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Dog and Puppy Games

Updated on November 1, 2019
angela_michelle profile image

Angela is a cat and dog lover who has made special efforts to learn as much as she can about the animals she cares for.

Playing with your dog is important for their emotional and physical health.
Playing with your dog is important for their emotional and physical health. | Source

Training Games

Taking care of your new puppy is a big responsibility. From clipping its nails, brushing its teeth, getting or not getting pet insurance, to training your dog. Many people think of training your dog as an arduous task, but training should be a time for fun and play. These games are excellent training methods, but remember:

  • Keep voice pleasant
  • Praise a lot
  • Make it fun for your dog and you

These games are so fun, you and your dog may forget the games are part of his training.

Soon you will be able to play fetch anywhere. Some water loving dogs will even swim out into a lake to retrieve their ball.
Soon you will be able to play fetch anywhere. Some water loving dogs will even swim out into a lake to retrieve their ball. | Source


Everyone has heard of the game fetch. Unfortunately, often, owners find fetch being synonymous with a tug-of-war, which should not be the case. By adding training elements to a game of fetch, you teach the dog that he does not have to be dominant to enjoy the game, he will learn many of the basic commands more quickly, and you will have a game that will be a lifetime of fun for you and your pet.

There are four main commands you will be using when playing fetch. Because many of these are commands used in real-world circumstances, it makes fetch one of the greatest training games. The commands include: "fetch," "come," or "this way," "stay," or "sit," and "drop it."

  • The command "fetch" is self-explanatory. You want to say this as you are throwing the ball. Regardless if you say it, most likely your dog will chase the ball. By stating "fetch," it tells your dog you are in the mood to play, and you want to play by your rules, not his. Once the dog understands the rules to the game, the other three commands will become obsolete.
  • After you throw the object, call your dog back to you. The most common command is "come," although I choose to say "this way." You want to select the word you will use when you are going for a walk, and it is time for him to stop sniffing and follow you. When I say, "this way," I also pat my leg twice. Since my dog knows what to do when I pat my leg and the word command, I often can pat my leg during moments I want to make a request, but do not wish to speak, like when my family is asleep.
  • Once he comes back, preferably with the ball, he must know not to run off with it. So you want to teach one of two commands, "stay" or "sit." You are telling your dog, be patient, I will throw the ball again. For this reason, I chose to say "stay." "Sit" is a good choice if your dog needs extra work on the "sit" command in a more playful setting.
  • Regardless of the command you choose, it is a good idea to use a hand signal as well. "Stay" should be followed up with a stop sign with your hand. With "sit," point your finger at the ground. These hand gestures will be invaluable as your dog gets older and no longer can hear very well. Also, these gestures are discreet for a while you have visitors since you don't always want to interrupt your friend talking by commanding your dog.
  • The final command has been the most critical command I have ever taught my dog. It not only saved a neighbor's pet bird that he caught from being injured but also saved many of my daughter's toys and things that could have hurt him as well. This command is "drop it."
  • The best way to teach a dog to drop something is to say "drop it," then firmly tap the bottom of their mouth after a two-second pause. Most dogs will instantly drop whatever they are holding the moment you hit their chin. Some more stubborn dogs will not. Then say "drop it," again and tap harder without injuring your dog. They will soon understand, they are expected to drop what they have in their mouth immediately. Very rarely will your dog resist, once he knows this command, you will not have to tap them on the chin after that. My dogs both picked up on this very quickly.
  • Playing fetch is one of the few moments to teach the "drop it" command adequately. By teaching this command, you will find that chasing your dog when he is carrying around your underwear is a thing of the past. More importantly, it is an excellent way to protect him from chewing on things that could harm him like nail clippers or dangerous plants to dogs.

Of course, as with any game, you want to make sure you praise your puppy lots. Initially, praise your dog after each command, but after a few days, it is a good idea to wait to praise him until after he has done all four. By waiting, you will reinforce that when he plays fetch, he is expected to, fetch, come, stay, and drop it, each time whether you say each step or not. In the early stages, do not hesitate to praise, just because you had to force him into the sit position or pat underneath his mouth to get him to drop his toy. They need to know that if they obey, you are pleased.

