If you have a very strong, pushy dog, you want your games to conform to the strength and temperament of your dog. Games such as tug-of-war is a great game if your dog can’t just drag you all over the yard. If your dog guards his toys or tugs, you will want to work on a release before you start the game of tug-of-war. Your dog needs to understand this is a game, not a competition. Wrestling is fun and great as long as your dog self regulates himself – that is, he does not play to rough and understands this is play. No serious biting is allowed. It is not a good idea to allow small children to play very rough, physical games with a dog.
Games like fetch, hide and seek, and find it, are great games to play. Playing fetch will come natural to some dogs. Others need to learn to bring back the object and give it to you.
Hide and seek involves having the dog ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ while you hide (or have someone else hold the dog), then calling the dog to come and find you. A variation on this involves having the dog go find different family members by name. The person ‘hiding’ calls the dog while you say, “Go find (the person’s name).” The dog gets lots of praise and treats for a successful find.
The ‘find it’ game can be played with a favorite toy. Again, have the dog ‘sit’ and ‘wait’. Show him the toy and encourage him to sniff it. In the beginning hid the toy in plain sight and give lots of praise and treats for a good find. Pretty soon the toy can be hidden in more difficult places like under a sofa cushion and in other rooms. This can be a pre-curser to training your dog for “Nose Work”.
Another fun game is one I call the ‘crazy dog’ game. In this game you do whatever it takes to get your dog excited and playful. You need to jump around and act silly with your dog. After about 30 seconds stop and tell your dog to either ‘sit’ or ‘down’. When your dog obeys – get him all excited again. While you are getting him excited, say, “Crazy Dog, Crazy Dog”. When the game is over, have your dog sit or down and treat him for calming down. This is a good game to teach your dog how to calm down when he becomes excited.