Puppy games are a lot of fun, of course. They also bring you and your puppy closer together, while teaching him useful skills like retrieving, searching and obedience. Ideally you will start playing games and training your puppy as soon as you bring him home. But remember, he will get tired quickly, so keep the sessions short and give him lots of rest between sessions!
Fetch is a favourite game that can teach your puppy to come when called, and to retrieve the newspaper or your slippers if you’re so inclined. Get your puppy to come, sit, and then throw a toy. Encourage him to go get it. You can even begin praising him and get him energised when he’s far away from you – dance, shout, call his name – so he’ll want to run back. When he brings the object back to you, tell him to drop it, and praise him when he does.
Find the toy
This is a great game to play with puppies, and it teaches your puppy to rely on his sense of smell and to use his brain. It can also prepare him for tracking. Come up with a name for each toy. To start, pick up his favourite toy and say the toy’s name. “Squeaky toy,” for example. Give him the toy if he looks at you when you say it. Choose a request (such as “find”) to use only for this game and for when you want him to find things later. Show your puppy the toy and hide it partially under a towel. Then say, “Find your squeaky toy.” If he finds it, praise him. If he doesn’t, repeat the request.
Keep gradually hiding the toy more and more until he is able to recover it completely from where he can’t see it. Don’t forget to praise him every time. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell him to find anything you’ve named and he’ll soon be an expert tracker! As with all games and exercise your puppy will let you know when he’s tired or has had enough – always make sure you give him plenty of breaks during the fun!
Tug-of-War is a great puppy game, as it can help you train your puppy to drop a toy on command. Hold onto your puppy’s favourite toy and offer it to him until he grabs. Gently tug back and forth with him. You can pretend you are pulling harder than you really are (he’s a puppy, after all!) and let him have it every once in a while. Praise him when he “wins” but make sure he has played by the rules. Even if it’s an accident, your puppy should not grab or bite anything that isn’t the toy. If he does, that should be your cue to end the game. Give your puppy kibbles of food if he drops the toy when you say, “Drop it” during the game. Eventually, he’ll learn to drop the toy on command without expecting a treat.
When you play with puppies you can help them to learn more about their world, and this can even support their development. Agility games are great for this as they get your puppy moving and thinking. They burn off calories and energy while increasing your puppy’s coordination and confidence. Puppies love the challenge of jumping, negotiating obstacles and getting praise when they do well.
First, create an obstacle course in your living room with blankets and chairs. Use treats or kibble to lure your puppy and follow alongside as he follows the course, rewarding him when he conquers the obstacles and cheering as he does well. If you are feeling ambitious, you can create a course outside in the garden or in the park. Use cones, hula-hoops and other objects, and invite other puppies to join once he is old enough to socialise safely with them. Get creative!