When you first begin playing follow-the-leader with your dog, use a leash; soon he will be able to go off leash.
When you first begin playing follow-the-leader with your dog, use a leash; soon he will be able to go off leash. | Source


Follow-the-leader is another game that is fun for the dog and yet trains them basic commands used in everyday life. The basic commands you will want to use are, "come" or "this way" (I prefer "this way"), "stay," "sit," "lay." Then you can add many others like "rollover," once your dog understands the basic more useful commands.

You will begin with your dog on his leash. The object is to make sure he never tugs or pulls on the leash and follows you. You can do this as you walk around your yard or even inside your house. Begin by patting your leg as you use a follow me command, like "this way," which signals to him that it is time for him to pay attention to you, not the world around him. As you are walking, he should walk with you. If he pulls on the leash, remind him by patting your leg and calling him. If he pulls hard, it may be a good idea to get a choke collar, they do not harm him, but make him uncomfortable enough to be trainable.

Soon he will learn when you walk- he walks; when you stop- he stops. If he halts without a fight, praise him and continue walking. Once he realizes that when you stop, he needs to stop, you can begin with the commands. Do not start with the other commands until he masters this one instead.

After walking for a moment, stop and say a command with an appropriate hand signal. I usually put my hand up like a stop sign for "stay," point to the ground for "sit," bend over slightly with your hand like a backward stop sign pointing at the ground for "lay." Once he feels you stopping, he should listen and look at you, then obey these commands.

To teach the "sit" command, you need to place pressure on his rump as you pull up on his leash slightly. Sit should be quite easy to learn, especially if you use lots of praise. Some people choose to use treats, but I have to admit I don't, yet my dog is well-trained. Dog treats may cause them to learn more quickly, but praising them can be sufficient.

When you use the "lay" command, you want to tug the leash down as you put pressure on their rump. By pulling down, it will teach your dog what you expect. Getting your pup to lay is more beneficial in the long run than to sit, despite most people's insistence on using the "sit" command.

The reason I say this is because lying down is more comfortable than sitting down for your dog; therefore, it is more useful if you want your dog to stay in one position for long periods, like when you answer the door. Your puppy may begin to squirm if you have him stay in the "sit" position too long, especially when they are a young puppy or an older dog that has joint issues.

For the "stay" command, you should be able to drop the leash, walk away, then say "release," and he should know to come to you. You may need to practice a lot. You also may need to reposition him in his original spot many times before he learns to stay.

Make sure when you first are teaching your dog these commands to lay the praise on thick, even if you had to force them in the position. The only way they will learn what you expect is by praising them when they do well. Your puppy will soon search for the praise by doing it more quickly and quickly. Soon you will not have to guide their body.

ollow-the-leader makes a great game; soon, you will be able to have your dog follow you anywhere off-leash. Follow-the-leader also gives them opportunities to do many commands while receiving individual attention. They will love the extra attention, all while having fun!


Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek is an enjoyable game for you, your company, and your dog. With this game, you will need to use your puppy's favorite toy. It's essential to name its toy, so your pup knows what it's called. For instance, my dog loves his squirrel. So we often will say, "Here's your squirrel," when we give it to him. He now knows what "squirrel" is.

When beginning the game, you want first to say, "Where's your (squirrel)?" and point to it, so he knows you want him to get it. Once he grabs it, praise him and make a huge deal about him finding it. As he learns what you expect, then it is fun to hide their toy much like you would hide for a four-year-old, somewhere not too obvious but where they can find it by looking around the room. As the dog gets better at this game, you can hide it better and better spots. Soon he'll be able to find it just by his sense of smell.

This game is also a training tool by teaching the dog to go into another room while you hide it. I use the terms "inside," "outside," "upstairs," and "downstairs." These are important commands, as it will make leaving your house much more manageable. Another command to use is "stay," which you would use once he has gone to the appropriate spot before the game begins. Once he is allowed to come out, then say "release" or "this way," so he knows he may break the "stay" command.

