By Guest Blog Carl Turner
Whether your dog is a herder, a tracker, or a lapdog, he needs activities to keep both his mind and his body in top form. It’s your responsibility as his human to make sure those activities are creative and stimulating. Remember that you’ll be more likely to play these doggie games if they are also interesting to you! Here are a few creative games to help stimulate your dog.
Teaching some dogs to simply fetch a ball will be accomplishment enough. This may take weeks of positive reinforcement, and it may be as far as you get. However, if you have a clever dog and you’re very patient, why not train your dog to fetch more than a ball?
On a chilly evening, wouldn’t it be nice to have your dog retrieve your slippers? It may take a while and it may require extra special treats, but there’s no reason why you can’t train your dog to retrieve something you actually need. If you could train your dog to find and retrieve your glasses, your quality of life will improve dramatically—even if the glasses get a little slobbery!
Find the Hidden Item
Most dogs respond well to food treats, and dogs have excellent senses of smell. Why not combine these two things and teach your dog to find the hidden food? You can start with a piece of chicken under an upside-down paper cup. Once your dog has mastered that, put down several paper cups, but only put chicken under one. Praise your dog when he identifies the only cup with chicken under it. Gradually, you can upgrade to plastic cups or other containers.
You and your dog will both be entertained. You can brag to your friends about how smart your pup is. Just don’t forget to give the piece of chicken to your dog as a reward!
If you have a yard or other outdoor space, create an obstacle course with a treat at the end. If you don’t have a lot of space, you can create an indoor maze that your dog follows in order to reach the end and his reward treat. Remember that you’ll need to walk along the course and encourage him the first few times. While the physical exertion of an obstacle course or a challenging maze is great for your dog, the mental stimulation of figuring out how to reach the end and the treat will be the biggest benefit.
You can teach your dog to clean up after himself, or at least he can pick up his toys. Invest in some eco-friendly dog toys, which are safe for the environment and healthy for your best friend. After a few minutes of playing, show him how to bring the toys back to his toy box. Reward him often until he realizes this is the expected behavior. Have a command like “Box!” to let him know when it’s time for the toys to go back in the box.
Eventually, he’ll get the idea, and your house will be tidier. You might need to buy more toys so that your dog has plenty to occupy him during clean-up time, but that’s a small price to pay.
More than One
If you have more than one dog, you can make your games into a friendly competition. No one necessarily loses, but the pup who catches on more quickly gets an extra treat.
The quicker dog will also benefit from “teaching” the slower dog how to accomplish the task, whether it’s fetch or retrieving or learning to sit or stay. And, who knows? They may trade roles, depending on what the task is, so each of them will have a chance to be the “quicker” dog at some test.
And don’t forget that using his brain can be a workout for a dog. So after a full day of creative games, your pup should enjoy a restful sleep. And when your dog sleeps through the night, it give you more time to come up with more creative game ideas.
Carl Turner is a freelance writer and a professional dog trainer from Manhattan Beach, California. With over 10 years of experience training dogs, he has helped many pet owners and their pets. When he is not busy with work, he enjoys writing, running on the beach, and hanging out with his two German Shepards.