How do you play with your dog?

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Jack & Maggie

Jack & Maggie

I mentioned yesterday that we’ve recently started working with a trainer doing clicker training with Jack & Maggie. It’s only been a few weeks, but they are both picking it up pretty quickly. I try to end each session with a little bit of fun for them, but neither of them are playful dogs. We attribute it to their hard-knock lives (abandoned/shelter/breeding farm) and hope they eventually grow out of it if we are playful with them.

It got me thinking about introducing play to dogs who either never learned or had it leeched out of them over time. Here’s a few ideas that we’ve had, but I’m hoping this great community can offer us some more ideas and advice.

One game they both LOVE is what we call “Find the Food”. I used to play this with Sally way back when she was a puppy but abandoned it as she & Tino got older, but have reintroduced it with Jack. Basically, we hide little treats around the house or outside and turn them loose to find them. It’s a real workout for their noses and great mental stimulation for that. It can occupy them for 15-20 minutes depending on how many treats we lay out – and the reward is built in…they get treats.

The other games we play use a variety of the dog challenge toys. We have several of them: Tornado, Treat Maze, various Kongs and a few others. The Nina Ottoson toys are great – we posted a couple of videos of Jack and Maggie working them on our Facebook page…fun to watch. These are great ways to challenge them to work out the puzzle, but I’ll tell you, the first few times are truly a challenge, but then they get how to work the puzzle and boom, they’re done in seconds. I end up rotating through them – putting one away for a few weeks and then bringing it out again to keep it fresh.

We need ‘easier’ games for Maggie since she’s still fearful about things that are new, so we get simpler games for her. Jack needs harder ones. Not saying he is smarter – he just bulldozes through them to get to the reward so tougher ones challenge him more.

All of these have been really beneficial in giving them a mental challenge, burning up some of that excess energy. And of course we are careful to balance their meals based on the games we play each day.

How about you – I’m really interested in advice on how to get my guys to be more playful. What creative games do you play with your dogs? How do you provide mental stimulation for them?

 Note: we were not compensated to write about any of the products mentioned in this article.


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  1. Sorry, but on a different note: there used to be some cool resources at but now the link is inactive. Where’d it go?
    Tegan recently posted…The Week In Tweets – 27th March 2013My Profile

    • Sorry about that, we changed the name form Library to Links…and not everything got sorted out. Here’s the new link:

  2. I have the same problem with our rescue Tally – she never played with toys and to this day still gets bored with any game. I need to try your suggestions – and Ill let you know how it goes. She might really like the treats around the room one.

    • I bet she likes it!

  3. We play hide and seek with Cali – I toss her toy and then I hide (in an easy to find place) and she comes to find me – she loves it! Hope you guys have lots of fun together!!
    Julie recently posted…Happy dog, grumpy cat . . .My Profile

    • I do that with Jack sometimes too…he gets a little freaked when he can’t find me though.

  4. Rodrigo and Blue are easy; if I start running, they’ll run too. Rodrigo’s favorite game is “give it to mommy” – if I say this, then he’ll grab a toy and we play chase or tug of war. Blue loves being chased around the dining room table so Rigo and I will chase him in circles.

    Sydney isn’t a playful dog. She’ll play with her brothers, but from me she just wants love , hugs and cuddles. I still bring her a toy every now and then that she’ll protect for a few days until she gets bored. Her happiness comes from going “bye bye” – the dogs go nuts if we’re taking off.

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