in the real world straight from the off. With so many distractions fluttering all over the place, we forget that we actually set our dogs up to fail because they’ve simply got too many things going on. But playing lead walking games will keep them on their toes, while staying rather educational about how to walk nicely beside you. It’s also quite fun! 

Join The Dots

Where: Outdoor

Purpose: Obedience/Lead walking

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

We can’t stress enough how important it is to train our dogs to walk nicely on the lead. This game works great when you have a visual marker to walk towards. For this game, it also means that you’ll remember to reward your dog extra times.

How to play:

  1. Set out visual markers. These can be cones, football markers, cardboard boxes or even jumpers in a straight line. Have them about 2 paces apart.
  2. Walk to the first cone, and reward your dog with a ‘good’. Then stop to treat them at the cone.  
  3. Now, onto the next one and say ‘good’ as you’re walking. Then, stop and treat at the cone.
  4. Now, go back down the line the other way, stopping to reward at every cone. Do you see the point of the exercise?
  5. Has your dog done well? Start to spread the markers out a little so that you have further between the markers – it will make your dog learn to walk a larger distance for one treat.

Make the game more fun: Turn the cones from a line into a square or a Zigzag (wink, wink) so that you’re changing your direction in unpredictable ways. Funny how spontaneity entertains us.

Problems you might run into Spread the cones out slowly so we can raise the difficulty slowly

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Playing the Drunk Walking Game

My Little Shadow

Where: Indoors/Outdoors – garden at first

Purpose: Obedience/Lead walking Obedience/Recall

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This game will make your dog obsessed about being with you (we all secretly want this). Essentially, we’ll get your dog to look at you all the time as if you were their knight in shining armour. Or a bag of chicken liver treats. But the reason why you’ll want this in particular is to finally achieve a nice lead walking pace, and for a good recall. 

How to play:

  1. Load your treat pouch up with yummy treats.
  2. Start with your dog on lead and just walk forwards.
  3. If your dog stays with you, give them some verbal praise and reward them.
  4. If they get ahead of you, turn 180 degrees away from them and pop the treat on the floor.
  5. As they’re eating the treat, keep walking forwards and then reward them when they catch up to you. 

Make the game even more fun: Go forwards, backwards and sideways to make the game even more fun. Try it over obstacles and around trees; your dog should be just like your little shadow!

Problems you might run into: Distractions in the environment are quite annoying and can make playing the game quite hard. Start off at home where they can focus easily first!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Why not try a Rally Obedience class and put that heelwork to good use?

Figure of 8

Where: Outdoor – garden at first

Purpose: Obedience/Lead walking

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Figure of 8 leadwalking is a brilliant game. It’s actually quite a calming game, so perfect for dogs who get hyped up on a walk. It can lower arousal while increasing focus and engagement on you as your dog gets ‘into the zone’ of walking around slowly and being with you.

How to play:

  1. You’ll need a couple of cones and a treat pouch with some yummy treats
  2. Pop the cones out 2 metres apart
  3. Walk very slowly with your dog to the next cone – reward as you’re walking.
  4. Walk around the back of the cone with your dog, and then walk slowly to the next one.
  5. Walk around the back and go the opposite way. Can you see you’re walking in an 8 figure around the cones?

Make the game even more fun: Once your dog has got the hang of this at home, you can up the level by moving it outside where all the distractions live. 

Problems you might run into: Remember that your puppy thinks of fast things as exciting, so go really slowly with the walking to help them enter the ‘zen zone’.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try a Rally Obedience class

Drunk Walking Game

Where: Outdoor – garden at first

Purpose: Obedience/Lead walking

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Drunk walking? Yes, you head right. But we don’t mean that you’ll be walking your dog after a few pints. This game will just teach your puppy to focus on you wherever you are, and however unpredictable you are being.

How to play:

  1. Load your treat pouch up with yummy treats, and have your dog on a harness and lead.
  2. Walk no more than 4 steps in one direction.
  3. Your dog will follow, so you can mark it with ‘good’ and then reward them.
  4. Now do 4 steps in the opposite direction.
  5. Say ‘good’, and reward your dog for following.
  6. Now do 4 steps in the other way at a slightly quicker pace. Ooh, getting exciting.
  7. Is your dog following? Good dog!
  8. Keep going 3 or 4 steps before rewarding. Then switch to 2 steps one way, and 3 steps another before you reward your dog. We do wonder if this is what you walk like on the way home from the pub…
  9. Ultimately, we’re looking for the lead to remain slack while your dog keeps following and stays engaged with you no matter how weird you’re walking.

Make the game even more fun Once your dog has mastered the loose lead part, wait until they’ve given you eye contact before you mark and reward.

Problems you might run into: Do this in a low distraction environment first such as your garden or a quiet corner of the park so that your dog can focus on you, rather than Daisy, the neighbourhood Poodle.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try it drunk? Just kidding, any of the other lead walking games will make your dog happy.

Brain Training Games

Why should I play Brain Training Games with my dog?  

Well, simply because they’re their favourite. They love them actually. Obsessed. 

Nowadays, dogs live in places where they were never designed to live, and living lives they weren’t really genetically programmed to enjoy. They live with us, on sofas, inside houses and cities – a far cry from being out hunting, shepherding, ratting or protecting. Therefore, we need to stretch and scratch their brains by giving them other activities to do to compensate for this strange life they’ve got to come to terms with.

Digging Pit

Where: Outside

Purpose: Brain Training/Enrichment Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

Dogs love to dig. They love getting their paws in the mud and scratching the earth away. By giving them a special place to do so, you can save your flower beds!

How to play:

  1. You’ll need a child’s sandpit or make your own digging pit as shown here
  2. Bury some toys or treats just under the first layer of soil, and help your dog to discover them the first time.
  3. By the second time round, they’ll probably get it perfectly and won’t need much help. They’ll absolutely love this game!

Make the game even more fun Hide the treats and toys when your dog isn’t there and then run over to the digging pit and let them dig them up

Problems you might run into Your dog might get quite dirty – but that’s nothing doggy shampoo can’t fix. If you’re worried about the mess or don’t have access to a garden, try our foraging pit or swap out the soil for balls to make a ball pit out of it! Have fun trying to pull your kids from them too.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To take them to a beach! It’s the ultimate digging pit to play this game, really.  

Foraging Box

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Brain Training/Enrichment Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Building a foraging box will bring them back to the old days; back to the historical way of eating by foraging for food. It makes meal times last longer, will make them less bloated, and is a great way of getting them to problem solve.

