Five Games That Will Delight Your Dog

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Summer is a wonderful time to spend outdoors with your dog. Here’s your chance to reclaim the outdoors. Get your dog and go out to your yard or the park for some fun. To help you along, we’ve compiled some activities and tips on how to make them more enjoyable.


This time-honored game requires nothing but a lightweight ball of relatively soft material (if it is too hard, the ball could damage your dog’s teeth) and a willing dog. Make sure the ball isn’t too small, otherwise he could accidentally swallow it while leaping. (Depending on the size of the dog, even a tennis ball could be too small.)
The object is of course to have your dog bring the ball back to you. That isn’t always the case; sometimes the dog trains the owner to run after the ball. Unless you don’t mind running at your dog’s whim, here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t play if your dog pushes the ball at you then snatches it away as you reach for it, or if he dances around with the ball in his mouth, teasing you. You’re just reinforcing the idea that he can give you orders.
  • As the pack leader, YOU decide when to bring the ball out and when to throw it. Keep the ball in a special area that your dog is aware of, so when he sees you bring the ball out, he becomes excited and eager to please.
  • Follow the practice of performers to “leave ’em begging for more.” In canine parlance, that means quit the game while he’s still interested, not when he becomes bored.
  • Lavish praise on him immediately when he retrieves the ball and brings it to you.

    You can substitute the ball with a Frisbee. To learn how to teach him the game, see the story Teaching Your Dog to Love Frisbee.



What would you rather do, watch overpaid athletes strut around a basketball court or play hoops with your dog? Teaching him how isn’t difficult, and he’ll be grateful for the chance.

  • Take a container such as a big cooking pot, laundry basket or large plastic pail and weight it down with a heavy object (so it won’t get knocked over).
  • Introduce your dog to the basket and the ball. As he watches, drop the ball into the bucket several times, while saying “drop.”
  • Give him the ball, then bring him over to the bucket and say “Drop.” Do this until he drops the ball in the basket, then immediately praise him (you might give him a small treat as well). You’ll have to repeat this several times before he makes the connection between the reward and the action.
  • When the connection is made, roll or throw the ball to him and watch him doggie-dunk it!



If there’s a body of water nearby, your dog may want to go for a dip (only allow this if it’s safe AND permitted). Most dogs take to the water like ducks, but if he’s new to swimming, you’ll want to make sure he can swim. Never just throw him into the water, and always supervise his water activities.

  • Stand in shallow water and call to your dog. You may want to coax him with a toy or a treat.
  • Your dog should use all four legs to doggie paddle. If he paddles with just his front paws, lift his rear legs to help him float. He’ll quickly understand that he needs all his legs to swim.
  • Swimming is strenuous to any creature not used to it, so don’t let your dog swim for too long. If you’re at the beach, watch out for strong tides, and don’t let your dog drink saltwater. (You should also be aware that your dog is a target for sea lice and jellyfish.)

    Incidentally, if you take your dog to the beach, you should bring along fresh water and shade. Dogs can get sunburned too.



Hula Hoop

Begin by holding a hula hoop (still available at most toy stores, believe it or not!) upright, but on the floor. Lead your dog through the hoop, then reward him with praise or a treat (or both). Repeat several times.

  • Raise the hoop several inches off the ground and lead him through again. Then let him go at it!
  • Keep raising the hoop a little more each time to make it more of a challenge, rewarding your dog each time he makes it through. Quit before he gets bored or no longer wants the treats.



Dogs like playing tug-of-war, but it is important not to let the game get out of hand. Because dogs are, by instinct, hunters, the game reminds them of catching prey. For that reason, stop playing when the game starts to appear too serious. If your dog starts to take winning seriously, it’s time to play a less competitive game. And don’t ever show off your dog’s grip by picking him up with the rope in his teeth.


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