There’s no denying it: puppies have a lot of energy. Aside from exercising and training them, how can you help them burn off this energy? This is where puppy games come in. They’re fun, they allow the two of you to bond, and in many cases they can help socialise your puppy and teach them lifelong skills. Plus, you can easily get your family, friends, or even your trusted Dog Sitter involved!
Curious about the best games to play with your puppy? We’ve put together some easy and fun ideas.
Why are puppy games important?
First and foremost, puppy games are ideal for keeping your puppy busy and entertained. Because puppies have so much energy, they need somewhere to put it – and games are a fantastic outlet. As a result, instead of stealing your socks or chewing on your shoes, they’ll have something constructive to do.
Plus, games wear out your puppy. This makes them calmer, better behaved, and easier to handle throughout the rest of their waking hours.
Certain games can also encourage proper socialisation (especially if done in the company of other humans or puppies) and help with obedience. They can also stimulate your puppy’s senses, including their mind and sense of smell.
The best part about puppy games, though? They allow you to build a solid bond with your puppy. Each time the two of you positively interact, you’re deepening your connection and building things like trust, loyalty, and kinship.
Just make sure to limit playtime to a few minutes each time. Puppies can get drained quite easily, so go for multiple shorter sessions throughout the day rather than one hours-long spell. This also ensures your puppy won’t get bored and will be more likely to dive back into play later on.
The best puppy games for fun and socialisation
Now, to the games! Your puppy might already have their own preferences as to which games they like to play. But if they don’t, all of the below are perfect starting points. Eventually, you may find that your puppy prefers one over the other, or is happy to engage in them all!
Fetch is a fantastic game for doggos of all ages – including young puppers. It’s also a nice gateway to teaching your puppy to “drop it” when they return with the toy or ball.
If you want to play fetch with your puppy, though, you’ll need to make a few modifications. First of all, choose a toy or ball that’s perfectly small and soft so it can easily fit in their mouth. (Not too small though – you don’t want it to become a choking hazard!) Next, make sure you only throw the toy a short distance. This is because their little legs might struggle if the ball or toy is several metres away.
Tug-of-war is another game that can help you teach your puppy to “drop it”. Simply grab a dedicated tug toy, encourage your puppy to pick up one end in their mouth, then gently pull on the other end. You can let your puppy “win” from time to time, then tell them to drop the tug toy. Each time they successfully do so, hand them a treat to reinforce the behaviour. Eventually, they’ll learn to drop it without a tasty reward.
A quick note on tug-of-war: avoid playing with anything that’s not a special tug toy. If your pupper starts to associate tug-of-war with, say, a sock or tea towel, they may get confused and start to think of these items as toys. If one of these gets caught up in a game of tug-of-war, stop immediately so your puppy drops the association.
#3: Hide the treats and seek
Finding treats is a lot of fun for your pupper. It’s also a great way to stimulate their mind and sense of smell.
You can hide treats in practically anything. You could turn a box over and place some treats under it, encouraging your puppy to find out what’s beneath. You could also do the same with overturned plastic cups. Or, you can hide treats around your garden.
Alternatively, there are lots of fun puzzle toys on the market that are designed for this very thing. They allow you to hide treats in little pockets or parts of the toy, and encourage your doggo to forage for them. (Bonus: puzzle toys are incredibly amusing for adult dogs, too, so your pooch is unlikely to grow out of them!)
#4: Group fun
Proper socialisation is crucial for puppies. It’s good for their development, and it teaches them to be friendly and well-behaved. It makes them better able to cope with other humans, animals, and the outside world. It’s also a lot of fun. The most important time for socialisation is when your puppy is between three and 17 weeks old.
Puppy school or dedicated puppy training classes are ideal. These allow your puppy to interact with doggos that are around the same age and vaccination status. That last part is important; you want to make sure both your puppy and the puppies they meet have been sufficiently vaccinated before interacting.
You can do the same if you have friends or family with puppies. Keep in mind that other dogs will need to be vaccinated and happy to play.
#5: Easy dog tricks
You can start teaching your puppy a few easy dog tricks from as young as seven or eight weeks old. You might not be able to hold their attention for long (puppies do have short attention spans, after all!) but that’s not to say you can’t get started with training early. It’s stimulating for your puppy, a lot of fun for both of you, and may just instil some good behaviours at a young age.
The easiest commands to teach a puppy include “sit”, “stay” and “down”. Try to aim for a maximum of 15 minutes of training every day, ideally broken up into smaller sessions.
#6: Obstacle course
Keen to get creative? An obstacle course might just do the trick! It’s great for keeping your puppy active, plus it indulges their love of jumping and finding things.
You can create an indoor obstacle course using items you readily have available: cushions, blankets, boxes, laundry baskets… you get the drift! You can also encourage your puppy to jump by making hurdles out of brooms or mops. If you’re outdoors, cones, hoops, and outdoor furniture work well.
Try to put together a mix of challenges that cover jumping, weaving, running (particularly up and down ramps), and navigating. Treats are also nice incentives for encouraging your puppy through the course.
If you want, you can also buy agility equipment like tunnels, hurdles, ramps, or slalom poles.
#7: Name recall
This is a fun one to do with friends or family. Everyone grabs a treat, then stands in a circle with your puppy in the centre. Next, each person takes turns to call your puppy by their name – rewarding your pupper with a treat every time they come.
There are loads of benefits to the name recall game. Your puppy starts to learn their name, which will eventually make calling them much easier. As well, it teaches your puppy to interact with different people, which is a pillar of successful socialisation. And lastly, it’s tonnes of fun for you, your puppy, and everyone else involved – as a good puppy game should be!