Games for dogs and their owners have been around for a long, long time. Play is normal for dogs, just like running and eating and rolling in anything that can make them smell interesting.
There’s a reason these ‘old school’ games have stood the test of time. They work, and they don’t require much equipment, if any.
Running Games for Dogs
Dogs love to run. Some highly active breeds will run laps around their yard just for the simple joy of it. Running games for dogs is a great place for us to start.
1. Race Me!
If you’ve grown up with dogs, you might remember that day when you finally beat your dog in a race. It had seemed impossible for years – your dog was that fast.
Running with your dog is great for both of you, but make it a race if you can. It’s a great use of the stay command if you want to give yourself a head start. Have your dog stay, pace out your head start, then call your dog… and run! See how far you get before you are caught.
This is also a great test of your stay training. As soon as your dog has caught you, have them stay again and head back the other way. If your dog is too excited by the racing and won’t stay, you know you have work to do.
That’s right, fetch is basically a running game. Your dog doesn’t amble after the ball – they sprint. All you need is a ball or a stick and you have a great game for your dog. Even better if there’s water nearby so they can both run and swim in order to fetch.
Be careful you don’t use a choking hazard for playing fetch. See the Do’s and Don’ts of DIY Dog Toys for some guidelines.
Ideally, your dog will return the ball so you can throw it again, but some dogs have different ideas, which leads us to the next game.
3. Catch Me if You Can!
Sometimes, a dog likes to test their avoidance skills. You throw the ball, they grab it and instead of running it back to you they perform the play bow. (That’s with the tail up and wagging in the air, head and chest lower, and the front legs splayed slightly. It’s dog body language for “Let’s play!”)
You head toward your dog but as soon as you’re close they take off, and they want to be chased! So chase them, but make sure they’ll come when you decide it’s time. If you have any trouble, learn how to train your dog to come every time without fail.
Strength Games for Dogs
4. Tug of War
Your dog might surprise you with this one when you’re playing fetch with a stick. They have just carried the stick back to you and you grab it from them, only they don’t let go. They bite hard pull backward with their whole body, getting low for better purchase. It’s natural for them and dogs will play this game with other dogs quite often.
Dogs can pull quite hard, and a stick isn’t always the most hand-friendly piece of equipment for this game. Here’s a quick how-to for making a rope chew toy that’s perfect for tug of war.
And of course, you need to have taught your dog the drop it command or the game might never end…
5. Taking the Owner for a Walk
Does your dog haul you down the street? They think it’s a good game even if you don’t.
Actually, your dog thinks that being out in front helps to prove that they are the leader. If that’s the case, you have a problem, and the pack leader problem is one that can lead to a host of other behavior issues if left unchecked.
Other Games for Dogs
6. Treat Seeking Missile
Of all the games for dogs, the ones with treats will always get your dogs attention. The beauty of these games is that they can still work for older dogs who can’t run much and could be a little blind and deaf. Whatever’s left of that superb canine sense of smell will still have them seeking the treats.
For younger dogs, throw some dry treats out into the yard and let your dog sniff them out. If they see you throw the treats, you’ll see where ‘missile’ comes into the description of this game.
For the older dogs, you may need to fashion a gentler challenge. Put the treat in a cardboard box (which may get shredded), or under plastic cups. Anything that plays to your dog’s foraging instincts is great, and you’ll have that old boy or girl feeling younger again.
Use your imagination, but please don’t get carried away and overfeed your dog. Read our article about DIY Dog Treats so you keep it healthy.
7. Games for Dogs, with Dogs!
And the easiest was left for last. Just let your dog play with other dogs! Watch them and you’ll see the play bow used to start things off.
They will race, play catch me if you can, tug of war, and other dog-only games like taking turns at being dominant and submissive.
Sometimes it can look rough, but normally that’s no issue – they’re just playing.
To learn more about how dogs play, read the Dog Body Language article and watch the videos.
That’s the end of our list of ‘old school’ games for dogs. Now go and have some fun with your dog!
For more great ideas, here are 15 fun things to do with your dog.