Puppies love to stay busy, which can be exhausting for you. A bored pup is likely to find mischief or develop behavioral issues, like chewing or barking to occupy itself.
Luckily, there are easy options for engaging your pup, from cute dog toys to simple games. When you play mentally stimulating games with your puppy, you can wear them out just as much as a good romp at the dog park would.
Not sure where to start with stimulating games for your puppy? Here are seven easy, fun and engaging games to play with dogs of any age.
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1. Puzzle Toy Time
Your puppy loves to solve problems. A puzzle toy is a great way to keep your puppy entertained while letting them use their natural problem-solving ability. A wide variety of puzzle toys are available for your dog, ranging from easy to complex.
Once your pup has mastered an easy puzzle, move on to more advanced challenges. Keep sessions short to avoid frustrating your dog. You should start with no more than 15 minutes, but you can do multiple sessions a day.
Puzzle toys can be plastic, plush, stuffed or even homemade. Try out a variety to see which ones your puppy likes best.
2. Play Hide and Seek
Just like toddlers, puppies love a good game of hide and seek. This game helps train your dog with the “stay” command while providing mental stimulation.
To play hide and seek with your dog, they’ll need to hold a “stay” command for at least 10 seconds. If you are still training this command, you can play the game with a partner to distract your pup while you hide.
Once you’re well hidden, release your dog and call them toward you. They’ll use their powerful sense of smell to find you. Don’t forget to reward them with treats or praise once they locate your hiding spot.
3. Name That Toy Game
You can teach your dog more words than just commands. An average dog can learn over 165 different words. Increase your puppy’s vocabulary by teaching them the names of their favorite toys.
At first, you’ll work on teaching your dog the name of each toy. Using one toy at a time, state the toy’s name and reward your dog while they’re interacting with it. Once they’ve learned a few toys, you can begin to challenge them by asking them to pick between toys to identify the one you’re naming.
For an advanced version of this game, you can hide their toys around the room. Then ask your dog to find one. Eventually, your dog will be able to identify which toy they need to sniff out and bring back to you.
4. Make Eye Contact
You know the power of puppy eyes. One look and you’re ready to cave into whatever their puppy heart desires. You can reverse the trick and train your dog to make eye contact with you.
Eye contact is great for getting your puppy’s attention. It’s a helpful command for interrupting bad behaviors. Eye contact also releases oxytocin in both you and your dog, strengthening your bond. Oxytocin is a hormone associated with forming attachment.
You can easily teach your dog to make eye contact with you. Start by holding a treat to your forehead or in front of your eye. As your dog gets used to looking at the treat, slowly phase it out in favor of a hand signal and verbal command. You can increase the duration of eye contact over time, but don’t push it for more than a few seconds.
5. Rainy Day Trick Training
Training basic commands with your puppy is both mentally stimulating and essential for good behavior. However, not every command you teach your dog needs to be useful. A great rainy day activity is seeing what tricks you can train your dog to perform.
Let your puppy know you are starting a training session, maybe by placing a box of treats in the room with you. Then reward your puppy every time he interacts with the box. After a while, only reward for the action you want to train, whether that’s standing in front of the box or pushing it around the room.
You can also work on building compound tricks with your puppy to get them to accomplish a task. Dogs can learn to fetch you a bottle of water or close a door once they know some basic commands. These complex tasks boost your dog’s confidence while strengthening your relationship.
6. Agility or Obstacle Course
For a stimulating game that can also be a physical workout for your dog, consider building an obstacle course or agility track. You don’t need to buy any fancy gear to make a course. Your chairs and other household objects will work just fine.
Typical agility obstacles are jumps, weaving cones and tunnels. Set up one or all of these at a time. Every time you train, alter the order of the obstacles to create additional mental challenges for your puppy.
7. Find the Treats
Another game that puts your puppy’s nose to the test is playing “find the treats.” They’ll love being able to use their sniffing and scavenging skills to find tasty rewards. Just make sure you put away anything tempting that isn’t dog treats before you start playing. Otherwise, you may find your dog goes off course, and you’ll end up googling “why do dogs like socks” because he’s into your sock drawer rather than playing your game.
When you first play “find the treats” with your puppy, don’t hide them. Simply place them on surfaces around the room. Tell your dog to “find the treats” and offer praise when they start eating them. Once they’ve figured out what the game is all about, you can start hiding the treats in more challenging locations.
Mix It Up
Your puppy loves variety. Keep things interesting by mixing up your routine with these 7 stimulating games for puppies. In the process, both of you are sure to learn some new tricks.