The goal of most obedience dog training techniques is compliance, which is great–there’s no argument there. We don’t deny how useful it is, especially when your dog always greets the front doorbell with an aggressive bark—thanks to Doggy Dan’s training I was able to fix this.
But let’s be honest, the uptight nature of most dog training techniques can get old, really fast, especially if you work long hours in a high-pressure environment.
Luckily, there are a few fun ways to give your canine companion some house training while spending some quality time together; dog training games.
They are a great way of teaching her some useful skills such as calming her when she’s overly excited or keeping her busy while you’re away at work—be sure to read our dog activities for bored dogs.
What’s more, dog training games can be pretty effective at teaching her to control her impulses and help her learn to be patient as well. An impulsive dog is a disaster waiting to happen, from dragging you on the leash on your walks to lunging at strangers and other canines.
Dog training games were designed to be fun, engaging, and mentally stimulating to your canine companion. If you’re struggling with eliminating her bad behaviors, then you should check out Adrienne Faricelli’s mental exercises that use neuroplasticity to change your dog’s behavior.
Without further ado, here are our favorite training games for your furry canine bestie.
Table of Contents,
The holy grail of dog training is being able to take a walk around the block with your dog without needing the help of a leash. Imagine that, having her follow you without barking at strangers, dogs, or even sniffing around like she’s on the hot trail of some yummy steak.
The shadow game was designed to teach your dog to obey your recalls—come whenever you call no matter what she’s doing. It’s a great dog training objective and will help you raise an obedient dog and teach her to heel at the same time.
Learn more with our guide on how to train a dog to heel.
Like with all other dog training techniques, the choice of your training environment plays a vital role. You want a quiet, distraction-free environment where your dog won’t be distracted.
And as always, you want to have her favorite treats with you; they could be pieces of dried liver, carrots, chunks of meat, dog biscuits, etc. whatever she fancies.
Issue the “sit” command, and when she complies give her a treat. Start walking away from her in and if she quickly comes to walk with you give her treat and keep walking.
If she overtakes you, make a U-turn, leave a cookie on the ground and continue walking away from her.
She’ll want to follow once she’s done chowing down the treat you left behind so be ready with another cookie when she catches up with you.
For a puppy, you may want to use a leash to get her to comply or older dogs, but the point of the leash is safety not to yank her when she disobeys.
Once she gets the gist of it, you can try moving forward, backward, sideways, to zigzag, running then abruptly stopping or change direction, walking around corners, over obstacles, etc. while giving her a cookie when she keeps up with you.
The idea is for her to learn to stay by your side like a shadow. This way, she chooses to obey and follow you instead of you dragging her around on walks.
Treasure hunt with a twist
Like the name of the game suggests, the goal here is to teach your dog to find treasure. Hold your horses; we’re not talking about a pirate’s treasure but rather her favorite treats that are well-hidden.
Now for the twist, as she gets close to the location of the treat, you’ll constantly issue the verbal cue “hot,” with more intensity and as she gets further, you’ll say “cold.”
It’s a fairly easy game to teach your canine friend and will engage all of her senses as she anxiously searches for her tasty treats.
First, you need to teach her the rules of the game so she can know when she gets it right, but don’t expect this to happen overnight. With a treat in hand, have her sit and give her a cookie for being a great girl—now she has your full attention.
Toss the treats a few feet away from her and say the cue “Find the Treat” or something of the sorts—feel free to get creative. She’ll instantly chase after the treat, and after a few repetitions of this, she’ll have understood what it means to find the treat.
It’s now time to take things up a notch; you can try hiding the treats behind the couch, in the next room or even in your back yard.
Once she’s mastered this, next time you start playing the game issue the verbal cue “hot” to let her know when she’s close and “cold” she’s off the mark.
You obviously need to remember where you hid the treats for the game to work. Lastly, remember to shower her with praise when she finds her treasure.
Musical Hula Hoops
Musical hula hoops is yet another fun dog training game designed to engage your dog mentally while allowing you and the rest of the family to bond. It’s a great way to teach your dog patience and teach her to pay close attention.
Find a few hoops, preferably two to three hula hoops since they’re large enough for most dogs and humans to jump through and arrange them in a straight line.
You can play the music from your smartphone or have someone else control as long as you’re able to start and stop at a go.
To start, play the music for about 10-15 seconds while you and your canine companion circle around the hula hoops.
You should have your treats ready to encourage her to keep following you and be attentive, and as soon as you stop the music, you should jump through the hoop.
If she decided to follow you and jump through the hoop, you should reward her with a treat. However, if she doesn’t, you could perhaps try lowering the hoop to a much lower platform or raise the platform—whichever is convenient or even use a leash to help guide her through.
You can also add the verbal cue “jump” once she’s learned to jump through the hoop. Try and practice in different locations with different obstacles, e.g. boxes, rocks, your coffee table, etc.
Tug of War
When it comes down to it, the tug of war game is one of my favorite dog training games. You’ll be able to give her some exercise, stimulate her mind, teach her to focus, to be patient, to tame her impulses and will help her be an obedient, well-mannered canine companion.
But before we start we should dispel a popular misconception around playing a game of tug of war with your dog; it won’t necessarily increase your dog’s aggression or make her dominant if done the right way.
Furthermore, according to research, playing of a game of tug of war with your canine companion is a great way of bolstering confidence, promoting obedience and entertaining the both of you when you have some downtime.
Now, one basic rule when playing a game of tug of war with your dog is that the game ends when her teeth reach your hand. You can pause it for a few seconds with a verbal command like “no.”
Once she’s mastered the no-biting rule, you can up the stakes by reducing the area she can bite to improve her eye-mouth coordination as she will be more careful to bite your fingers off.
Additionally, you could introduce a “start” and “stop” cue so she can know when to get ready.
Make it even more interesting by counting down from 3 or 5 before starting. Increase your count down duration to help teach her to be patient or even countdown without ending with “start” cue to teach her to be more attentive or obedient.
Trust-fall for dogs
Our last dog training game is an adaptation from the popular human trust-building exercise known as the Trust Fall. In the human version, you typically hold your arms on your chest on the side, close your eyes and trust and hope your partner catches you and breaks your fall.
In the dog version, we will be stepping on her tail—to start, before moving on to her paws and other sections of her body. The main objective of this game is to build trust and respect between the two of you and a loving relationship.
With her in a sit or down position—we’ve got an excellent guide on how to train your dog to lay down, gently step on her tail so that your foot is perpendicular to her tail.
You want to do it for a couple of seconds, at first, before moving to her front and giving her a cookie and praise.
Once she’s comfortable with it, you can try putting your foot across her body as she is lying on the floor and then give her a cookie and praise for trusting you.
Do this until you’re able to step her without prompting her aggression—she’ll have trusted yours completely at this point.
With our five favorite games, you should be able to teach your dog a few basic commands, virtues, and behaviors. Dog training games are engaging, challenging, and fun for both of you and help you build a lasting relationship with your canine companion.