How To Play With Your Dog: 15 Fun Tips & Ideas

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas

How To Play With Your Dog: 15 Fun Tips & Ideas

How to Play with your dog. Playing with your dog is fun, but besides that, it also has other advantages. Playing together creates a strong bond between you and your puppy. It keeps your dog active and prevents your dog from getting bored. It keeps your dog’s body and mind in good condition. 

While playing, your dog will improve his or her social skills, learn to obey you, learn rules and boundaries and you will both get to know each other better. Play can be a great reward when training your dog, a good distraction to avoid unwanted behavior or situations and playing can be used to give an insecure dog more confidence. Playing allows your dog to perform or mimic natural behaviors, resulting in your dog feeling better about him or herself. Enough reasons to play with your dog!

To get the best out of playing and bonding with your puppy you must play consciously with your dog. Not every game is suitable for every dog. Each game has rules and some games should not be played because they are not safe for the dog or you. In this helpful guide, you can read more about playing with your dog, get fun ideas for dog games, and learn what to look out for.

Safety First

Safety is always very important when playing with your dog. This applies to both your safety and that of your pooch. So what should you pay attention to before playing with your puppy?

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Safe Dog Toy

What Is The Best Dog Toy? 

Not every toy is safe for dogs. A safe toy does not break easily, cannot be swallowed, has no sharp edges or points and is not made of (or painted with) toxic substances.

For example, dog toys made out of soft plastic or soft rubber are unsuitable for your furbaby. These kinds of toys are quickly chewed and swallowed by your dog. If your dog is a real ‘ demolisher’, it is better to choose other, more firm toys. Sometimes there are also loose parts on a toy like for example beads which are eyes on a fluffy toy.

They can end up in your dog’s stomach. Therefore, be careful with such toys, always keep an eye on your dog when he or she playing with such toys and remove it as soon as the toy is damaged.

We have a great experience with all Toys we have ordered at Cherrybrook, not only great quality but also good and reliable service. You can check on their website for many great items, next to toys there have anything you need for your dog.

The latter also applies to float ropes. If your dog pulls wires from it and swallows them, it can cause dangerous blockages inside. So make sure that the rope remains intact. Cut a thread that has come loose or throw away the rope if needed. Safety first!

Throwing with sticks is also dangerous. It is common for dogs to damage their mouth, throat, or trachea by improperly catching a tossed stick, or trying to grab a branch or stick that is stuck in the ground after being thrown while your dog is still in full swing. Therefore, do not use branches or sticks to fetch, but rather a ball, retrieving dummy or other suitable toys.


Unfortunately, I’ve had a nasty and sad experience when I was an 11-year-old kid with regards to a stick. When I was very young my parents had a Belgian Shepherd named Pallas. He was 4 years old when my little brother, who at the time was about 9 years old, went to the park to walk the dog. He threw the sticks and our dog fetched them. When he threw the stick our dog ran and jumped onto the stick when it hit the ground. The stick bounced up right into is throat and perforated his lung. Pallas bled to death that afternoon, 4 years old.

So please, never throw sticks.

Where To Play With My Dog?

The environment in which you play must be safe of course. If you play outside with your dog, do not do this on a road or bicycle path. This is not only dangerous for your dog but also for road users. Pay attention to other things such as steep slopes or water edges, barbed wire, shards of glass, etc.

Preferably, when you play outside with your dog, play on a field with grass or a lawn like in a park or your yard. If you play indoors with your dog, do not play wild inside the house and don’t do throwing or pulling games on a smooth surface such as laminate. Your dog will slip on that kind of surface and while that may look funny, it is very bad for his joints and can cause a lot of damage. 

Of course, you should also pay attention to fragile items such as windows, glass, sharp edges, etc. Never play near an open fire such as a fireplace or candles or, for example, hot water such as a teapot on a low table.

On the picture below you can see how much fun Stippy has with his SPOT Play Strong Ball with Rope, strong quality, and durability for a summer full of joy and pleasure!

