Whether you're looking for indoor dog games or ideas for setting up a dog agility course, we share some of our favourite activities to keep your pet's brain and body active.
Rules for playing with your dog
- Never force your dog to play if they're not in the mood.
- Avoid games that are rough. Your dog might enjoy them, but they can encourage behaviour which they may replicate in inappropriate situations (such as around children or strangers).
- Play in short bursts, ideally around 5-10 minutes, and stop while they're still having fun. Games are a great way to provide mental stimulation for dogs, but it's important not to overdo it.
1. Hide and seek
Tell your dog to stay, then leave the room and hide. When you're ready (and as they get better at the game, you can increase the length of time before you summon them) call their name and wait for them to find you.
2. Dog agility
If you're feeling adventurous, a dog agility course is a lot of fun for both you and your pet. Challenge their brain as well as their body by setting up obstacles they need to go under, over or through.
Dog agility equipment
You don't need lots of special equipment to work on your dog's agility. Household items or even things you were planning on throwing out, like old tablecloths, bedsheets and cardboard boxes, are perfect. Try lining up some chairs and throwing a blanket over them to make a tunnel, or lay brooms on upturned buckets to make jumps.
Make tidying up a game and see how quickly your dog can collect their toys.
3. Hunt the toy (or treat)
Dogs love scent training, so they will love going on a hunt for their favourite toy or treat.
Ask your dog to sit, then place a toy (or treat) in front of them on the floor. Give your dog the command 'find' and when they pick up the toy, reward them. Repeat the same process, placing the toy further away from them. Eventually, you will be able to put their toy in another room, hiding it under or behind things.
4. The shadow game
At home, put your dog on their lead and have some treats ready in your pocket. Start to walk around, and whenever your dog catches up to you, give them a treat. If they overtake you, turn in the opposite direction and put a treat on the floor in front of you.
While your dog eats the treat, carry on walking so you're ahead of them again. When they catch up, give them another treat. Once they understand the game, challenge them by moving forwards, backwards and sideways, as well as changing pace. This will teach them to walk with you, without you having to pull on their lead.
5. Tidy up
Scatter your dog's toys around the room (you can later progress this to the whole house) and encourage your dog to find each one and return them to their toy box.
In the beginning, encourage all three steps: picking up the toy, carrying it to their box and dropping it in – although once they're trained, a simple command like 'put away' can work for the whole sequence.
As well as your dog enjoying a great sense of accomplishment, you won't have to tidy up after them any more!