11 Smart Games to Play With Your Dog

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Is your dog bored?

Are YOU bored?

Well stop sitting there and start playing!

We have a list of games you and your dog will absolutely love.  The games we’ve chosen to share in this article are easy to start playing.  Some require no equipment whatsoever.  That’s what makes them smart games to play with your dog.

The games that do require equipment use things you can find around the house.  And I’m not talking about drills and screwdrivers.  We are keeping things BASIC so you can start playing these games TODAY!

Plastic Bottle Dog Treat Puzzle

Let’s make good on our promise and start this shindig off with something you might be able to do right now.  Plastic Bottle Dog Treat Puzzle is a very basic, but effective, homemade puzzle.

Take an empty plastic bottle and put some treats in it.

BAM!  You’re done!

Your dog must roll the bottle around to shake the treats out.  You can vary the difficulty by choosing bottles with larger openings.  You can also choose smaller dog treats.  Find the right combination for your brand of treats and dog.

You should monitor this activity the entire time.  You do not want your dog eating pieces of the plastic bottle.  If you find your dog trying to rip the bottle open, try showing your dog how the puzzle game is supposed to work.  Push the bottle with your hand until a treat falls out.  Your pooch should catch on.

Cardboard Tube Dog Treat Puzzle

This is similar to the Plastic Bottle Dog Treat Puzzle, except here we use a toilet paper or paper towel roll. Put treats in the roll and then pinch the sides shut. In this puzzle the dog does have the option of tearing the puzzle open. Though it is interesting to see how your dog will solve it. Dogs have different personalities. Not every one will try and use a brute force method.

This is a safer option if you are concerned about your dog biting a plastic bottle. However, you should still be supervising your dog during this activity. It is not healthy for them to ingest large amounts of cardboard.

Dog Treat Tower Puzzle

Dog Treat Tower Puzzle - plastic bins stacked with treats placed at each level

This is the bottle game taken up a notch.  Grab yourself some plastic nesting containers.  Put a container down.  Put a treat in the container.  Then put a second container on top.  Put another treat.  Then a third container, and a third treat.

Your dog will be attracted to the top treat.  After that, they will try to get at the treats below.

If you want to increase the difficulty, simply add more layers.

Make sure you are watching your pup the entire time with this dog game.  Like the plastic bottle game you do not want your dog eating any of the plastic.

Teach Your Dog to Make Eye Contact

If you think it’s weird obedience training is on a list of dog games, then you’re doing it wrong.

Sorry, just calling it like it is.

Training your dog MUST be fun for both you and your dog.  This keeps you and your dog engaged in the training.

If I said I can teach you to talk to animals, would you be excited to learn?  Well that’s what training is!  You and your pet are establishing sets of words and motions that both of you agree mean something.

So where do you start?  Making eye contact.

Teaching your dog to make eye contact opens the door to teaching them every other command.  You can’t teach them anything if you don’t have their attention.

It also allows you to get your dog’s attention if something is distracting them.

Start by taking a treat and holding it on your forehead or near your eye.  Combine this with a verbal command.  Examples are “eyes” or “look at me”, but you can make up your own.

Eventually stop using the treat and use a hand signal instead.

Another perk: making eye contact with your dog in this way strengthens your emotional bond.

See?  Training is fun and rewarding!

Teach Your Dog More Commands

Now that you have eye contact down, you can move onto other commands.  Remember, these training sessions should be fun for both you and your dog.  Training should be a game!

Here is a quick list of dog commands you can work on:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Lay Down
  • Leash Training
  • Follow Me or Heel (dog walks alongside you)
  • Fetch
  • Drop It (works well after fetch)

These dog commands aren’t just fun to learn.  They are fun to include in other dog games once you both have mastered your communication.

Ramp Up – Cool Down

This one is really fun.  Some might think it is cruel, but it practices a skill your dog must master.

Get your dog super excited.  Jump, cheer, and run around in circles.  Get them as riled up as possible.

Then, using a calm voice, tell them to sit.

Seems unfair, but knowing this skill can keep your dog out of some serious trouble.  You are teaching your pup how to control their emotions.

Plus, the sit command is still part of the game!  Don’t be harsh when you are telling them to sit.  Laugh when they can’t get it right away.  It’s an awesome learning experience you get to share with your dog.

After they sit, start playing again.  They will get the hang of it very quickly.

Hot & Cold Game

This further develops your communication skills.  Hide a treat.  Then signal for your pet to find the treat.  As they look for it, tell them “hotter” or “colder”.

Most of us know this game.  The important part here is to change your tone for hotter and colder.  Don’t only change the word.  An example can be a calm tone with “colder” and an excited tone with “hotter.”  Dogs can more easily pick up on the tone of your voice than the word itself.  Eventually you might be able to use a flat tone.  But that is only when you are ready to try and kick it up a notch.

Ribbon Dog Treat Game

This is going to push your dog’s problem solving skills.

Tie a ribbon or rope to a treat.  Then throw the treat under your couch or something similar.  Leave the ribbon hanging out.  The goal is for your dog to pull the ribbon to get the treat,

Be sure to not let your dog eat the ribbon.  If this is a problem, you can try attaching the ribbon to a bowl with the treat inside.

If your dog can figure this out, give them a BIG celebration afterwards.  They’ve earned it!

The Nose Knows

You can try many different variations of this game, from DIY to store bought awesomeness.  Let’s start simple.

Take three small boxes.  Bowls can work too.  Put a treat under one of the boxes.  Encourage your dog to sniff around the boxes.  When they go for the correct box, celebrate and give them the treat.

You can tweak this by telling them to sit after they pick the correct box.  After they sit, celebrate and give them their reward.  This will lead to them sitting after finding the correct box, just like sniffer dogs on TV!

If you want to get really deep, check out snuffle mats.  These mats have many flaps placed all over.  They are made specifically for dogs to find small treats using only their nose.  If you have a talent for sewing, you can also make your own snuffle mat.

Doggy Hide-and-Seek

When I was a child I would play this game with my dog.  I didn’t know a lot about training animals back then, but I was still able to teach my dog Max to play this with me.  I’m sure you can too.

I would take Max’s rope and throw it downstairs.  As he ran and got it, I would run and hide.  Max would put the rope down at the spot I once was and run looking for me.  Once he found me we would celebrate and I would give him lots of pets.  Then he would run and grab his rope and give it back to me; ready to play another round.

Now that I’m more experienced I see an opportunity to build communication skills into this game as well.  Tell your dog to sit and stay.  Then leave and go hide.  Once you are well hidden, yell for your dog to come find you.  This way seems a little more advanced.  But as you and your dog build your language it will become very natural.

DIY Dog Obstacle Course

This one takes some time, but the building is half the fun!  It reminds me of when I was a kid and we would make obstacle courses for ourselves.  Now you can share those childhood memories with your dog!

You can copy official agility courses or make your own.  Use items found around your house.  It isn’t necessary to purchase professional equipment for a backyard doggy playground.  But we wouldn’t discourage you either.  If you want ramps, see-saws and ball pits, go for it!  But your dog will love you just the same if you use

  • cardboard box or chair tunnels
  • hula-hoop jumping rings
  • cone or broomstick agility rungs
  • stacks of books to jump over

Have Fun With Your Dog!

Your pooch looks up to you.  They love any attention you give them.  Keep this in mind when introducing any new skill.  Teaching and learning is a game all by itself. 

Be patient and cherish every moment.

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