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Rev up your outdoor fun with these 5 backyard games to play with your dog. Bonus: they double as training practice for helpful skills!
If life has a way of keeping you far from the joys of good, old-fashioned fun, take some time out to play these games with your dog. It may be just what you need to help you relax, reconnect with your inner kid, and build more advanced obedience skills in your loyal friend, too.
In the College for Pets rating, most of these are in the 201-level game category—best for dogs that already know the commands Stay, Come and Leave It. (You’ll also want to make sure that your dog can’t wander off, too, especially for the hide-and-seek games!)
Ah, temptation… this is the first of the temptation-based games. Give your dog the “stay” command, then begin tossing a ball, frisbee, or stick from one person to another. Have patience if they initially leap for the object.
Keep repeating until they stay while you toss a few times; reward them for listening. Then release them with your chosen command, e.g., “go,” “release.” Again, rewards!
This is another game that helps teach your pup to listen (“come”) vs. give in to their initial instinct and go for the goodie. This one is really helpful for building listening and obedience skills so you can more confidently take your dog with you when you’re out and about.
Have a partner show your dog a favorite treat or toy—but when he or she starts to move, use the “come” command to get them to return to you. Be sure that the reward only comes from listening to you!
Hide and Seek ME
Find a hiding spot, and when you’re out of sight call your dog’s name along with “come!” — wait for your dog to find you (repeating the command as necessary). Reward them when they succeed.
You can also do this as a family, which will help the dog learn to listen to other people in your household than just you. Another variation, as they get better, is to tell them to find a specific person by name.
Tug of War
Most dogs love to play tug games, but it’s critical that they also learn to leave it/drop it when instructed. You can help strengthen their understanding of this command by playing tug of war with a rope or towel.
In the middle of the game, give them your chosen command to leave or drop it. When they obey, reward them with a nice treat. Try varying how excited they get to make sure they’re really listening. (If your dog is super-protective, you may want to work with a professional dog trainer on this behavior first.)
Even if you’re not planning to enter your furry friend in agility competitions, introducing them to the practice of standing on a wobble board can be a fun way to help them strengthen their core muscles (yes, dogs can benefit from core workouts too!).
You can purchase one or make one yourself—just ensure its large enough that your dog can comfortably stand on it, and it’s stable enough not to flip over.
In the first stage in introducing them to an unsteady surface, keep your foot on the board so it doesn’t move at all. Once they go on the angled surface and are comfortable there, you can allow it to tip—just a tiny bit at first!
As they get acclimated, start using the stay command to get them to stand still, and reward them when they succeed. Gradually you can allow a bit more wobbly-ness. Once this is more comfortable, you can gradually encourage them to get on the board on their own. Remember to reward them when they stay put!
As you and your dog get practiced with these games, you’ll likely think of variations—we’d love to hear what you come up with! And if you’d like more ideas for outdoor fun, we encourage you to join our Outing Club—where group fun is a twice-weekly activity!