Dog with a toy in his mouth playing a game of fetch

Playing games with your dog isn’t just a great excuse to spend quality time together. Play is very beneficial for your dog in a number of ways, from contributing to their physical health, to addressing their social needs, to reducing the incidence of problem behaviors.1 Play has also been found to help establish emotional bonds between dogs and their owners.2

Already feeling inspired to clock in some playtime with your pooch? Before you do, why not shake things up? Here are 10 fun games to play with your dog that you can try out today!

1. Find the Toy or Treat

Dog playing Find the Treat game finds the treat his owner was hiding

Photo courtesy: Pixabay Public Domain

This game is as easy as it gets! Like the name suggests, it involves hiding your dog’s favorite toy or treat somewhere for them to find. Start off by showing them where you’re hiding the toy or treat. Use a phrase like “where’s your treat?” to let them know it’s time to go get it. Once they get the hang of the game, amp up the difficulty by hiding the toy or treat without showing them where you’re hiding it.

2. Shell Game

The Shell Game is a fun but challenging game that your dog is sure to love. Start by placing two opaque cups or yogurt containers upside down on the floor. Place a small treat (training treats are ideal!) under one of the cups, making sure that your dog sees you do this. Then, invite your dog to come over and retrieve the treat. Repeat this a couple of times until they understand how to play. Once they do, you can switch the treat to the other cup, and then begin alternating between the two. If your dog becomes really good at this game, you can add more cups and even move them around before your dog tries to pick the cup that is hiding the treat.

3. Obstacle Courses

Dog and owner doing jumps over a beam as they go through an obstacle course

Photo courtesy: Pixabay Public Domain

An obstacle course is a fantastic way for your dog to get some exercise. You can either buy an obstacle course set or make a DIY one using objects such as cones, hoops, pool noodles, poles, and tunnels. How you choose to set it up is up to you—the possibilities are endless! The great thing about obstacle courses is that with a few pieces of equipment, you can experiment with a variety of configurations to keep your dog entertained.

4. Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are a type of interactive toy designed to encourage mental stimulation. While each game may be slightly different, puzzle toys usually have different compartments where you can place your dog’s favorite treats. Once you close the compartments, your dog will need to rely on their smarts to figure out how to access the treats.

5. Tug-Of-War

Dog with a rope toy in his mouth playing tug-of-war

Photo courtesy: Pixabay Public Domain

Do you remember how much fun you had playing this game as a kid? Your dog is bound to enjoy it too, especially if they have bundles of energy. It’s best to play tug-of-war with a knotted rope or ring toy designed for this very purpose. Just be sure to stick to one particular toy when playing … otherwise, you may find your dog starts wanting to play tug-of-war with everything in sight! One caution, however. Tug-of war may not be the best game for dogs who become upset or aggressive when others take their toys. Teach your dog to “drop it” before tug-of-war becomes part of your playtime.

6. Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a game many dogs never tire of. It’s easiest to play with two people, so you can hide while the other person holds your dog back from following you right away. This game is very similar to the ‘Find the Toy or Treat’ game above… only that in addition to hiding a toy or treat, you’ll also be hiding! If you want to make the game more challenging, experiment with multiple people hiding.

7. Swimming Games

Dog in pool fetching a ball

Photo courtesy: Pixabay Public Domain

If you have a pool and your dog is a strong swimmer, why not try out some swimming games? For example, you can play fetch (with objects that float and sink) or teach them how to jump through a hoop into the pool. If you’re willing to hop in, a game of “catch me if you can” is also a lot of fun.

8. Round Robin

You will need two or more people to play this game. Give each person a few treats and ask them to form a circle (or stand at a distance of six feet or so if playing with just two people). Each person should then take turns calling out your dog’s name. Each time your dog comes to the person calling out their name, they should give them a treat. Once your dog gets into the swing of things, separate further from one another.

9. Fetch with a Ball Launcher

Dog with a ball in his mouth playing a game of fetch

Photo courtesy: Pixabay Public Domain

No list of games to play with your dog would be complete without including a game of fetch. But why not make things even more fun with a twist on this classic game? Try playing fetch with a ball launcher! A ball launcher makes it easier to throw the ball longer distances (plus, it will save your arm from aching!). If your dog has already mastered fetch but doesn’t always bring the toy back to you, the next step is to teach them how to fetch and retrieve. You can train them to retrieve by rewarding them with praise and treats when they bring the toy you’re playing with back to you and drop it at your feet.

10. Flirty Fun

A flirt pole, sometimes called a flirt stick, is a simple toy that can provide countless hours of mental and physical stimulation for your dog. It’s basically a pole that has a rope attached to the end of it. Some flirt poles have enticing items attached to the end of the rope, such as a fluffy toy or strips of cloth. All you need to do to get started is dangle it in front of your dog so they can chase and play with it. You can either buy a flirt pole or, if you’re feeling crafty, make your own.

Bonus: 11. Tricks and Treats

Dog giving his owner a high five as part of their tricks training

Image courtesy: Pixabay Public Domain

Think it’s too late to teach your dog a few tricks? The good news is that contrary to the adage, you can teach an old dog new tricks. While it’s usually easier to teach puppies tricks, it’s still relatively straightforward to teach them to dogs of any age, just keep their fitness level and any health concerns they may have in mind. All you need is patience—and a few treats—to make it happen.

Here are some ideas for fun tricks you can teach your dog:

  • Sitting
  • Barking on command
  • Standing on their hind legs
  • Lying down
  • Rolling over
  • Shaking hands
  • Fist bumping
  • Coming when called
  • Dancing

Most dogs will take a while to learn a new trick, so don’t get disheartened if they don’t instantly get it. Just keep trying, and with all tricks and games, make sure you always end on a positive note so your dog keeps eagerly anticipating your next play session.

  1. Horwitz D, Landsberg G. Dog behavior and training – Play and exercise. Accessed February 5, 2021.
  2. Bradshaw J, Pullen A, Rooney N. Why do adult dogs ‘play’? Behavioural Processes; 2015, 110, 82–87. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.023