How to play:

  1. You will need a large box, some of your dog’s kibble and some scrunched up newspaper or packing materials. 
  2. Scrunch the paper into balls and pop it into the box
  3. Sprinkle your dog’s kibble in, and then let them dive in – they likely won’t need much help with this…their instincts will kick in for sure.

Make the game even more fun: Size matters – make the box bigger! And add high value treats; they won’t be able to look away.

Problems you might run into: Don’t let your dog eat the packaging, so keep an eye on that

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Try our scatter feeding game…it’ll be a good one.

The Muffin Tin Game

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Brain Training/Enrichment Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

The muffin tin game is a cheap and easy enrichment game to play with your dog. It’s loved by dogs of all ages, and works great to improve their problem solving skills; sadly, not their muffin baking skills. 

How to play:

  1. Grab a 6 hole muffin tin, 6 tennis balls and some yummy treats.
  2. Place a treat or two in each muffin hole, and then add a tennis ball on top.
  3. Hand it over to your dog, and watch them pull the tennis balls out to eat the treats underneath!
  4. To increase the difficulty, turn it into a bit of Russian Roulette…only put treats in two or three holes but still cover them all with the tennis balls. 

Make the game even more fun: Try different objects instead of tennis balls – you can use empty yogurt pots or some of your dog’s small toys.

Problems you might run into: If you have a ball obsessed dog they might just want the ball, which is completely fine, balls are fun (not in a naughty way). Next time, have fun and switch up the objects. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To play some scent work games

Which Hand?

Where: Indoor/Outdoor

Purpose: Brain Training Enrichment

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Abracadabra. In this game, you get to pretend you’re a magician and have your dog find the (disappearing) treat!

How to play:

  1. Sit on the floor with your dog in front of you.
  2. Let your dog see you place a treat in one of your hands and close your fist.
  3. Hold both fists out – one with the treat in and one that’s empty – just like a magician.
  4. Give them a cue like ‘which hand?’, and your dog may nose or paw at one of your hands.
  5. Open the hand they choose, and if it’s the one with a treat inside, hand it over with lots of verbal praise. Smart doggy!
  6. If they get it wrong, show them the empty hand (they might have sad puppy eyes, sorry) and ask them to pick again. They’ll get it next time for sure. 

Make the game even more fun: As time goes on, they’ll work more on sniffing out the treat rather than seeing you place it in your hand. They’ll love getting it right each time!

Problems you might run into Puppies might be a little bitey for this one…watch out for their little razors!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: The Cups Game!

The Cups Game

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Brain Training/Enrichment Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description::

Your dog will use their brain (rather than their nose) to find treats. It’s a great indoor game – also good for recycling!

How to play:

  1. Start off with three cups that look different to each other – empty yogurt pots are great for this.
  2. Line the three pots up in a row
  3. Let your dog see you pop a treat under one of them.
  4. Then give them a release cue, and let them choose a cup.
  5. If they choose the right one, tell them they’ve done a ‘good job’ and let them gobble down the treat.
  6. If they get it wrong, show them the empty cup and then the cup with the treat under. Ask them to try again – hope they get it right!

Make the game even more fun: Once your dog’s got the idea, start moving the cups around so that they have to follow the cup to find the treat. Try it with three cups the same to challenge them further

Problems you might run into: Your dog might get a bit carried away with this game, so you might need to teach them a wait cue if they struggle with the waiting. We’re sure they’re not a sore loser, but we understand how games can bring out the worst in us competitive types.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: The ‘Which Han?d’ game, or more of the scentwork games.

Bottles

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Training /Feeding

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Puzzle feeders are a great way to keep your puppy entertained. It just so happens that the empty plastic pop bottles you have in your house make great DIY puzzle feeders. 

How to play:

  1. Grab an empty plastic pop bottle (take the lid off so your dog doesn’t eat the lid)  and make some holes in the bottle, big enough to let treats fall out.
  2. Pop some treats and some of your puppy’s kibble inside. A good mix of all kinds of yums.
  3. Hand to your puppy and watch them go crazy. 

Make the game even more fun: To make the game more challenging, reduce the number of holes you make when you use a new bottle.

Problems you might run into: It’s definitely one of the noisier games. Pop bottles are surprisingly loud for being so…inanimate. Don’t let your puppy eat the plastic too!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Try making this pop bottle enrichment toy!

Hol-ee Ball Food Toy

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

For dogs who love to shred or tear toys apart, this game can provide them with a safe outlet to this very normal doggy behaviour without ripping your wallet apart! We know it can be costly to support your dog’s toy dissecting hobbies. 

How to play:

  1. Grab yourself a Hol-ee roller ball – they come in different sizes so pick the one suitable for your dog’s bite.
  2. Cut some old blankets or fleece jumpers into strips.
  3. Roll some treats inside the strip, and feed them through the holes in the ball. Hand it over to your puppy, and watch them go bonkers. 

Make the game even more fun: Stick some extra treats inside. Dehydrated meat strips are absolutely delicious for them!

Problems you might run into: If you have a dog who is likely to rip the toy to shreds rather than go for the treats, simply use the fleece strips without food in. Some just like the taste of fabric better, I guess.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: A foraging box

Build a Puppy Adventure Box

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year)

Game description:

Your puppy will definitely appreciate you building them an adventure box.  Adventure boxes bring early stimulation for puppies and teach them to be confident around odd-looking objects. They’re a huge success among puppies because they find objects moving in unpredictable ways fascinating. Here’s a great link to show you how to build a good one. Your neighbours won’t be able to compete with you. 

How to play:

  1. You will need something to make a rectangular box frame – plastic piping or wood works well for this. Drill holes 2 inches apart on the frames at top and bottom and thread plastic string between the holes.
  2. Once you have made the frame and hung the string up, you’ll want to hang things off it. They’re kind of like baby gyms – the things babies who can’t walk yet like to play with when lying down. 

This can be anything you like such as

·   Lengths of cut up hose pipe

·   Toilet roll inners (not actual toilet roll…you’ll never see the end of the mess)

·   Plastic cups or empty tins

  1. Good! Now give it to your puppy to investigate and explore.

Make the game even more fun: Noisy items can make your puppy have a startle response, which although sounding scary to begin with can actually make them grow with confidence. Hanging small bells on the box is a good idea to help them build up to that terrible tinny sound!

Problems you might run into Puppies like to get into EVERYTHING so make sure the objects are safe and don’t have sharp edges. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To build a  Foraging Box or a Puppy Exploration Course.

Puppy Exploration Course

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year)

Game description:

Exploration courses are great to help your puppy build confidence. Gather  various safe objects and surfaces; from bath mats, AstroTurf, to planks, a step, a large ball (beach ball or small Pilates balls work well for this), a metal bowl or a metal saucepan.  You can already tell this one’s gonna be a noisy game, can’t you? . 