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Play

When To Play With My Dog

Never play or take a long walk with your dog within two hours after or one hour before his or her meal. Your dog can suffer from a stomach torsion (stomach tilt), which can be life-threatening.

Can I Play With My Dog On A Leash?

Playing outside while your dog is on a leash is far from ideal, but some dogs cannot run loose. If you use a long leash or leash, do not choose games where your dog will run at the end of the leash. He then gets a big jerk and if he wears a collar it can damage his neck. So throwing a ball is not wise. 

Optionally, you can use another toy that does not roll away so quickly like a rope or a stuffed toy made especially for dogs. Throw the rope or toy away but no further than the length of the leash. Besides, always use a dog harness instead of a collar so that there will be less pressure if your dog accidentally runs to the end of the leash.

Also, if you use a retractable dog leash, make sure that the cord cannot rub against your or other people’s legs because you can end up with painful burns and scrapes! Believe me, it hurts! Being a professional dogwalker I also walk some dogs individually and some have a retractable leash, very useful and handy but not when it scrapes against your leg, ouch!

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Playing on Leash

Own Safety First!

Of course, your safety is very important and always be aware of risks. This means that the environment must be safe for you as well as for your puppy. 

When you want to play with your dog, always be aware of the behavior of your dog. If you have a dog that sometimes shows aggression, keep that in mind. For example, be careful with games that include dog treats or food. Some dogs defend their food or toy so don’t use dog treats or food with dogs that tend to show their teeth or even worse, bite.

If you have a dog that’s very dominant or wants to dominate you or your kids be careful. You may lose some control over the behavior of your dominant dog. For example, if you let your dog snatch a toy out of your hand or you fail to get the toy back from the dog, the dog may see this as a “winner experience.” This certainly won’t be a problem with every dog, but it could be important in the relationship between a snappy dog ​​and a gentle, soft-natured person.

If you are unsure whether a game is suitable for you and your dog, talk to a trainer or behavioral expert.

Physical Play: Good For The Condition Of Your Dog

Games with a lot of activity are good for the condition of your dog and he or she will be able to let out all that energy. Playing is also good for the coordination of your dog. However, always take into account any physical restrictions of your dog, your dog’s age and physique. Injuries and too much exercise should be avoided. If you do not know whether a game is good for your dog because he or she has physical complaints, is elderly or is still a puppy, ask your vet.


Ball Games and Retrieving With Your Dog

A game that many people love to play with their dog is to throw and retrieve a ball. In this game the dog can live out his natural behavior, chasing prey. It is also a form of cooperation. After all, the dog has to return the ball to you so that he or she can ‘chase’ it again. 

If you want to teach a dog this “throwing and fetching” game, first teach your puppy to let go of the ball when you ask him or her. You can teach that by using clicker training. The next step is to teach your dog to bring the ball to you so you can throw the ball a short distance away. This way your dog learns what the end goal of the game is. 

After that, throw the ball a little further away from you and ask your dog to return the ball. If you immediately start throwing away very far, your dog may run after it, but he does not understand that he has to bring the ball back to you.

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Ball Games

If your dog gives you the toy or ball, throw the ball again without waiting too long. This way your dog will know that he has not lost his beloved ball or toy by bringing it back to you but he or she will get rewarded when bringing back the ball by more fun and games.

If your dog does not come to you with the ball or toy and the clicker training is not working, you can try to run the other way while clapping your hands or using your voice to lure your puppy. If your dog comes to you but does not want to let go of the ball or toy, you can initially use two toys. Once your dog is with you with the first toy and he or she won’t let go of it, show the second toy. As soon as your dog releases his toy, immediately discard the second toy in front of him. 

Never try to pull the toy out of its mouth. If he or she refuses to let go, just walk away.

backup image Pet Insurance V4

Fetching a ball is fun and active, but also stressful on the dog’s joints. A ball bounces in all directions, which means that the dog has to slow down, twist and turn quickly. Therefore, you should not play this game with puppies and dogs with a predisposition to bad hips or sensitive joints or dogs with joint problems. Even if your dog doesn’t have physical problems, don’t play this fetching game too long.

