Puppies have two statuses – asleep or full of energy. There is nothing in between. It is the latter that can be the status that causes trouble at home. A puppy full of energy, if not correctly directed, will seek out their own form of entertainment, which can inadvertently be quite destructive around the house.
However, puppies have no idea of what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do – or in our eyes, what is right or wrong. They simply just indulge in what they think is play. We have to teach them through training and games, both of which also serve the purpose of tiring them out so they don’t have the energy to get up to mischief.
It is puppies with energy that are not entertained properly in some way that get bored. They then entertain themselves by ransacking houses for something to chew or bite or eat. Here, we look at some games to play with puppies that will keep them interested – both mentally and physically. It is then that they stay well behaved as opposed to digging up trouble elsewhere.
Additionally, playing with puppies is a way of improving the bond you have as well as establishing your owner/pet relationship. Dogs, though our best friends, need to realise that you are the ‘pack leader’. This means that it is you that they follow, and not them that you follow. By playing games with them, you will nurture this hierarchy which helps keep dogs well behaved in future.
Tug of War
Tug of war is the perfect place to start playing with your puppy. While care needs to be taken not to hurt your pup’s developing jaw, it will exhaust your dog while simultaneously nurturing the bond between you as it is an easy game to start setting boundaries with.
To do so, every time you get a small nip from your pup when he or she is trying to gain the upper hand with the tug rope, just stop playing automatically. They will soon learn the cause and effect of their actions and this will help train your dog in the process of what is allowable behaviour towards humans and what is not. Obviously biting, however playful, is not allowed.
To ensure that the game is safe for them as well as, buy a properly made tug of war rope for such rough and tumble games. You can make them yourself too by plaiting several pieces of strong material together, but dog tug toys are often inexpensive and last a great deal longer than many other shops bought dog toys. Remember that tug of war toys can also double up in games of fetch so they can be seen as multi-purpose.
There is some controversy between dog trainers as to whether dogs should ever be allowed to win in a game of tug. Some say the owners should always win as that way dogs are constantly reminded of where they are in the pecking order. Some say that dogs should sometimes be allowed to win as they then have their interest maintained. If they always lose, there is a danger that your puppy could lose interest.
It is up to you which you decide is best for your dog as both arguments have their merits.
Giving your puppy chew toys to play with is perhaps one of the easiest puppy games out there. It can be carried out by them playing on their own – or with you letting them have a chewie in a game of chase or sit & wait.
Another benefit, other than keeping them from gnawing away on inanimate objects, is that puppies suffer from teething like our own little babies do. Their gums will ache and they get brief relief from that ache by chewing on hard items – again, much like our own kids. Chew toys are specially made to help alleviate some of the pain of sore gums as well as actively helping them cut their teeth.
They also encourage positive chewing behaviour, especially if owners distract them from chewing on shoes or furniture, with a chew toy like rawhide or rawhide toothbrushes. By encouraging behaviour like this, they learn quickly what they are allowed to chew and what they are not allowed to chew through positive reinforcement.
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Positive reinforcement is the most popular method of training and teaching puppies that dog trainers suggest.
Piggy In The Middle
This is a great game for puppies that are members of families, or owned by a pair of owners. It helps teach camaraderie amongst everyone and gets all everyone involved in your canine training and development.
Crucially, it is also a really easy and fun puppy game that tires young dogs out. Essentially, they will rarely get the ball but puppies don’t give up on trying anytime soon. They love the excitement of the chase as well as the natural positive noises that the rest of the family or owners make while playing.
Again, arguably, this game helps to reinforce the bond between owners and their pets by cementing the hierarchy that will already have begun to establish quite naturally. By rarely getting the ball or dog frisbee, dogs realise that they are not the ruler of the roost.
Plus the cleverer dogs will be looking at ways to get the ball other than by constant chasing – this mental stimulation is brilliant for puppies. It can often tire them out quicker than a long walk.
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Not all dogs get Fetch immediately, but when they do it is ultimately one of the most rewarding puppies and dog games you can play with them as you are both interacting together. Plus, it’s an ideal way to play with your pup if moving is a bit difficult for you, but they obviously still need a high level of exercise.
To make it even easier and beneficial, purchasing a dog thrower can be a good idea – especially if you don’t have the strongest arm. They make throwing a ball a complete breeze, plus balls go so much further than they would otherwise, so your pup covers up to twice the distance.
This distance in a game of Fetch is obviously directly correlated to how tired they become and therefore how much energy they have for creating trouble when they get home. Also, it’s another manner of teaching what they are allowed to play with and what they are not. Balls and every item you use while playing are fair game for them.
Dogs often respond well to frisbees, but perhaps try one of the soft ones first when initially starting out with a puppy. If they are hard, and they hit your pup in the head, they are likely to lose interest in the game entirely!
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Recall training is a great thing to practice when your dog is young. So often, it is left until last as it is considered too far beyond what a puppy is capable of, when actually puppies are far more able to learn to come back than we give them credit for.
It is also incredibly mentally stimulating for them as well as physically demanding so it is one of the ultimate ways to play with your puppy. Not only will they be learning a key life skill, they will also be tired for the rest of the day and consequently too exhausted to find mayhem elsewhere.