How to play:

  1. Lay out the items on the floor
  2. Place some treats inside the saucepan, and lightly half put the lid on so your puppy can investigate it.
  3. Use things that will fall over easily, like empty water bottles or plant pots. Doing this adds movement and novelty so changes the experience for your puppy – surprise! Don’t worry it won’t traumatize them! 
  4. Hide treats and toys underneath or on top of objects throughout the course so that your puppy has fun discovering them.
  5. As long as your puppy is having fun, we’re sure you’ll find yourself quite entertained as you watch them too.

Make the game even more fun: Use something slippery once they start getting the hang of it. A tray shallow filled with water next time you play is a good one – but maybe do that outside as this WILL turn into a circus. 

Problems you might run into: Don’t force your puppy to have fun…if they fall off something or it makes a loud noise, see if they recover from it well and toss some extra treats their way.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Some scent games

What’s Under My Feet?’  game

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year)

Game description:

This game is also good to give your puppy confidence. By walking on different surfaces, your puppy will start to enjoy exploring and feeling the items under their feet…as funky as they might feel. 

How to play:

  1. Gather some surfaces such as

·   A tray with a small layer of water in

·   A piece of AstroTurf

·   A carpet tile

·   A large piece of tin foil or something crinkly like packing paper

  1. Pop the surfaces out safely on the floor.
  2. Allow your puppy to investigate the surfaces. Giving them random treats will teach them that the surfaces aren’t scary, they just feel different!
  3. Let them walk, sniff or pick them up if they like. It’s all part of the investigative process. 
  4. Do this for around 15 minutes so your puppy can go back and forth as they like.

Make the game even more fun: Pop in some temperature changes to keep it spicy. Think about a hot water bottle or an ice pack under a blanket to get them ready for the change of weather in the winter and summer! 

Problems you might run into: Let them go at their own speed! This is the key to helping them feel confident to stick their feet anywhere. Almost anywhere. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Making a uppy Exploration Course.

Meet the Vacuum Cleaner game

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year)

Game description:

Ooh, the vacuum cleaner can be quite a daunting character for puppies. Their big noses and loud sounds can seem quite scary at first, but all they do is suck air inside. We know it can look quite entertaining when puppies chase them away, but what we really want to do is make your puppy feel like there’s no need to chase it, simply because it’s not dangerous. 

How to play:

  1. Bring the vacuum cleaner in when your puppy is out of the room – keep it unplugged for now.
  2. Bring your puppy back into the room. If your puppy investigates the vacuum let them. If they just ignore it, that’s quite fine too. 
  3. Once they have finished inspecting it, get their attention and give them a treat by dropping it on the floor. 
  4. Do this all around the room so that your puppy gets used to paying attention to you when the dreaded vacuum cleaner is around. 
  5. After 10 repetitions, push the vacuum cleaner out of the room and put it away so that your puppy can see that it moves. Well, you’re moving it, but just so they know it can be present in other places. 

Make the game even more fun: Try this for a few days first, and then try the same exercise leaving the vacuum running in the corner. Don’t forget to treat your puppy while it’s running too!

Problems you might run into: If your puppy starts to chew it or try to play with it, use a treat to get their focus back onto you. You may already know by now that food makes a uppy’s world go round.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To read more about Puppy Socialisation here.

The Box Game

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year)

Game description:

This game encourages your puppy to explore a box, but also learn that their actions can have good consequences. It’s a great game to have them work out what gets them rewards, which helps them feel more confident and self-assured.

How to play:

  1. Have your treat pouch loaded up with treats, and a low sided box. 

PRO TIP: You’ll need to either use a clicker or a word marker such as ‘good’ when playing this game so we can mark and treat the exact moment our puppy does what we want them to.  

  1. Place the box between you and your puppy.
  2. As your puppy walks towards the box, click (or marker word ‘good’) and reward with a treat.
  3. If they touch the box with their nose or paw – it’s worthy of a click and treat.
  4. If they stand in the box, fantastic! A click and treat is in order. 

Make the game even more fun: Turn the box on its side the next time to give them variety. 

Problems you might run into: Don’t try and train anything just yet, that will come later. Just remember to reward your puppy for interacting with the unfamiliar, boxy object in front of them.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To build A Puppy Exploration Course, or try trick training with a clicker. 

101 Things to Do with a Box

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Brain Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

101 things…really? Yep. Bet we could name more. But this game encourages your dog to do new things and use their brain! It’s a great one to teach dogs who need a bit more of a confidence boost to go and try doing different things.

How to play:

  1. Load up your treat pouch with yummy treats and have a clicker or your marker word (‘good’) ready. You’ll also need to take a box and cut the sides down to about 8 cm tall.
  2. First, pop the box on the floor. As soon as your dog so much as looks at the box click (or mark it with ‘good’) and treat throwing it near or inside the box.
  3. If your dog walks towards the box to collect the treat, give them another click and throw the treat towards the box again. 

PRO TIP: This way, your dog is learning that any movement towards the box means that they’ll keep getting rewarded. Ah, sounds like the best box in the world! 

  1. Keep on doing this – maybe your dog has got inside the box now to collect their treats. Wow, the mission is pretty much accomplished! 
  2. Do this for about 5 minutes, and then end the session with a click and a jackpot of treats on the floor for your dog to devour while taking the box away.

Make the game even more fun: In the next few sessions, you can start to shape behaviours by only clicking and treating behaviours that you want to see. For example, only treating them when they get inside the box if that’s your goal. 

Problems you might run into: If your dog is worried about the box at first, that’s ok. Just keep the session short and sweet. They’ll learn that the box is not a trap eventually! After two or three sessions, they’ll start to feel more confident about the whole thing. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try teaching some tricks with a clicker. 

Feeding Games

Like us, mealtimes are often the highlight of a puppy’s day. Some dogs are so excited about gobbling down their food that they start swimming in their own bowls of kibble! 

Puzzle toys can make mealtimes even more interesting, while helping to slow down those hectic moments, and reduce the chance of bloating. Studies show that some dogs actually prefer eating out of puzzle toys rather than just straight from a bowl. We say no to farts today. Besides for mealtimes more of a blast, puzzle feeders also help exercise your dog’s brain! 

Here are a couple of good games to get your puppy extra happy for their food times.

Scatter Feeding

Where: Indoors/Outdoors

Purpose: Feeding Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Scatter feeding slows down meal times, and gets your dog using their nose – their most powerful sense. It also helps stimulate them mentally by encouraging them to hunt to find the food, rather than handing it to them on a silver platter. Or rather a steel dog bowl.

