5 Games to Play With Your Dog

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/10/20242-4 minutes
Dog Games

One of the best parts of being a dog owner is finding fun and constructive games for dogs. Engaging in physically and mentally stimulating exercise with your dog is a great way to keep them healthy. It also strengthens your bond.

Whether it’s games to play with your dog inside or outside, teaching your dog interactive games with treats as a reward or discovering mental games for dogs, there are many ways to keep your dog (and you) entertained virtually anywhere

Games for Dogs

1. Fetch

Almost every dog gets excited over a game of fetch, as it’s a classic game for humans and dogs alike. All you need is a yard, park or field, a tennis ball or frisbee and an enthusiastic dog to have some fun.

Fetch is an excellent game for energetic dogs. It provides plenty of physical exercise while helping them fulfill their instinct to run. It can also keep your dog mentally engaged and challenged by trying different objects for him to run after. For example, a frisbee may be a bit trickier to catch yet more fun to snag in midair.

Try adjusting the height, distance and direction of your throws to keep your dog interested. Don’t forget to praise your dog each time they return their toy to you so you can toss it one more time.

2. Tug of War

Another classic game most dogs love is playing tug of war. Great for both indoor or outdoor play, tug of war is fun and engaging for your dog. Plus, all that pulling and tugging is a good source of physical exercise. Avoid overexciting your dog with this game, and don’t let children play this one.

A few things to keep in mind: be careful if you’re playing tug of war with a puppy. Remember, puppies’ mouths have not fully formed, and they still have their baby teeth. Only pull gently for a few seconds at a time. If they seem too little, explore other play activities.

Keep your dog’s tooth and gum health in mind when playing tug of war. Use something that won’t hurt the insides of their mouth. Try using a rope, or a dog toy made from soft rubber. If your dog has a history of back and neck injuries, try another activity until talking with your veterinarian.

3. Hide the Treat or Hide & Seek

If you’re looking to play mentally stimulating mind games for dogs, you can’t go wrong with hide the treat. This dog enrichment game is a fun way for them to exercise their problem-solving skills. Simply leave a trail by rubbing the treat on a few spots along the way to its hiding space, then place it somewhere that’s challenging for your dog to find.

As your dog searches, try using language like “hot” and “cold” as your dog gets closer and further away from the treat. Changing your tone from a calm “cold” to an excited “warm” or “hot” will build their listening skills, though it will take some training before they truly understand.

4. Chase the Prey

Unleash your dog’s natural hunting instincts in a positive way that won’t result in local squirrels scampering up a tree. This game uses a flirt pole. A flirt pole is a long pole or stick with a rope attached to one end. You can either purchase a flirt pole or make one with a little bit of DIY.

Tie a toy to the rope of the flirt pole and drag it slowly, occasionally stopping as your dog gets ready to pounce. Make sure to let your dog “catch” the toy periodically as a reward, so they gain confidence and don’t lose interest.

5. Agility Training

If you’re ready to take it to the next level, agility training is the way to go. Agility training is the ultimate mental and physical stimulation for dogs. It will help your dog burn off excess energy and help tire them out for a long nap or a restful night of sleep.

Set up an obstacle course in a yard or park with objects from around the house. You can use boxes to jump over, cones for them to weave between and anything else that comes to mind. If you have a hula hoop, teach them to jump through it and, of course, reward them with treats as they make progress.

Avoid Overstimulation

There are lots of games to play with dogs both inside and outside. Having fun with your dog enriches both of your lives but avoid play that’s too aggressive or leads to overstimulation.

Make sure to end your play sessions while you’re both having a good time. This leaves your dog excited for their next play session rather than exhausted and discouraged.

Find out more tips and insights on dog ownership from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.

Related articles

person in striped shirt, holding a soccer ball, and playing with a chocolate lab
Dog's pant all the time, but why do they do it and when is a sign of something serious? Learn the reasons behind why do dogs pant from Purina dog behavior experts.
person in red shirt sitting on couch petting a sleeping dog
white dog on back on floor next to person
MyPurina App - woman with dog

Reward Yourself with myPurina

Earn and redeem rewards for Purina products with the myPurina app.