In a puppy, the muscles and joints are not fully developed yet and not strong enough to keep everything neatly in place. Continuous braking and twisting causes the joint parts to collide, which can cause damage to the joint, cause internal scar tissue and osteoarthritis. It can cause or worsen joint conditions such as hip dysplasia. So wait until your puppy dog is fully grown before throwing balls for fetching games.

What you can do is already teach your young puppy to bring a ball or other toy to you and have him or her let go of the toy. If you want to teach your puppy to retrieve, do not do this with a ball, but for example with a dog rope or stuffed animal toy especially for dogs. Don’t throw the toy too far away, keep the game gentle and relaxed. Your puppy will learn to retrieve it in no time.

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Ball

Can I Play Pulling Or Tug Games With My Dog?

Pulling games with for example a rope, an old rag or other dog toys can be a fun game, but be careful and pay close attention to the game rules.

Do not allow your dog to grab the rope or toy until you have indicated that it is allowed. After all, you don’t want your dog pulling it out of your hands when you grab the toy or when you’re walking around with it. It must be clear to your dog that it is a game. Think of a word or command that means the pulling game starts and use it every time you start challenging the dog to grab the toy (for example, ‘grab’).

Some nice examples of “tug toys” you can see on Cherrybrook’s toy’s overview.

Teach your dog from when he or she is still a young puppy on to be careful where he or she puts his teeth: not in your hands! If you feel the teeth, shout ‘ouch’ and stop playing immediately. Please try again later. If your puppy hits you with his or her teeth again, stop the game and store the toys away.

Teach your dog the command ‘loose’ before you play pulling games or teach the command during playing. A good tool to train your dog is with clicker training. During the pulling game, occasionally ask your dog to let go of the object. If he or she does so neatly, then reward him or her with your voice or with a reward like a dog treat and continue playing. This is a good exercise for the dog to continue to pay attention to your cues despite the excitement of the game and stop playing when you ask.

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Pulling Games

Pulling games are not suitable for children. The chance that your dog will get hold of a child’s hand, pull it so hard that the child will get hurt or even fall over is too big, even if it’s not on purpose which is in most cases with playing. So have children do other games with your dog.

Be careful with pulling games during the period when your puppy changes his or her teeth, on average between 16 and 20 weeks. That can hurt your puppy so choose other games during that period.

Do not move the toy up and down wildly, but only back and forth to prevent damaging your dog’s spine. Don’t play pulling games if your dog has neck or back problems.

Use a sturdy toy of soft material (dog floss rope, textile or sturdy rubber dog toys) that is large enough for you both to hold on to. Do not use toys with hard edges or tips or toys that break quickly.

It is often said that in pulling games you always have to win yourself because otherwise the dog can become ‘dominant and think he or she is in charge, but that is not proved by research. Probably “winning” or “losing” is only important if the relationship between dog and human is unclear. If you follow the rules and make it clear to your dog that it is a game, your dog will learn to listen to you. If your dog doesn’t have behavioral problems or issues with ranking, you can let your dog win the game regularly. 

Also keep the game fun, only play with your dog when you feel like it and do not correct your dog while playing, except by stopping the game if your dog does not follow the rules. At the end of the game, use a command to end the game, such as ‘done’. Store the pull toy out of sight after playing.

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Wrestling With Your Dog

Wrestling or frolicking with your dog is not always a good idea. You must know what you are doing, be able to read your dog’s signals well and have a good relationship with your dog in the first place. Dogs playing around with each other give all kinds of signals during that game, making it clear to each other that they do not seriously mean their ‘attacks’. It is more difficult for us as humans to make this clear to your dog and your dog must be sure that you mean it as a game, otherwise dangerous situations can arise.

Besides, your dog can learn the wrong things while frolicking with you, such as being allowed to grab your arms with its teeth. A dog can also get too excited and then go crazy in aggression (just like very excited children can sometimes suddenly get into a fight). If the game is not completely clear, it can confuse your dog about your intentions and may startle your dog or think that he needs to defend himself. Still, frolicking can also strengthen your bond with the dog if you pay attention to some of the following basic things.