How to play:

  • Grab your dog’s kibble
  • If playing indoors, use a knobbly bath mat or make your own enrichment mat like this one here
  • If playing outdoors, a patch of grass is ace. 
  • Scatter the food out into the mat or into the grass, and let your dog find their meal by sniffing about.

Make the game even more fun: Scatter the food when your dog isn’t with you…nobody likes a cheater!

Problems you might run into: Make sure the area is safe for your dog to snuffle in. Wouldn’t want any nasty things stuck up their nose. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Why not try making A Foraging Box.

Toilet Roll Finds

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Feeding Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This game is great to encourage problem solving. By scratching out whatever is stuck between the rolls, your puppy will have the chance to destroy things, as many dogs naturally love to do. We’d rather they rip these apart, rather than your nice pair of Hunter boots. This is also a great way to find another use for toilet roll thingies. 

How to play:

  1. Get a toilet roll core and scrunch up one end completely so that it’s sealed.
  2. Pour some kibble or treats in the other end, and then scrunch that up closed so that it looks like a box.
  3. Hand it over to your puppy, and watch them tear, pull them apart, and throw them up in the air to get the food out. It;s quite fun to watch, to be fair.

PRO TIP: You can also use kitchen towel inner rolls if you want a longer tube. Maybe size matters here too.

Make the game even more fun: Seal up both ends and poke some holes in the tube so it turns into more of a treat rolling game.

Problems you might run into: Make sure to keep an eye on your puppy, we don’t want them eating cardboard.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: A game of Cardboard Box Treasure Hunt.

Cardboard Box Treasure Hunt

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Feeding Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Dogs love sniffing out their food, so this game will be perfect to get their brains and senses activated as much as possible. It can also give your puppy confidence around boxes (boxes seem to be quite a scary thing for puppies) by teaching them how to navigate around them.

How to play:

  1. Have a number of cardboard boxes of different sizes: shoe boxes, cereal boxes and larger mail order boxes are good examples. 
  2. Place the boxes on their side, upside down, as well as inside one another.
  3. With your dog out of the room, place treats or pieces of kibble inside the boxes and watch them explore away.

Make the game even more fun: The more the merrier – increase the number of boxes to get your dog searching a wider area.

Problems you might run into: Make sure it’s safe, and that they don’t spook themselves if they end up climbing on a box that falls over!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Scent work games – those that get their noses going.

Ice Cube Tray Enrichment

Where: Outdoor

Purpose: Feeding

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

On hot days, there is little that can beat licking through an ice cube to get treats out. You lick ice cream, they lick ice cubes.  

How to play:

  1. Get a silicone ice cube mould – the larger ice cube sized moulds work especially well for this.
  2. Grab some yummy things to put inside the mould. These might be pieces of:

·   Meat

·   Vegetable

·   Dried fish skin

·   Tuna

  1. Pop the food inside the mould, and then top with water and freeze.
  2. Freeze them up, and give to your dog on a hot day! What a treat. 

PRO TIP: This exercise is much better to do outside…we’re pretty sure a puddle of tuna water isn’t on your list of nice surprises to have indoors.

Make the game even more fun: Instead of using water to freeze, you could try freezing some bone broth. You’ll find 4 recipes here

Problems you might run into: Not much, just make sure to play this game outside. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Some of our other food enrichment games.

Where’s my dinner?

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Feeding

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Do you always feed your dog in the same place? Let’s keep it exciting. Move their dinner bowl somewhere and encourage them to seek out and find it. To them, it will feel like changing restaurants for the night.

How to play:

  1. Pop your dog’s food in their bowl.
  2. Instead of putting it in the usual spot pop it in the next room.
  3. Ask your dog to ‘find your dinner’.

We guarantee it won’t take long…nothing gets in the way of dogs and their dinner. They’ll have fun while they’re at it too!

Make the game even more fun: Hide it further away each time so they have to use more of their search skills to find their meals.

Problems you might run into: If you have an anxious dog who worries about their food, maybe try another game. It wouldn’t be nice to have your dinner hidden from you against your liking. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Scentwork or tracking with your dog.

Health and Fitness Games

Why should I play Health and Fitness games with my dog? 

Dogs need to stay fit, just like us – although it’s no secret that we struggle far more than they do. For dogs to be healthy, we need to make sure we give them the right kinds of exercise – both mental and physical. 

Here’s some games that will help your dog stay fit, as well as some bonus training to look at. Don’t be afraid to play some of these yourself – we all know you need a bit of a push to get off your sofa sometimes. 

Home Agility Jumps

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Health and Fitness Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Dogs love to jump and do things cooperatively with their owner. They love you too! You can see this quite clearly in agility dogs. But you don’t have to go to a club to get some of this fitness into them –  you can do some basic training at home and build your own obstacle course. You could go the whole hog and build your own as shown here , or simply use things you have lying around the house like piles of books and a broomstick.    

How to play:

  1. Set up a couple of books into two piles and pop broom handles between them to make a jump.
  2. Throw a toy or a treat over the jump and see if your puppy will go over. If they do, woah that’s definitely worth a good reward.

Make the game even more fun: If you have enough materials and space, do a few jumps in a row. Squeeze some training in there and teach your dog to wait until you call them at the other side of the jump.

Problems you might run into: Puppies should jump at low levels at the moment as they’re still growing and don’t want to mess up their joints. Make sure everything is safe and that nothing falls on your dog!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To build your own home agility course. You can also teach your dog to do a solid wait in the ZigZag puppy training app.

Quick Sits

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Health and Fitness Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This is a great game to get some energy off a buzzing puppy. It helps them respond quickly to cues, and is very easy to get the hang of!

How to play:

  1. Load up your treat pouch with treats
  2. Ask your puppy to sit.
  3. Did they sit? Good job. Mark it with ‘good’, and then toss the treat away from you so they have to run to get it.
  4. As soon as they turn to look at you for the next treat, ask them to sit.
  5. When they do, mark it as ‘good’ and then throw the treat further away.
  6. Keep repeating the quick sits game, throwing the treat further away each time

Make the game even more fun: Does your dog know ‘down’ yet? Do quick downs instead or alternate between sit and down to keep it exciting.

Problems you might run into: Nothing much, except that your dog might become even more obsessed with you!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try some obedience games.

Dog/Puppy Parkour Two Feet On

Where: Indoors/Outdoors

Purpose: Health and Fitness Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Dog Parkour is a fab activity. In this game, the goal is to teach them to put their two front feet of an object. It teaches them valuable body awareness skills, and does wonders for their general conditioning and fitness. It’s also great fun for them, and easy to do at home. Since you and the environment will be interacting with them quite a lot, it makes walkies twice as much fun too.