Another command you can teach through this game is the "drop it" command. You want your puppy to willingly give up his toy so you can hide it again. You do not want to play a game of tug-of-war, because then it's a game of wills, not training. Soon the dog will love playing hide-and-seek, and you may find him bringing you his toy when he wants you to hide it.

Playing games with your dog is extremely important. They will not only bring you and your dog closer together but also teach them that you are more than just a roommate. Many games can teach your dog real-life commands that will make owning your dog much easier. Also, by playing many of these games with your dog, it will make him calmer and more contented because he has an outlet for his energy.

Although playing typical games is important, having the right toys that will help your dog is essential. Kongs are a magnificent toy to use to keep your dog active for hours. They will chew and lick on it, trying to get the treat inside. If you run out of treats, even placing peanut butter inside will keep your dog preoccupied for a long time, which is ideal for chewers like my dog.

Skeezix with Big Rawhide Bone

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      I currently do not have a dog, but I can remember teaching our collie to sit, stay and come. It would have been much simpler had I had your suggestions. Great hub topic and very useful to dog owners, I'm sure of it!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      Mine is a rat terrier, and loves fetch as well! It must be something in the breed. LOL!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      8 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, this is a very insightful hub just full of great information and tips. I have Jack Russell, who is OCD it seems when it comes to her ball and playing fetch for hours and hours and hours, if we allow her. We have to actually hide the ball, and then she spends an hour looking for it, when we know she is worn out! She loves the kind of ball that quishes and blows a little air out of it when she bites on it. Thanks for he great hub. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      Debbie, aren't dogs hilarious! Haha... I loved this story!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      Kblover, thank you so much for your helpful response. I can see how playing tug-of-war, where the dog must listen to you when it ends, could become more of a confidence builder than a dominance thing.

      I also see where I need to make some clarifications. When I mentioned tugging on the leash, I meant when the dog is tugging, not that we should be doing the tugging. But some dogs will try to go off and do their own thing and pull and pull on the leash. In this caswe a choke collar is actually more gentle than an other leash, because it does not press against the throat, and the dog won't be willing to pull as hard, causing less long-term effects on him. I do agree that the person should never intentionally tug the leash. I definitely need to clarify that in my writing.

      I also liked your suggestion about naming the behavior while he is doing it. I feel kind of dumb that this never occurred to me. I like that.

      Thank you so much for your helpful input.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 

      8 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Thanks for some great tips on training a dog and on how to teach a dog to play. When I first adopted my Maltese boy, he didn't play. He was still nervous and traumatized by whatever happened to him before I got him. About a month after though, I was eating yogurt and when I finished, I handed the cup to him to lick out. Within a few minutes he was chasing the cup all over the kitchen floor, barking at it and pretending it was alive! His favorite toys are plastic jar lids!

    • kblover profile image

      Brian McDowell 

      8 years ago from USA

      I agree with using games to train is definitely a good and fun idea. I do disagree that tug-of-war "teaches dominance" or requires the dog to be dominant, or makes him dominant (and agree that fetch doesn't).

      It might make him more confident, which is why I played it with Wally. But confidence doesn't equal dominance. The important thing is that you can stop the game or have him drop the toy on request. That signifies not so much that he's still "submissive" but that he can still think and perform instructions while in an excited state, something else that games can help teach and I feel is a very useful skill.

      It's also a matter of how you end the game as well. I don't want to risk "returning ball to me = no more fetch" in the dog's mind. It becomes a punisher then (dog wants more fetch you ended the game), which can decrease his willingness to return the ball. For Wally, I let him jump up on me (something he finds rewarding, you could also use a small bit of a treat or favorite food) and then we go home or do something else. That way, returning the ball was rewarded, and we can stop playing.

      I would also caution against putting pressure on the hips of a dog or tugging with the leash, especially on younger dogs or soft dogs. Sitting can be trained easily by capturing and then "naming" the behavior as he does it more intentionally and repeatedly (and opens to the door to shaping) while the down is one of the few times I'll lure, though you can probably capture it (he's going to lie down sometime).


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