Is there anything cuter than the puppy zoomies? We think not. Playing with your puppy is all part of the bonding process. And a fun part at that! But what are the best puppy games for the two of you to get stuck into?
We look at all the favourites, and figure out which games you should be devoting your time and attention to.
Why are puppy games so important?
It’s important that puppies play. Games are key to their development, both physically and mentally. They’re developing strength and fitness by running, jumping, twisting, pulling and everything else. After all, you want those bones and muscles to last fur-ever. Play also helps to keep your puppy active and combat weight gain, helping to decrease the chances of diabetes in dogs.
Mentally, puppy games are important too. Not only do they give your puppy an outlet for extra energy and stress, they help develop social skills and the ability to follow direction.
Research has shown that a lack of play can cause as many as 22 different behavioural issues in dogs. And when you do play games with your puppy, you’re helping them to build confidence too. Ideally, you want your puppy to play with some other fur kiddos. But if only human interaction is possible, your games can teach your puppy good manners. Plus keep bad behaviour, anxiety, and even aggression to a minimum.
And there’s the extra bonus that we love seeing their wagging tails when we get up to throw a ball or chase them around.
Hopefully you’re now convinced that puppy games, toys, and general play are important in raising a well-balanced dog. But what types of games should you be playing with your pup? Let’s find out.
The best puppy games and toys
Here are some of the best games and toys for your puppy. They can be a great tool to form a bond with your puppy, and keep him or her relaxed and calm. But they’ll also help you raise a dog who is well adjusted and confident.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about how big your puppy will be when he’s fully grown, check out our piece on uncovering your puppy’s adult dog size. Just so you can buy toys for every life stage, you know?
There’s a reason that fetch (or frisbee) is a classic. Most dogs love chasing, retrieving, and catching a ball, frisbee, or other toy. One of the big benefits is it’s a very physical game and can help your puppy to release all that pent up energy. The result? A calmer, more relaxed puppy. Your furniture and shoes will be grateful.
One thing to remember is to play fetch in moderation, especially when pup is growing. Though a lot of fun, it can put stress on the joints, muscles, and soft tissues. Especially if your dog is the type to charge after the ball at full speed with no regard for anything else.
Some behaviourists explain certain dogs can become over-stimulated during fetch, but you can mitigate this. For example, only play for short periods and not on every walk/outing, and have a clear “ok, we’re done” word or signal where the object gets put away.
If you’ve a park or beach nearby, your puppy will probably love a trip to somewhere new to play fetch. Especially if home doesn’t come complete with a big garden and lots of run space. Of course, you need to ensure that a) your dog is well socialised with other dogs and people, and b) he has good recall if you want to venture outside of securely-fenced areas.
When they’re puppies, this can be nerve-wracking the first few times. But if you’ve given them a good foundation and don’t overwhelm them, they’ll quickly fall in love with the beach or park.
If you do have an aggressive dog, be a responsible owner and don’t take them to public places until you’re confident the behaviours are under control. You might also want to read our article on preventing dog bites and aggression.
If you plan to take your puppy on regular walks, getting them to stick close by to you makes it sooo much easier. Especially if you want to walk them off leash eventually. Playing a game to get them to follow you like a little shadow when you walk can be invaluable.
Put your dog’s harness or collar and lead on. Start walking around. Whenever your pup catches up to you, give him a little treat. If they run off and get in front of you, just turn around and put a treat on the ground. While your dog is licking that up, walk a few steps away. Again, once they catch up to you – it’s treat time.
As your dog gets better at this you can go faster, move sideways, go around an obstacle, or even test him in the presence of some distractions. Here’s some more tips on how to teach your puppy to walk on a lead. Yay for long strolls on the beach with your one true love…
“Find the treats/toys” games
This is one of those puppy games that will serve you well in later life. Finding the treats is a great way to slow down your dog’s dinner time, or to keep them occupied while you’re out and about. And if they can learn that, they can also learn to find you specific toys. Plus, it’s great mental stimulation and teaches your dog to use their natural sniffing skills.
Start by putting some treats on the floor in an easy spot. Give your puppy the ‘find the treats’ command and praise him when he sniffs his way to them. Keep repeating this same command each time. As they improve, start slowly moving the treats into slightly harder-to-find spots.
Eventually you’ll be able to hide them in lots of little spots in the house or garden, and your dog will have a ball sniffing them all out and finding them. You can use healthy treats like bits of carrot or lean chicken. Or even use their kibble at mealtimes.
The concept with the toy is exactly the same. Start off by teaching your dog to recognise a ball or rope by praising them every time they look towards the toy as you say ‘rope’ or ‘ball.’ Then work on the same ‘’find the ball!’” basis as above. No more wondering where the toy is when you need it!
Don’t play around with pet insurance
All that playing and puppy ownership comes with some inherent risks. Many a boisterous puppy has accidentally taken a tumble or munched on something forbidden. With pet insurance, you can make decisions on your pet’s treatment which are motivated solely by care, not by cost.
The best puppy games – over to you
Are you a fan of a game that isn’t on this list? Fetch, chase, or another fun training game? Let us know what your favourite games are to play with your furkid in the comments sec