How to play:

  1. Load your treat pouch with treats and have a small step or sturdy wooden/plastic crate set up on non-slip flooring – yoga mats are ideal. 
  2. Pop some food on your dog’s nose and lure them so their front paws are up on the object.
  3. Say your marker word ‘good’ and keep rewarding them for being up on the object.
  4. Say your release cue ‘go’ or ‘free’ and throw a treat away from the object so your dog gets down to collect it.
  5. Repeat this x 5
  6. Now, lure your dog up onto the object but don’t reward just yet.
  7. Take your hand away and say your marker word ‘good’, and then reward them. Repeat this about 5 times.
  8. Now try the same movement without food in your hand to get your dog to put their paws up – did your dog do it? Amazing! Still mark it ‘good’ and then reward.
  9. After you release them off the object, say the verbal cue ‘paws up’, ‘2 on’ or whichever you prefer about two seconds before you give the hand signal.
  10. They did it? Wonderful! You’ve taught them a great trick!

Make the game even more fun: Once they’ve mastered this indoors, you can take it outside. Use interesting objects you find such as logs and fallen trees…like the real Parkour professionals.

Problems you might run into As always, safety first! Slippery objects early on can make a dog lose their confidence and may not want to play anymore. Let’s stick to non-slippery surfaces – grass will often work well as a sturdy flooring to work on.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: The ‘spread ‘em’ trick (we know…questionable name) or teach them to ‘Paws up’ on your arm.

Spin and Twist

Where: Indoors/Outdoors

Purpose: Health and Fitness Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Spin and twist is a great trick – makes you feel like a magician! It’s also a great exercise for their mobility as it keeps them agile and nimble. Plus, with the amount of treats they’ll be eating, they’ll love being a winner every time! 

How to play:

  1. Load up your treat pouch with soft yummy treats.
  2. Have your dog in a standing position (on all fours…not standing like a human).
  3. Pop a treat on their nose and lure their nose round towards their tail.
  4. They should follow the treat and spin around. When they do, say ‘good’ and give them the treat.
  5. Keep drawing your dog around with food until they are confidently following your hand.
  6. Now, try it without food in your hand. When they spin, still mark it ‘good’ and reward with a treat.
  7. After you’ve repeated this several times, make the hand gesture a bit smaller and more of a hand signal. Like you’re waving a magician’s wand.

Make the game even more fun: Try teaching them to spin the other way too! Some dogs prefer to spin to the left while others to the right – but let’s try to get them doing both. It’s a good challenge!

Problems you might run into: Keep your hand movement looking horizontal; if you spiral up, your dog will sit at the end – don’t want that.

If your dog likes this, you might also like:. Trick Training! Turn your dog into the star they were born to be.

Chasing Bubbles

Where: Outdoors

Purpose: Health and Fitness Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Most dogs love to catch bubbles… especially when they’re made with gravy! Yes, gravy.  

How to play:

  1. Make some dog safe bubble solution like they show here.
  2. Blow one or two bubbles at a time, and encourage your dog to chase them.

Make the game even more fun: Grab a kids’ giant bubble set to trap them in a huge gravy bubble. It’ll be like a dream come true! Or you can attack them with endless gravy bubbles with an electric dog bubble maker here too. 

Problems you might run into: Make sure you wipe your dog’s face when you finish playing the game so that the bubble mixture doesn’t irritate them. Also, please use the dog safe bubble solution – not regular bubble recipes. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To play Chase Recall.

Vet/Health Games

Why should you play Vet Games with your dog? 

We all want our dogs to stay healthy and well until the end of time. Besides your love and care, you’ll also need some help from the Vet to make sure your pup stays strong and happy. We know how scary going to the Vets’ can be for your puppy…those needles never really end up being terribly well-liked. 

But in all honesty though, Vets really can be superheroes, and are nothing to be frightened about. Playing Vet Games can truly help puppies overcome their skepticism; making getting handled and health check ups much easier and enjoyable for everyone. 

Happy days.

The Vet Game

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Health and Vet Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Dogs and puppies get seen by the vet on a raised table, have you seen them before? This is a fun game to teach your dog that being handled and staying on a high surface is nice, and that it doesn’t come even close to being Frankenstein’s table.  

How to play:

  1. Have a suitable table with a non-slip surface covering on it – a yoga mat, a piece of rubber or a vet bed like this works well.
  2. Pop your dog up on the table and feed them treats for just being up there – what a brave dog!
  3. Now, pick up a paw and give them a treat
  4. Next, their ears and give them a treat. Then their eyes, and so on. 
  5. Check every part of your dog’s body, just like the vet would. 

Make the game even more fun: A child’s stethoscope can be a fun addition so your dog gets used to someone listening to their heart.

Problems you might run into: Some dogs might take more time to adjust to the high table – that’s okay! Just reward them extra so they have a better time at making peace with it.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: A Doggy Massage – who wouldn’t?

Doggy Massage

Where: Indoors/Outdoors

Purpose: Health and Fitness Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Who doesn’t love a nice rub? Most dogs are no different and will be delighted in getting some good rubs or a massage. Massages – whether for dogs or humans – can lower stress and anxiety, are great for increasing circulation, and generally strengthen the bond between the two of you. 

How to play:

  1. Have a comfortable mat or blanket on the floor for your dog to lie on – take their harness and collar off so you’re able to get in there properly.
  2. Pick a quiet time of day when your dog feels relaxed. Doing this after a walk is often a good idea as your dog will generally be calmer.
  3. Stroke the area you want to massage first.
  4. Go for long, slow strokes – this will help to relax them, fast strokes tend to make them jump in excitement. 

PRO TIP: For dog massage, you want to move your hands slowly around their body with flat hands, making sweeping motions. Taking care not to press on bones or joints!

  1. Pay attention to their body language. If there is a sensitive area they’re not big fans of you touching, better stay away from those. 

PRO TIP : Dogs quite enjoy getting massages on the base of the skull and tail, and the little wells in their chest. Circular motions are a winner too. 

By the way, no means no in doggy language too. If they get up and walk off, let them. They’re just choosing not to have a massage at the moment, but might feel like it later. 

Make the game even more fun: – Why not try a lavender candle or some calming music? Looks like you’ll have to open a spa if your dog spreads the word about you. 

Problems you might run into. Not all dogs enjoy massages. Some are very sensitive to touch or can be a little hand shy, so just go slowly at first. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Yes, professional dog massages are a thing. Give them a special treat and book them in for a massage with a member of The k9 Massage Guild!