If you want to play with your dog, pay attention to your dog’s signals and apply several rules. First, you must clearly state to your dog that you want to start playing. You can do that by using words, commands or gestures you have taught your dog so your dog knows that you are inviting your dog to play. 

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Wrestling with your dog

Always frolic, wrestle or play around briefly so that your dog does not get too excited. Be clear to your dog when the game begins for example, by using a high tone of voice and possibly words or commands that your dog is familiar with and associates with playing with you. I recommend not to make growling noises and not to use a low or angry voice. 

Do not approach your dog’s head from above, he or she may find this unpleasant or scary. If you notice that your dog quickly becomes too wild, if you have scratches or bruises afterward or if it is difficult to stop the game, then do not play any more games.

It is not wise to lie on the floor while frolicking. This can be confusing for the dog: you make yourself small and it’s possible that your dog shows dominant behavior.

When the game is over and you want to end it again be very clear towards your dog that the game is over by using your voice, a command or word your dog knows and associates with stopping the game and walk away from your dog to do your own thing. This way it’s very clear to your pup that the game is over. If your dog keeps trying to persuade you to play, ignore this behavior and keep doing your own thing until your dog stops.


What Sports Can Dogs Play?

In addition to these well-known, fun games which you can play at home, in your back yard or a park, you can also ‘play’ with your dog in a more organized way: for example, in dog sports such as Frisbee, Agility, Doggy Dance, Dock Diving, Retrieving, etc. 

New variants are for example Treibball and Hoopers. There are more and more options so there is something fun for every human-dog combination. There are all kinds of dog schools where you can be active with your dog and some Dog Sports can be done in your back yard!

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Brain Games

Brain Games For Your Dog

In addition to active, physical games, puzzles, search games, and detective games are also great fun to do with and for your dog. Dogs are intelligent animals and therefore need to use and train their brain. Also, brain-training works very well to let a dog lose its energy: concentration requires a lot of energy.

A great advantage is that brain work is always possible: when it rains, when you don’t have time to go for a long walk when your dog is old and no longer physically fit, has difficulty walking or has to recover from an operation and therefore cannot play wildly or walk a lot. Every owner can play brain games with their dog because in many cases it does not demand that much from yourself physically.

Nose Work Games or Search Games

Let your pooch use that nose! Teach your dog to find toys or dog treats that you’ve hidden. I play these types of games all the time with our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Stippy. He loves it!

Start simple: let your dog sit (let someone hold him or her if necessary) and put a toy or treat at the other side of the room underneath an old newspaper on the floor for example. Don’t hide it completely away, make sure your dog can still see a part of the toy or treat. Let your dog can see what you are doing. Go back to your dog and ask him or her to find the toy or give your dog a command that you have taught him or her (for example, ‘find the ball’, ‘find your floss). In most cases, your dog will immediately walk up to the newspaper and pick up the toy or treat.

Immediately tell your puppy that he/she is such a good boy/girl!

Now, make it more and more difficult for your dog to find the toy or treat: Hide the toy or treat fully under the newspaper or hide the toy or treat just around the corner of the sofa. Have your dog sit down with its back to you while you’re hiding the toy or treat or have your dog sit in the hallway, somewhere where your dog can’t see where you are hiding the good stuff! 

Choose a few different hiding places (make sure that your dog cannot destroy anything in those places if he or she has a tendency to break things). Keep the hiding places simple at first so that your dog succeeds and likes the game, then make it more and more difficult for your dog to find the toy or treats.

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Nose Work

Tracking Games

All dogs can track: their nose is many times better than ours. And almost every dog ​​likes to use that nose. Furthermore, following a track is something that requires a lot of concentration from your dog and therefore requires a lot of energy: ten minutes of tracking is sometimes more tiring than an hour of walking! Besides, your dog’s respiratory muscles are being used differently during tracking, which is also more physically tiring for your furbaby.

