What Games Can I Play with My Puppy?
Games are fun. But they’re more than that: they teach your puppy special skills.
Fetch is a favorite game that can teach your puppy to come when called, and to retrieve the newspaper or your slippers. Get your puppy to come, sit, and then throw a toy. Encourage him to go get it. You can even begin praising him and get him energized when he’s far away from you—dance, shout, call his name—so he’ll want to run back! When he brings it back to you, tell him to drop it, and praise him when he does. (Click here to learn how to teach puppy to fetch.)
Find the Toy
Find the toy games that teach your puppy to rely on his sense of smell, and to use his brain. They can also prepare him for tracking. Come up with a name for each toy. To start, pick up his favorite toy, say the name of the toy, like "squeaky toy," and give him the toy if he looks at you when you say it. Choose a command, such as "find," to use only for this game and for when you want him to find things later. Show your puppy the toy and hide it partially under a towel. Then say, "Find your squeaky toy," and if he finds it, praise him. If he doesn’t, repeat the command. Keep gradually hiding the toy more and more until he is able to recover it completely from where he can’t see it, and praise him every time. Eventually you’ll be able to tell him to find anything you’ve named and he’ll be a pro tracker!
Tug-of-War is a favorite game and can actually be a great tool to help you train your puppy to drop a toy on command. Hold on to your puppy’s favorite toy and offer it to him until he grabs. Tug back and forth with him. You can play like you’re pulling harder than you really are (he’s a puppy, after all), and let him have it every once in a while! Praise him when he “wins” but make sure he has played by the rules! Even if it is an accident, your puppy should not grab or bite onto anything that isn’t the toy. If he does, that should be your cue to end the game. Give your puppy kibbles of food if he drops the toy when you say “drop it” during the game. Eventually, he’ll learn to drop the toy on command without expecting a treat.
Agility games—a fancy name for games that get your puppy moving and thinking—burn off calories and energy and they increase your puppy’s coordination and confidence. Puppies love the challenge of jumping, negotiating obstacles and getting the praise you give when they do well. Create an obstacle course in your living room with blankets and chairs. Use treats or kibble to lure your puppy and follow alongside as he follows the course, rewarding him when he conquers the obstacles and cheering as he does well. If you are feeling ambitious, you can create a course outside in the yard or at the park with cones, hula-hoops and other objects, and invite other puppies to join. Get creative! Learn about the basics of puppy exercise and play here.