Humans have to be active if we want to stay healthy, avoid gaining weight and enjoy excellent physical health well into our golden years. It’s the same way with dogs. Our canines may seem to age more gracefully than we do, but a regular fitness routine is just as important for our pups.
Rote exercise routines can get boring over time, which is why many of us take up sports and physical games to stay active. Luckily, dogs love to play, too. Nothing’s more fun than playing a fun game with your best bud at the park.
If you have a new puppy and don’t know what games to play with your dog, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at some great dog games you can start playing right now. Many of these games are also appropriate for older dogs who’ve started to slow down. You can even try these games if your dog needs to play more gently due to their health needs.
The Importance of Keeping Your Dog Active
No matter your dog’s age, activity is vital. Puppies want to play and run around constantly, and you should lean into this as much as you can instead of stifling the urge.
A healthy level of activity in play is important for puppies to develop their muscles and motor functions properly. Dogs that don’t play as much may not be as agile or coordinated as adults.
This also helps them learn how to socialize with you and other dogs safely. Many puppies learn bite inhibition and how to nibble carefully (i.e., not too hard!) during playtime. Finally, play helps your pups learn how to control their energy levels so they don’t get out of control.
Even after your dog leaves the puppy stage and becomes a full adult, keeping your dog active is still very important. Physical activity is vital for dogs of all ages for a few reasons.
Read below to learn more:
It Prevents Your Dog From Gaining Weight
Weight gain in dogs is a big problem, especially for some breeds. We all love to feed our dogs delicious food, but lots of dog food is calorie-dense. These foods could lead to weight gain if we don't exercise our dogs regularly. Weight gain for dogs is just as bad as weight gain for us. It can lead to cardiovascular problems, arthritis and similar joint issues, and even lower energy levels.
It Improves Your Dog’s Mood
Exercise improves your dog’s mood across the board in the same way exercise helps our moods improve. When we all get outside and play, we feel a lot better because of the release of endorphins. These are feel-good hormones that our brains release when we get plenty of physical activity. Exercise is a must if you want your dog to seem less stir crazy and be a better listener.
It Leads to Better Sleep
If your dog gets plenty of physical activity for their age level, they will have no difficulty going to sleep. While dogs don’t have the same sleep patterns as humans, they still tend to snooze throughout the night when they are properly exercised. This is doubly true in the earliest years of your dog’s life. That’s when their sleep schedules may still be in flux.
It Helps Your Dog’s Brain Stay Active
Playtime engages your dog mentally and physically. By playing regularly with your dog, they will remain cognitively alert and energized well into old age. Dogs that play regularly can also learn new tricks at an older age more easily than dogs that don’t.
It Reduces the Likelihood or Onset of Arthritis
Like humans, dogs can develop inflammatory diseases like arthritis. If your dog is an appropriate weight and moves around frequently, their joints will remain lubricated. Therefore, arthritis will be much less likely. Even if your dog already has arthritis, exercise could be part of a veterinarian-approved treatment.
It Cements the Bond Between Pets and Pet Parents
When bonding with your new dog, play is the best way to ensure that your bond is secure. Even once you’ve lived together for years, nothing makes dogs and pet parents feel closer together than a little playtime at the park or in the home.
All in all, there’s no reason not to play regularly with your dog, especially given all the physical and social benefits above. So let’s take a look at some of the best games to play with your dog, no matter their age.
Great Games to Play With Your Dog
Below, we’ve broken down several great games you can try with your dog. Feel free to adjust this list as needed based on your dog’s breed, energy level, personality, and age.
Who could ignore the classic game of tug? Tug is fun for both pets and parents alike, and it’s a great game when teaching your dog bite inhibition or teaching them to play properly when they are still a puppy.
That’s because tug channels your dog’s aggression healthily without them becoming aggressive to you or another dog. Remember that you don’t have to win every time when playing tug. The old-school theory of “alpha” dominance is widely regarded as incorrect these days.
Instead, feel free to let your pup win tug from time to time, especially if you want to boost their little ego. No matter what, you’ll need a great tug toy that’s durable enough to withstand tons of thrashing and play. You’ll also want one that’s comfortable for you to hold.
Wild One’s Triangle Tug toy is the perfect solution. It features a soft and comfortable handle in the form of a triangle. It also includes a rope circle for your dog to grab onto and tug viciously. You can flip things around and hold the rope circle while your dog grabs the triangle.
In either case, all the materials are 100% safe for you and your pets (for example, the triangle is 100% rubber) and BPA-free. They're tested to food-safe standards to ensure safe play for you and your pup.
A flirt pole is a dog toy and training tool with a lure or toy at the end of a long pole. You hold the pole and keep it away from your dog as they chase the lure around the park. As you can imagine, this is a great way for training your dog to get their aggression out safely, especially when they are still a puppy.
It could be a great game in particular for dogs who have a natural hunting instinct that you want to curtail or control. These include certain types of shepherds, great Danes, pit bulls, and so on. Even better, many flirt poles come with removable lures so that you can keep using the pole for years on end by replacing the lure at the end.