Pretend Ear and Eye Drops

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Health and Vet Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

It’s quite common for dogs to have to deal with something related to their ears or eyes at some point – especially those who like going swimming in murky water. Teaching your puppy to feel at ease with drops is hence very important; you never really know when you might need to pull out the bottle, so it’s best to get some good practice runs in to avoid them escaping in fright. 

How to play:

  1. Load your treat pouch up with soft yummy treats and sit on the floor
  2. Have the bottle behind your back at first, and bring it out to show it to your dog. 
  3. Give them a treat, and repeat this about 10 times. 
  4. Now, bring it a little closer to your dog, and treat him again. 
  5. In fact, treat your dog every time you bring the bottle out in view. 
  6. Now you’re going to repeat the following exercises about ten times each. The goal is to have them get used to the bottle touching all parts of their body. Lightly make the bottle touch:
  • Your dog’s side
  • The area near their head
  • Try lifting an ear and check it (without the bottle first, and then with it). 

Remember to treat them each time! 

Make the game even more fun: You can do the mighty peanut butter trick. Spread some peanut butter on the floor and have them lick it once they’re no longer scared of the bottle, and continue to touch them with the bottle.

Problems you might run into: This game should be taken slowly and played in sessions over several days so your dog starts feeling happy when they see the bottle rather than wanting to run away. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try the same game with eye drops.

Bath Time!

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Health and Vet Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Dogs like their stinky selves so much that it can make (the much needed) bath time feel like mission impossible. Here’s how to get them loving the bubbles and foamy rubs so much that they want to stay in the bath…and not spring away leaving your house looking like it’s been taken over by a bath bomb. Literally. 

How to play:

There are two parts to this game. But for both, you’ll need your mighty treat pouch loaded with soft yummy treats and a non-slip mat in the bottom of the bath – you don’t want a puppy worried that they might slip.

Part 1

  1. Pop your puppy in the bath and just give them treats for being in there. Switch between feeding them in their mouth or popping treats on the floor to keep it engaging. 
  2. Now have the shower head in the bottom of the bath and switch it on so that it’s firing water away from your puppy.
  3. Keep giving them treats from your hand and on the bath floor. 
  4. Good job! You can take a break now.

Part 2

  1. Pop your puppy into the bath and turn the shower head on firing away from them
  2. Treat them for being in the bath with the shower head turned on.
  3. Now comes the good part. Try soaking them with water while you still feed them treats – leave their head alone for now, that part’s still a bit of a funky one to touch. 
  4. Squeeze some shampoo on and massage it in nicely – they’ll probably enjoy this quite a lot. Your hands look like they’d do a good job. 
  5. Keep feeding them treats as you rinse them off, it’s gonna bring your bathing skills through the roof.
  6. To finish, take them out of the bath wrapped up in a warm towel like a puppy burrito (great opportunity for a picture), and give them a lovely dry. 

Make the game even more fun: You can also smear peanut butter onto the side of the bath as you’re shampooing and rinsing, or buy a stick on lickimat such as these to keep them busy and happy.

Problems you might run into: Washing your puppy’s head can be troublesome – I tend to use a flannel rather than the shower head to wipe all round their face to avoid getting water in their eyes. Nobody likes that! 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: More vet and health-related games such as pretend ear or eye drops.

Take your Dog’s Pulse

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Health and Vet Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

For future vet visits, it’s always good to get them used to being handled in the way the Vet needs to in order to find their pulse. It’s always good to find that little bugger. 

How to play:

  1. Download this first aid guide and have a look at the heart rate section (Or anything else that takes your fancy – no CPR on live dogs though please!)
  2. Check what your dog’s pulse is by feeling their inner thigh – their pulse should be quite strong here so fairly easy for you to find.
  3. Make sure you give your dog lots of treats for being such a good patient!

Make the game even more fun: See if you can find all the pulse points on your dog using the guide.

Problems you might run into: You’ll need to get your dog used to and liking handling before you try this, so have a go of The Vet Game before this one.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Trying bandaging your dog as outlined here.

Self-Control Games

Why teach self-control games?

We don’t need to get into how tricky self-control can be. Your relationship with Mini Cheddars says it all. It’s similar in the case of dogs; teaching them to control their impulses gives them an opportunity to think, and make the right choices by themselves rather than being dependent on us to tell them what to do all the time. 

It’s Yer Choice! Self-control with Food Part 1

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Self/Impulse Control Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This game’s a bit of a riddle. It will teach them ‘they get what they want by not trying to get what they want’. Makes sense? Well, as you can see, it’s a great exercise for problem solving and getting those little cogs turning in your puppy’s brain. Ultimately, it will be all about showing them everything about good doggy manners around food.

How to play:

  1. Start by having several treats in your hand with a closed fist.
  2. Hold your hand down at your dog’s nose level so that they know the treats are in there.
  3. As soon as they know you have a goodie hidden in there, they will likely sniff, paw, and lick to get the treat out.
  4. You’ll have to ignore these interactions and hold your hand steady. Don’t fall for those puppy eyes!
  5. As soon as they get bored and stop interacting with your hand, say ‘good’, take a treat with the opposite hand and reward them for being such a clever dog.
  6. Repeat this 5 times until your puppy is deliberately staying away from the hand. Crazy how food works.
  7. Now, hold out your hand and start to open it slowly. If your puppy dives in, calmly close your hand. If they stay back, good job! They can get a reward with the opposite hand as you did before.

It makes sense now, doesn’t it? They should get the idea that their actions have consequences, so if they try to snatch the food, oops the food hand closes

Make the game even more fun: You can start lowering the hand towards the floor as your dog gets the hang of it. 

Problems you might run into: Think about what value of food you need to use. Some dogs may get this faster if we use a lower value of food to start off with – the yummiest treats are just so hard to resist. Bit like me when I have chocolate in the house…

PRO TIP Also, try not to look like you’re ‘offering’ or handing your dog the treat – keep it at nose level, but maybe have your hand further away from your dog’s nose and more toward you to keep it a success.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try ‘It’s yer choice’ but with food on the floor.

It’s Yer Choice! Self-control with food on the floor Part 2

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Self/Impulse Control Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

If your dog’s mastered Part 1 of this game, you can raise the difficulty by having food on the floor.

How to play:

  1. Pop some treats on the floor and cover them with your hand.
  2. Wait until your dog backs away before you say ‘good’, and then give them a treat. 
  3. Repeat this five times with your hand covering the treats or until your dog isn’t trying to get the food at all.
  4. Now comes the interesting part. Slowly uncover the treats with your hand, but keep your hand close, ready to jump and cover them if your dog goes in to snatch the treats!
  5. Repeat this until you can fully take your hand away without having your dog going for them. Did they make it? Wonderful!  

