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5 fun games you can play with your dog that go beyond ‘fetch’

Just like us, dogs are happier and healthier when they get plenty of exercise. Also just like with us, turning exercise into playtime is the best way to go about it. And nothing is more enjoyable than the whole family playing with dogs. Not only is playing with your dog a fun way to keep him healthy, not to mention a great bonding experience, but it’s also a workout you’ll enjoy. Wondering how to play with a dog to get the most out of playtime? We’ve rounded up some of the best fun games you can play with your dog whether you’re inside your home or out in nature.  

A brown dog clutches an orange Frisbee in his mouth as he stands near the ocean.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The 6 best games to play with your dog

Here are some of our favorite ways to keep your dog mentally and physically fit. (You’ll have a blast, too.)

1. Take your dog to the beach

If you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean or a beautiful lake, taking your pup to the beach is one of the best ways to help him stay active. You’ll want to make sure your pup knows how to swim before diving in, but some breeds, such as Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers, have a natural inclination toward spending time in the water. (Breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and greyhounds don’t do well in water, so you should bring toys for games you can play on dry land.)

2. Allow your dog to chase his prey

From racing after furry toys to chasing a Frisbee, any game that allows your dog to run after his toy is a fantastic choice if your pup has a natural instinct to chase prey. Breeds like Siberian huskies, Australian cattle dogs, Jack Russell terriers, and whippets all have strong prey drives, making games of fetch and any game that allows them to run favored activities among those breeds. 

3. Give him a treat using a food ball

Limited on outdoor space for playtime? Rainy weather got you down? Not a problem. You can keep your pup mentally and physically occupied — while giving him a tasty treat at the end — with a food ball or a dog food puzzle. Your pup will love chasing the toy around the house while trying to access the snack inside, and you’ll be thrilled to see him having fun without having to step foot outside. 

A chocolate lab plays a game of tug of war indoors.

4. Play tug-of-war

Yet another game you can play indoors or out is tug-of-war. (Just make sure you clear the area of anything breakable before you start playing.) Choose a solid rope meant for your dog’s size and lure him into a game. Not only does playing tug-of-war help strengthen your bond, but chewing and tugging on rope toys is also fantastic for keeping your dog’s teeth healthy and strong. A little growling is normal during playtime, but outright aggression is unacceptable. A game of tug-of-war presents a wonderful opportunity to remind your dog how to play gently. 

5. Play hide-and-seek

Yet another fun activity for those days when the weather keeps you indoors is a game of hide-and-seek. Teach your dog to find you, then hide in strategic places throughout your house. As a bonus, try keeping a treat on hand for when your dog locates you. Most dogs are obsessed with food, and giving him an extra incentive to track you down will make the game more enjoyable for your fur baby. 

A red hound dog jumps over a tree while carrying a green toy.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Of course, you can always play a classic game of fetch

No matter what breed your fur baby is, most dogs love games of fetch. If you have a small dog, you can play fetch with his favorite toy from the comfort of your living room. For larger breeds, take them out to a dog park — or your backyard — for a quick game. Fetching a toy differs from chasing it, so some breeds may take to it more naturally. Retrievers were initially bred to fetch game, so they’ll probably catch on quickly. You can also incorporate playing fetch into your training sessions, as it presents a wonderful opportunity to reinforce commands like “bring it here” and “drop it.” Because dogs are more likely to follow commands when they associate them with positive experiences, training as you play makes lessons more memorable for them. 

Whether you have access to a large backyard or live in a high-rise apartment, keeping your dog active is vitally important to his mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, there are plenty of games you can play with your pup regardless of how much space you have. Playtime with your dog is a bonding experience, and you’ll both enjoy our favorite games you can play with your pup.

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Mary Johnson
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Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
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