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8 Games your dog actually wants to play

Just like you get tired of playing tug-of-war with that same dilapidated rope, your pooch is no doubt sick of the same games each night, too. Changing up your dog games is easier than you think.

Ever plop down in the lawn chair, toss the ball and watch as your dog followed its arc across the backyard then turned and looked at you? His eyes are clearly saying, “I chased the ball yesterday. What else have you got, human?” Don’t disappoint your dog. Try these super-awesome games to keep things fresh.

Mind games

Dogs love a good challenge and to be thrown for loops as long as they’ve got their owner’s attention and a few (tiny) treats along the way.

Rapid fire/switch up

Ever notice you say the same commands in the same order? They’re also usually done when you need the dog to sit or stay, not when you’re just having fun. Running through the commands and changing up their order may make you feel like a bossypants, but watch your pup’s tail. She’s happy. Instead of rewarding with treats, use a tug-of-war session as a reward. Then do it all over again. Who will break a sweat first, you or the dog?

The shell game

You already know your dog’s sniffer is stronger than yours, but have you tested it? Grab two cups, put a stinky treat under one and do a few switcheroos. Can he find it? Try it with a less smelly snack to help improve his attention span.

The towel game

Similar to the shell game, hiding a treat in a folded-up towel will test your dog’s nose. Seem easy? You try unfolding a towel with no opposable thumbs, dude. It takes longer than you’d think.


Your dog loves nothing more than to “find” you. If your pooch is especially good at “stay,” tell her to stay in one room while you go hide in the rest of the house. Once you’re hidden, call her and let her come find you. The reward: Getting to shove her nose in your face and happily try to lick it off. (Small treats are also nice.)

Similarly, you can do this by hiding a few small treats around the house when your dog is in another room, then watch him scurry around trying to collect all of them.

Toy games

Games involving you are always going to be your dog’s favorite option. However, if you need to get some work done or leave the house for a while, any game is better than being bored. These independent play games are particularly cool.

JW Pet’s Hol-ee Treat Ball

JW Pet's Hol-ee Treat Ball

Fill this brightly colored ball‘s center compartment with small treats or your dog’s kibble and hand it over. A tiny hole will occasionally dispense one piece of food at a time. The rubber ball cage around the compartment makes it perfect for the dog to carry or toss using her mouth. (, $9)

Nina Ottoson’s Dog Twister

Nina Ottoson's Dog Twister

Think your pooch is smart? The Dog Twister will put that theory to the test. With various ways to hide and secure treats, the Twister can start out fairly simple and be adjusted in complexity as your dog becomes more accustomed to what he should be doing to get his rewards. (Amazon, $34)

Kyjen Mystery Tree

Kyjen Mystery Tree

This game is relatively simple for you and could be easy for the dog once she figures out how to open each latch. Basically, you drop the ball into the top of the trunk and puppy must find out which root is hiding the ball. (, $15)

Seems simple enough, right? Fetch your dog and go have fun.

More for dogs

6 Ridiculous pet gadgets you might actually want
Beyond the walk: 5 new ways to exercise your dog
Technology that takes care of your pet

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