Make the game even more fun: Have low value food (like kibble) on the floor. Instead of rewarding them back with kibble, teach your puppy if they leave the food on the floor they can get something super yummy instead, like a piece of dehydrated meat. A delicacy in dog’s ideas of gastronomy!

Problems you might run into: Your dog might be quicker than you and steal all of the treats. If this happens, go back a few steps or redo part 1 until they’re truly acing it.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Other self-control games to work towards your dog going full Zen. 

Puppy Zen

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Self/Impulse Control Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This game will put their self-control truly to the test with a bit of eye contact work. Here, we’ll show them that paying attention to you brings about wonderful things. 

How to play:

  1. You will need some soft yummy treats inside a treat pouch. You’ll also need to use a clicker, or a word marker such as ‘good’ to tell your puppy that they got it right.
  2. Have some treats in your hand and hold them out at about your eye level and to the side of your face – high enough so that your puppy can see them but not be able to snatch them.
  3. As soon as they look at you or turn their head towards your face, click or give your marker word ‘good’| and hand them a treat from your hand.
  4. Keep repeating this, and soon they won’t be able to take their eyes off of you!

Make the game even more fun: Once they have the idea of the game, see if they will keep that eye contact for a little while longer.

Problems you might run into Some dogs might find it simply too difficult to play this game with a high value treat (we get it, food is simply too good). For food-obsessed dogs like Labradors try it with low value food such as kibble.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try the same game using something like a tug toy or a tennis ball – practice exactly the same way, but reward with a toy instead.

SMART 50

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Self/Impulse Control Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

SMART 50 is a game that dogs of all ages will love. It stands for:

See

Mark

And

Reward

Training

50 times per day

The goal of this game is to have a ‘thinking’ dog with better manners who will offer you lots of desired behaviours, without having to be told what to do all the time. It also helps boost their confidence and independence, which are very powerful motivators. No such thing as an ‘underdog’ with this game.

How to play:

  1. Count out 50 treats and pieces of food in the morning
  2. Put them somewhere you can easily access them – a treat pouch or high up on your kitchen worktop are good places.
  3. As soon as your dog does something you like, say ‘good’ and give them a treat. Do this throughout the day whenever your dog is doing something you want to see without you telling them like:

·   Lying on their bed

·   Sitting while waiting for their meals

·   Not jumping up when they come to say hello

Consistency is key for this one – Every time they do something you want to see reward them and they’ll start doing it more over the course of time.  

Make the game even more fun: Make a list of behaviours you’d like your dog to do and see how many times you can reward them for it throughout the day. You can take it to the next level and add gold stickers on your calendar if you’re feeling extra.

Problems you might run into: Nope, couldn’t think of a single one for his game. All good things!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: More impulse control games.

Default Leave Part 1

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Self/Impulse Control Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This game is going to rock your lead walking, and keep your dog from scavenging food on the floor. By the end of this game, they’ll be able to walk past fish and chip scraps without lunging toward them.

How to play:

  1. Have your dog on their harness and lead and have your treat pouch loaded up.
  2. Throw a treat quite far away from you so that your dog sees it, but can’t reach it.
  3. Your dog will likely try to pull you towards the treat, but you’ll have to stand firm and wait for them to release the tension.
  4. When they do, say ‘good’ and reward them with a treat from your pouch.

Eventually, your dog should start to lunge for the treat far less when they realise they can still get goodies from you without the hectic pulling part. 

Make the game even more fun: Call a friend and have them pick up the treat you threw and place it in a different location.

Problems you might run into: If you throw the treat too close or before your dog’s not ready, they might snaffle it – don’t want to undo all the good work you’ve done so far! 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: – To try Part 2 of Default Leave

Default Leave Part 2

Where: Indoors

Purpose: Self/Impulse Control Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Great! You’ve made it to part 2 of the Default Leave game. Now we’re going to see if you can walk past the treat on the floor and your dog manages to leave it. Brilliant. One step closer to not making scenes on the street when walking past a Tesco Express. 

How to play:

  1. Have your dog on their harness and lead, and your treat pouch full of a mix of super yummy treats and lower value kibble. 
  2. Throw a piece of kibble away from you – did your dog turn to look at you for a reward for leaving the treat like they did before? Ah! Mission accomplished. 
  3. Mark this with good and reward with a yummy treat.
  4. Now we’re going to see if we can walk past the kibble…drumroll please. 
  5. It’s important that you set your dog up for success here, so make sure there is a big distance between your dog as they walk by and the treat on the floor, so that they don’t pull or lunge heavily towards it (your goal is also to keep a loose lead walk). Have they done it? Yay!
  6. Keep walking around the treat getting a little closer each time…gotta keep them challenged!
  7. Don’t forget to reward!

Make the game even more fun: I like to use empty take away cartons as a bit of a ‘temptation alley’ for my dog to walk down, that way I know exactly what is or isn’t in them! If she can focus on me when there’s food containers around, then we have a higher chance of her doing it in the real world.

Problems you might run into: Better not rush this exercise because your dog might start thinking that they can never eat things off the floor again. If they sometimes can get the treat from the floor, it’s going to act as a huge motivator that will keep them hooked on learning.  Wow, we really do think of everything.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Lead walking games.

Scent Games

Why should I play Scentwork games with my dog? 

Scentwork is what I like to call meditation for dogs. It is the thing that most dogs absolutely love to do, and are best at thanks to their fancy noses and good sniffing skills. 

Find the Toy

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Scent Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Your dog’s most powerful sense is their smell. Let’s put it to good use and have them search for their favourite toy around the house. It will give them a natural outlet for all of that sniffing, and give you a chance to bond as the dynamic duo you are. 

How to play:

  1. Have your puppy’s favourite toy ready. Then say ‘find it!’ and throw the toy for your puppy to get. Kind of like playing fetch. 
  2. When they bring the toy back, give them that verbal praise you do so well – what a good dog!
  3. Now, let’s change it up a bit. This time, put the toy under a cushion on the floor.
  4. Give your puppy the cue to ‘find it’, and cheerlead them on when they bring it back for you. 
  5. Now you can start hiding the toy in more and more difficult places; behind the sofa, table, or maybe up on a chair. Let the games begin.

Make the game even more fun: Take things up a notch and hide the toy in another room before you bring your dog in to ‘find it’. It will be like the ultimate game of hide and seek for them.

Problems you might run into: Always give your dog the cue ‘find it’ so they know when the game starts and ends. Make sure to not hide the toy in places you don’t want your dog to go, or where they break somethings like your nan’s porcelain.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: A Scent work class!