Fetch is a classic dog game and for good reason. It harnesses your pup’s natural chasing instincts as they go after a ball or another toy. This is a great game to teach your pup while they are still young because it’s an opportunity to cement certain commands in their mind.
For example, fetch allows you to teach your dog commands like come, bring, stay, go get it, and more.
Each of these commands is great for daily activities in addition to playtime. Plus, some dogs are simply hardwired to chase after things, especially if they are bred for hunting. Naturally, the best fetch toys are balls that will bounce once or twice on the ground.
Wild One’s Tennis Balls are excellent choices if you're looking for a pet-friendly ball made with safe materials. Not only are these safer for your pup, but they feature an ultra-bouncy rubber core. The bouncy rubber core will inspire your dog to jump high while they fetch. Even better, you can get these balls in a pack of four. Talk about cost-effective toy shopping!
Frisbee can be similar to fetch, but it’s a great game to play with your dog if they like to chase after things and catch objects in the middle of the air.
Frisbee is also great for teaching your dog airborne tricks. Our advice? See if your dog prefers Frisbee or fetch with balls, then just keep buying them the toys they prefer. Maybe they’ll like both and want to switch between them from time to time.
Hide-and-seek isn’t just a good game for our kids; it’s also a lot of fun for puppies and adult dogs.
With hide-and-seek, you can have your puppy look for you or for a treat or toy. Playing with a toy allows you to teach your dog how to use their nose to find something out of sight. Dogs love this, especially if they have a strong scavenging instinct.
Hide-and-seek can also be used as a training game for your dog. If your dog struggles with staying or won’t follow you, play this game. You can reward them if they sit and wait for you to call them. Then you can reward them when they come and find you in the closet or around a tree.
By playing like this, your dog is positively reinforced at every step of the game. It should be easy for you to transfer those skills and commands to daily activities.
Some dogs love to run and jump. If your pup is one of these canine companions, try an agility course. Many dog parks have agility courses these days, or you can make your own agility course in your backyard, depending on how much space you have.
Regardless, an agility course will include bridges, slides, and obstacles for your dog to hop over. Agility courses are great for teaching your dog better muscle control and coordination. They can also be very fun for dogs who are praise-motivated. Have your dog run the course perfectly, then reward them with a treat and tons of praise for finishing this great bonding activity.
If your dog gets good enough, who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to enter them into an agility competition.
Food Dispensing Toys
If your dog loves to snack, try a food-dispensing toy. Food dispensing toys often include small holes or slots where treats can fall out. The toy may wiggle automatically or when your dog nudges it with their nose.
In any case, food dispensing toys are great games when your dog is bored, but you need to do work. The game is less physically active and disruptive, but your dog still gets plenty of engagement and mental stimulation.
If your dog is a puppy, a food-dispensing toy can be an invaluable tool. It may keep your puppy occupied for hours on end while you accomplish important chores. You can even use a food-dispensing toy if your dog needs to lose a little weight.
For example, your dog may struggle with a diet, but a food-dispensing toy can make them feel like they are constantly snacking even if they only get a kibble piece once in a while.
Swimming and Water Games
Plenty of dogs—especially lab retrievers—love to play in the water. Swimming with your dog or playing water games can be great fun in the summer. For instance, you can throw a floating ball into the water, then watch your dog jump into the pool or lake and go after it.
As your dog gets older, swimming and water games may be the only physical games they can enjoy without discomfort because there’s less pressure on their joints. That makes water games super important while looking after your dog’s health and activity levels as they age. Swimming games may also be recommended as a form of physical therapy.
Lastly, you can curb your dog’s unhealthy digging habits by giving them a sandpit in the backyard. Hide toys and treats inside for even more fun.
If you don’t have a pre-dug pit, consider filling a kiddie pool with sand. Once your dog learns where they are allowed to dig, you may experience fewer problematic holes in your fence line or in your garden, too.
How Your Dog’s Activity Level and Ideal Games May Change
Many of these games will be great fun when your dog is young or in the prime of their life. However, you should also remember that your dog’s preferred games and activity levels will almost certainly change as they get older.
Specifically, your dog may develop inflammatory conditions like arthritis or simply not have as much energy as they did when they were younger. And that’s totally okay!
The key thing to remember is to pay attention to your dog’s activity levels and game preferences. Most dogs are good at telling you what types of games or activities they enjoy. Listen to them, and switch your playtime routines accordingly.
For example, many older dogs no longer appreciate playing fetch as their joints become sore and they have less energy. However, they may love swimming and water games. Swimming takes the pressure off their muscles and joints while giving them a great workout.
When in doubt, speak to your veterinarian and ask them about what games you and your dog should be playing as they get older. They may be able to provide you with recommendations, specialized tools, or toys designed for dogs with limited mobility or other health issues.
Stay Active, Stay Healthy
The bottom line is that staying active is vital for your pup’s health—and your health, too! Keep playing with your dog as often as you can. At the very least, go on several walks with them each day for as long as possible. We should all treasure the time we get to spend with our dogs outdoors or enjoying activities.
Plus, it’s easier than ever to get all the toys or tools you need to play with your dog, take them on a walk or hike, or engage in any other activity you have in mind. Wild One’s online store is chock-full of toys, walking gear, and anything else you may need.