Recall is the strongest, most important command for you to teach your dog as it has maximum benefits for both you and your puppy. It will help you keep them safe if you can call them back and they respond when asked, if they are heading for dangerous territory like a busy road or bushes full of brambles or other dangers.
The recall command additionally further cements your owner pet hierarchy as it should stop your dog in his or her tracks whenever demanded from yourself.
Learn To Sit and Roll Over
Another good command for dogs to learn is to learn to sit on command. It’s a good one to teach as if they are misbehaving or becoming boisterous, making them sit or lie down, physically stops them from getting up to mischief by doing as you ask.
The act of teaching them to sit, too, is a fun game for puppies to play. Even more so when puppy treats are utilized as a training method to get them to do as you ask. They will soon learn when rewarded with food or even praise. Learning is interesting for puppies as well as something they enjoy as dogs like to appease their masters to keep them happy.
Rolling over is an unnecessary command or action for dogs to learn, but it’s great to teach them in yet another effort to establish an owner-pet hierarchical relationship. It is also, again, a mentally stimulating activity to partake in with your pooch and one that, as humans, we particularly seem to find rewarding.
Remember that games with your puppy should be fun for you too – otherwise, you will see playing with your dog as a chore as opposed to something that can be an enjoyable pastime.
Play With Water
The majority of dogs go crazy for water naturally, but it’s a good idea to introduce your puppy to water as young as possible. You can buy dog life jackets if you are worried about their safety.
Ideal places to head for with puppies are beaches or rivers or lakes with shorelines that they can edge their way slowly down on. Sometimes, puppies will jump into deep water without really knowing the consequences and when they’re little they may not be strong enough swimmers to fight against any dangerous currents.
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You can also fill up kid paddling pools in your back garden and just play with that will your young dog too. Most puppies will love it, especially if it somehow includes playing with their favourite toys, rattles or squeakers. Swimming or playing with water is ultimately far more exhausting for them than naturally running so whilst they are having fun keeping cool, you are also burning their excess energy for them which means you can have a more peaceful afternoon.
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Remember that some dogs love a hose or sprinkler as well, though some can find either quite intimidating. Just play around until you see what your dog does or does not like.
If they get muddy in the process of playing with water, or perhaps the lake or river they played in has lots of smelly pondweeds, there are some fantastic puppy shampoos around that are perfect for their sensitive skin when being washed. They’ll get your puppy back to smelling fine in no time.
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Hiding Dog Food
Using food in any puppy games is a good idea as food almost always piques a puppy’s interest. Hiding dog food is a good way to maintain that interest as well as making them work for their food, which mentally tires them out. Dogs will never bore of this game either given that they are always rewarded for playing it.
Start easy by putting them on the ground in front and around your puppy and then slowly move to put them in the same few places around a room. When your dog further understands what the game of finding your food entails, you can steadily start to make the game even more difficult for them and even more mentally taxing. Start with just one room in the house before moving on to the rest of the home.
Remember where you put them though as smelly dog treats that aren’t found can soon start to stink out a house!
A natural extension of this game is to stuff a kong full of treats that are hard to remove from the inside. These are really great for puppies to play with as, when stuffed properly, they can keep puppies entertained for a long period of time so that they are mentally exhausted by the end of it. Ideas for puppies would be to stuff them with puppy treats and bone broth which is then frozen inside the kong itself which makes the game last even longer.
Tie A Stick To The End Of A Rope
Otherwise known as a flirt pole, dogs tend to love playing this never-ending game. They’re great exercise as well as being mentally stimulating for pets. Additionally, it is a great outlet for your dog to practice their natural instinct to chase prey, but in a non-destructive way. Furthermore, they provide the perfect opportunity for owners to install more commands in their pets, like ‘release’, which is great to further build on the pet owner relationship.
In a game with a flirt stick , as opposed to with tug of war, it is always best to let your dog or puppy win at catching the stick at least once or twice. It will make the game far more interesting and engaging for them and so far more likely to hold their attention for longer.
One point definitely to take on board, however, is that this type of game can be physically demanding on your dog’s joints. With puppies in mind, it is best to keep these games short and sweet therefore so that they don’t injure themselves and suffer from mobility issues in the future.
Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek is a fun and easy game to play with your puppy that they will find mentally stimulating as well as very rewarding as finding their owner will be the ultimate find for them and their noses! Get ready to be licked head to toe when your pooch finds you!
Keep it simple at first – perhaps just hiding behind the sofa in your downstairs room and slowly build up to a game around the house with a handful of repeated spots for your pooch to find you in.
They will absolutely love it and you will find that this interactive game between the two of you as one that will only ever increase your bond.
Finally, the ultimate thing to remember when playing with your puppy, however, is that it should be fun for both of you.
Games should, of course, be mentally and physically taxing for your puppy so that the maximum benefits can be reaped. This means that their destructive chewing behavior that comes from having excess energy, which all young puppies have, is never seen due to it being positively directed elsewhere. But that should never be at the expense of you being bored or made to feel like playing with your dog is yet one more thing to tick off your to-do list.
Instead, play games you find rewarding too and enjoy nurturing one of the best relationships you will ever have.