Toilet Rolls and Biscuit Tins

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Scent Games/Feeding

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

This game will make mealtimes more of a challenge. A fun one though. 

How to play:

  1. Grab an old biscuit tin (those your mum always used to store needles and thread) and as many toilet roll middles, kitchen roll or wrapping paper inners you can get your hands on. 
  2. Stand the tubes on their ends,  and stack them up inside the box side by side.
  3. Then, sprinkle your dog’s kibble in amongst the tubes.
  4. Now watch your dog try to take the tubes out in order to nibble on their food. Let us tell you – it’s going to be chaotically entertaining to watch.

Make the game even more fun: Place a few yummier treats alongside the kibble to make the game even more interesting.

Problems you might run into Don’t let your dog eat the cardboard! 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: Other feeding or scentwork games

Drag Race

Where: Outdoor

Purpose: Scent Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

I’m afraid there’s no glitter or lashes for this one. But it will involve what your dog loves the most – using their noses to hunt down a good reward – especially breeds who were quite literally born to do this. Believe us when we say that there will be no bigger rush they feel than when playing ‘Drag race’ with you…everything they love in a single game! (including you). It’s definitely among the favourites!

How to play:

  1. You’ll need a sandwich bag filled with something stinky and juicy inside – anything like kidneys, liver, or juicy squishy meat is brilliant.
  2. Tie the bag on to a long piece of string
  3. Cut a small hole in the bag so liquid can come out and then start dragging a path along the ground. Oh yes, you’ll definitely want to play this game outside.
  4. Make the path short and straight the first time so it’s easy for your dog to get the hang of.
  5. At the end of the track, lay a jackpot prize like a pile of kibble or your puppy’s favourite toy. What a surprise will they have!
  6. Put the bag away, and then bring your dog out to where you started the track on the ground and encourage them to follow it.
  7. Allow your dog to get the jackpot at the end – yay! What a treat!

Make the game even more fun: Take the drag around trees and through forests, and in zigzags (no pun intended!). Try to let your dog do the work; their noses are brilliant, so they shouldn’t need much help for this. Switch up the food in the drag – liver works very well!

Problems you might run into: The human can often lose the track to find where the prize is – sorry to say your nose is not quite as great. Just use some visual markers to help you at the start and the end.

If your dog likes this, you might also like: More Scentwork of course!

Who is THAT?!

Where: Indoor/Outdoor

Purpose: Scent Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

It’s always a bit funny to see puppies get confused. Let’s bring another animal’s scent into your home and have them find it. Maybe you have a cat owning friend? Have them rub their cat all over with a piece of blanket then hide it somewhere in your garden for your dog to find.

How to play:

  1. Take the scent imprinted blanket and hide it without your dog seeing.
  2. Then ask them to ‘find it’!

Make the game even more fun: Try different scents, maybe you have a friend with a rabbit or a bird?

Problems you might run into: Don’t let your dog eat the blanket, and make sure you always reward them for finding the scent. Also, we’re not suggesting you go around hunting for birds to rub to play this game…let’s keep it simple!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: More scentwork or tracking games.

Hansel and Gretel

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Scent Games /Feeding/ Brain games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

Start puppy scent games off with a trail of treats. This will get your puppy’s nose straight on the floor, following the food all the way until they reach the jackpot.

How to play:

  1. Pop your puppy outside of the room while you lay out a trail of 10 treats at around half a metre apart. At the end of the trail, lay a pile of the remaining treats.
  2. Bring your puppy in and show them the first treat. They will likely follow the rest of the trail all on their own and relish on their beloved jackpot when they find it.
  3. Add a cue word such as ‘find it’ as your puppy trots down the trail as encouragement!

Make the game even more fun: Swap the prize treats for a toy at the end of the trail to keep it exciting.

Problems you might run into: Your dog might be very quick at hovering the treats up! Comparable to a vacuum cleaner. 

If your dog likes this, you might also like: To try Drag Race!

Adding a Target Scent

Where: Indoor

Purpose: Scent Games

Suitable for: Puppies (<1 year) / Dogs (1 – 6 years) / Older Dogs (>6 years)

Game description:

If you’re looking for a challenge with scent games, look no further. This is it.

How to play:

  1. Get your puppy’s favourite toy and pop a few drops of essential oil on it – dog-safe oils include lavender, clove and valerian. You can find a full list of odours used in Scentwork classes as well as how to use them properly here.
  2. With the scented toy, play a game of fetch indoors.
  3. The next day (when your dog’s not with you) hide the toy and place scented up pieces of fleece or kitchen roll from the room entrance up to the toy. Think back to the Hansel and Gretel story, they should be like breadcrumbs that lead your dog to a fun time.
  4. Bring your dog in and cue them to ‘find the toy’, and when they do, give them lots of verbal praise!
  5. Next time you play, reduce the number of scented fleece and tissue pieces to make the game more challenging.

Make the game even more fun: Try this outdoors once your dog has mastered playing indoors.

Problems you might run into: Some dogs will try to eat the scented pieces. If they do, try it without the bread crumb trail so they are going directly to the scented source. It’s also a good way to make it a bit more difficult!

If your dog likes this, you might also like: A Scentwork class find one here 

FAQ

What are good games to play with an 8 week old puppy?

An 8 week old puppy would be delighted to play:
– The Box game
– The Name-Game
– Scatter Feeding

What are some games to mentally stimulate a puppy?

Mentally stimulating your puppy is key so that they don’t get bored and are eager to keep on learning. Our favourites for early sensory development and brain training are:
– The Puppy Adventure Box
– Find it
– Who is THAT?

What dog training games should you play with an older dog? 

Older dogs may not be as fit and agile as those young whippersnappers but one sense that’s still sensational is their sense of smell. Mic drop.

To keep those old timers busy with their noses, we recommend:
– Drag Race
– Adding a target scent
– Giving your dog a massage (nothing to do with their nose – but they do love a good rub).

They will also love you so much more for it. 

What is the first thing you should train your puppy to do? 

The first few things you should train your puppy to do is to learn their name, come back when called, walk nicely on a lead and come back when you call them. Safety is generally the main reason why.

Here are some games we recommend to help you train them:
– The Name-Game – so that they respond to their name – pronto!
– The Vet Game – so they get used to being touched all over. And in all the weird places.
– My Little Shadow – A leadwalking game that teaches your puppy to stick to you like glue.
– Hand Target Recall – Dogs of all ages LOVE this, but puppies have a special place for it in their hearts.

Did you enjoy playing our games? Check out the ZigZag app for more fun ways to train your puppy.