When you think of the term puppy training the word fun probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But what if I told you there are some fun games you can play that will help train your pup? Well it’s true, and the best part is they’re all pretty simple to play.
Interactive games are great for puppies — they’re mentally stimulating, they help with teaching some basic manners, and they’re a fun way to strengthen the bond with your new dog. From reinforcing a reliable recall with the “come here” game to working on impulse control with tug of war, here’s 5 easy puppy training games.
Tip: As with all things puppy related one thing to keep is mind is that their attention span is limited. Keep these games short and sweet, and remember to stop before they have a chance to get bored and/or frustrated.
The Come Here Game/Pass The Puppy
Now I know what you’re thinking — how is teaching my dog to “come here” a game? The truth is teaching your dog to reliably come when called can be a challenge, but turning it into fun game can help reinforce the behavior. And if you can get the help of a few friends you can turn the “come here” game into a game of “pass the puppy” for some extra socialization.
How to Play the Come Here Game
- Sit on the ground with a few treats or a toy
- Tell your pup to “come here”
- When they reach you praise them like crazy and give them the treat/toy
- Wait for your dog to walk off and repeat steps 1-3 (you can move spots/change rewards to keep it interesting)
The come here game is easy to play, and the best part is it’s a nice way to teach your dog that good things happen when they “come here.” If you’ve ever dealt with an adolescent dog you know how challenging it can be to get their attention — so teaching your dog that “come here” equates to “yay fun times!” when they’re a puppy can help out later on.
How to Play Pass the Puppy
- Have a couple of people sit around the room or yard with treats/toys in hand
- Have one person at a time call your puppy with “come here” command
- When your pup reaches them have the person praise your pup like crazy and give them a treat/toy
- Repeat steps 1-3 with a different person calling your puppy
Like the come here game, pass the puppy will help reinforce a reliable recall. And since it relies on more than one person it’s a good way to get in some extra puppy socialization since it’s a fun and positive way to introduce your pup to new people.
The Which Hand Game
One easy game you can play with your puppy is called the which hand game. It’s a mentally stimulating nose work game that’s good for teaching your dog some basic manners when it comes to dealing with treats. The only thing you need to get started is some dog treats; if you don’t have any on hand you can use some chopped up fruits and veggies (that are safe for dogs) or make some of your own homemade dog treats.
How to Play the Which Hand Game:
- Place a treat in one of your hands.
- Close your fists and hold them out in front of your dog.
- Let the dog choose which hand it’s in.
- When your dog sniffs or paws the correct hand open it up and give them the treat.
When it comes to the last step it’s up to you to decide what sort of signal you prefer from your dog — whether it’s a gentle sniff or paw. With Laika I prefer sniffing since her “gentle” pawing is still pretty rough, so she only gets the treat when she gently sniffs the correct hand.
If your dog is getting too excited over the treats and biting at your hands or clawing your arms I recommend working on the “It’s Yer Choice” game (see video below) first. It’s an impulse control game that teaches your dog to be gentle when it comes to dealing with treats.
The “Find The Treats” Game
Nose work games such as “find the treats” are a great way to stimulate your dog’s mind and help them hone in on their natural sniffing abilities. It’s a great game for puppies because it’s mentally and physically stimulating, it helps build their focus, and it can help boost their confidence by teaching them a new skill. Plus it’s a really fun way to bond with your new dog. And since you can teach your dog to “find the treats” in your home it’s great for puppies since you’ll be working in an environment that isn’t too distracting.
As far as the game of “find the treats” goes it’s simple enough — it’s teaching your dog to dog sniff out treats you hide around the house.
Now when you’re first starting out you’ll want to make it easy on your dog until they start to get the hang of it. Have your dog sit in the stay position while you go around putting a few treats in a couple different spots throughout the room while they watch you. After you’ve placed them come back to your dog and tell them to “find the treats.” Remember to keep it fun and positive by praising them every time they pick up a treat.
Once you’re dog has a good idea of what “find the treats” means you can start hiding them in more challenging spots such as under rugs and on furniture. After some practice your dog will start using their natural sniffing abilities rather than visual cues to find all those treats. Once your dog is a pro you can even start working on it in more challenging (and distracting) environments such as the yard.
How to Play Find the Treats With Your Dog:
- Grab some treats and have your dog sit in the stay position
- While your dog is sitting put a few treats on the ground around them
- Release your dog and tell them to “find the treats”
- Encourage them as they start picking up the treats
- Practice a few times until your dog understands what “find the treats” means
- Start placing the treats further away and repeat steps 3 & 4
- Start placing the treats in more challenging places that are out of sight such as under a rug or on a chair and repeat steps 3 & 4
Hide & Seek
Hide and seek is another one of my favorite puppy training games. It’s fun, it’s mentally stimulating, and it’s a great way to practice your dog’s recall. If your puppy doesn’t have a good stay command down you’ll want to work on that first. If you have a friend around you can also enlist their help to hold your dog while you hide.
How to Play Hide and Seek With Your Dog:
- Have your dog sit in a stay position (or have a friend hold onto your dog)
- Find a hiding spot
- Call your dog
- Praise your dog like crazy when they find you
To avoid frustration remember to keep it simple for your dog by hiding in some easy spots at first. After they get the hang of it then you can move onto hiding in some harder to find areas.
My dog loves hide and seek, even though I’m not creative enough to come up with more than 3 different hiding spots. It’s a great interactive game that lets your dog use some of their natural scent tracking abilities in a fun and stimulating way.
Tug Of War
When it comes to puppy training games tug is one of my favorites. It’s great physical exercise, it’s mentally stimulating, and it’s great for teaching your dog some basic impulse control and manners. And since it doesn’t requite a ton of space you can play it indoors.
And contrary to what people say tug of war will not make your dog aggressive, nor will letting them win will not make them dominant. Letting your dog win actually makes the game more fun for your dog, and it will encourage them to keep on playing. Research has even found that dogs who play tug of war with their owners tend to be more obedient and exhibit higher confidence.
Now when it comes to playing tug with your puppy there is one basic rule to keep in mind — the game stops if their teeth touch your hand. I usually stop the game for 30 seconds and try again, and I’ll usually give my dog a few chances before the game is put away completely. It’ll take a few times before your dog understands that “the game is over when my teeth touch my person.”
Now depending on your puppy it might take awhile for them to get the hang of this. Some dogs get really riled up when playing tug, making it difficult for them to stick to the “no biting” rule. If that’s the case for you pup I suggest taking it slow when starting a new game. If you move the tug toy too fast or start make noises you’re dog is more likely to get overly excited.
What Are Your Favorite Puppy Training Games?
What sort of games do you like to play with puppies? Have you ever played pass the puppy for some extra socialization or hide and seek to work on their recall? Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.