Tracking is an ideal activity for dogs with a lot of energy, but also for dogs that are not allowed to run and play too much or too wildly due to physical issues.

You can create a simple track for your dog by walking straight through the grass with your feet with small steps. Place a favorite toy at the end. Now walk, with your dog on a leash, to the beginning of the track and point your finger forward above the ground. Teach your dog to keep his or her nose on the ground to find the toy. Walk with your dog when he or she starts following the trail until your dog finds the toy or object you’ve placed at the end of the track. If your dog does not understand what to do and does not follow the track, you can make it easier by placing dog treats on the track, about every 12 inches / 30 centimeters.

When your dog understands the intention, you can make it more and more difficult: first, put the dog treats a little further apart, secondly, make the track a little longer, then create curves and later corners in the track. Eventually, use fewer and fewer dog treats so that your dog will pay attention to your smell instead of the smell of the treats.

You can also cast off tracks by dragging something tasty that smells very strong or farmiliar through the grass (for example, a piece of meat wrapped in old tights). Or you can use your clothing which has your smell on it. In the end, you then put a piece of the meat as a reward.

There are dog schools that can help you teach your dog to track. There are different forms: tracking for ‘game’, for example, but also tracking or searching for people is a very nice challenge to work on together with your dog. It teaches your dog to concentrate, focus and he or she can still use up a lot of energy in a controlled, calm way.

How To Play With Your Dog 15 Fun Tips and Ideas Tracking Games

Dog Puzzles 

There are all kinds of dog puzzles and games where your dog has to find a piece of food hidden inside the puzzle. That way, he or she has to make an effort for his / her food and think about how to get to the treats. It is a way of mimicking your dog’s natural search for food. There are a variety of such dog puzzles on the market.

Another great and fun puzzle for your dog, young or old, is the treat ball. These are toys, mostly balls, in which dog treats can be placed inside the ball or toy with a small opening. By rolling the ball on the ground, your dog can figure out how to make the treats fall out of the ball when rolling it. Another form of dog puzzle is the sturdy rubber cones like a Kong Toy which have a cavity in which, for example, chunks of dog food, fresh food, dog treats or special yummy paste can be put. 

This way, your dog will be busy for a while trying to get the tasty treats out of the toy and has a physical and mental challenge while doing that. There are also various puzzles with sliders where treats can be hidden, trays that can be pushed open or pulled and other brain teasers with varying degrees of difficulty.

You can also get started yourself. With some creativity, you can make a fun dog puzzle yourself by using empty boxes or empty plastic bottles. Textiles are also a usable material: think of rolling up a sturdy cloth or mat in which you hide dog treats while rolling up or make a pile of old clothes and hide treats inside that pile. This way your dog has a good challenge of finding the treats with his/her nose or paws. You can also use a ‘snuffle mat’. You can buy one or make one yourself. 

A snuffle mat consists of all kinds of patches of cloth on a surface where you can hide dog treats in and under. We used that for our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Stippy as well and he loved it and was tired after 10 minutes! 

A simple challenge for the “novice dog puzzler ‘ is to put many newspaper clippings in a tray or box in which you sprinkle dog treats. 

Another simple but fun idea is with three empty flower pots and a ball, toy or treat: hide the ball, toy or treat under one of the flower pots, shuffle the pots around, let your dog sniff and discover where his toy or treat is hidden.

Take a look around the internet for more various homemade ideas for dog brain games. This is also fun to make and do together with the kids. Always pay attention to the safety of the material and always supervise your dog while he or she is busy with the dog puzzle. But most of all, have fun!

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Nova Scotia Ducvk Tolling Retriever

About us

Hi, welcome to my blog about the amazing breed Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever!

My name is Eline van Stiphout and I live in The Netherlands. Together with my husband Arthur and our sweet Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Stippy, the three of us love to travel and go on outdoor adventures. 

Currently, I’m a professional, fully licensed dog walker since 2017. I gave up my stressful fulltime office job to follow my dream which is working and walking with dogs.


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