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A German Shepherd waiting for someone to play ...

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In addition to training, exercise, and feeding it is important to play with your dog/puppy.  Besides being a lot of fun, it helps to build a bond between you and them.  However, what games do you play?  Is tug safe or does it promote aggression?  Here are some games you can play with your dog that they are sure to have a good time with.

If you needed another reason to play with your dog, playtime can also help cement some training exercises in your dog’s mind by helping them generalize a behavior into real world situations.


Yes fetch is a popular game.  You can toss a ball or your dog’s favorite toy and have him bring it back to you.  This game is much easier to teach your dog if they know the come command.  Also, if your dog doesn’t want to give back the toy to throw again, try trading it for a treat until they get the hang of it and know that you will give it back.


This is a controversial game.  Some think that playing tug will increase the aggressiveness of a dog.  I disagree as long as you follow one rule, if the dog’s mouth touches your skin, all play ends immediately and you wait a few minutes for them to calm before playing again.  You can play tug with any kind of toy.  A rope toy is easiest because it has knots for you to grip.  You don’t need to win every time, however, winning is ok.  You can even use this game to reinforce that your dog should give you things when you ask for them.  Just trade the toy for a treat and tell them to give, then begin playing again.

Rough Housing

Yes, I know it’s popular to allow your children (or in my case your husband) to wrestle with your dog.  This is one game that I don’t recommend.  It can get out of control too easily, especially with a child, and can encourage mouthing with your dog.  If your child won’t listen to you about NOT playing this game, the earlier rules apply.  If your dog’s mouth touches skin or clothing all playtime stops.  Except for teaching your dog that mouthing is unacceptable there is no training benefit that I can think of for this game.  Do NOT play this game with smaller dog breeds.  They can get injured too easily and you must stop your children from rough housing with a small dog.  If your dog, no matter the size, shows any signs of fear, do not play this game with him.  You don’t want him to feel real fear and associate it with the person playing with them.  It could cause your dog to be overly fearful.

Dress Up

Yes, I know that some of you can’t resist the urge to dress your dog in cute clothing, costumes, etc.  Believe it or not, there is a benefit to playing dress up with your dog.  It gets them used to being handled.  Although I don’t do this with my dogs, except for putting my service dog’s vest on, there is a benefit to playing dress up, just be gentle so your dog doesn’t have any reason to associate being dressed to being uncomfortable or in pain.

Interactive toys

There are several toys on the market that can be used to have your dog work for food.  These are wonderful inventions and I urge you to use them.  Check out the Kong brand, the everlasting treat ball, the everlasting fun ball, the busy buddy twist and treat toy, the Premier Busy Buddy Puppy Waggle Treat Dog Toy, and there are several others.  These toys are made primarily for your dog to play with on their own.  They are good for keeping your dog entertained while you do other things.  Most are also good for having your dog work for their food, especially the waggle treat dog toy and the everlasting fun ball.  Some can be used to play other games like fetch, but when they are full, it can be a bit difficult to get them back.


Frisbee is very similar to fetch except that it can go farther than a ball or other similar toy.  I’d recommend using this one only if you have a breed that really likes to run fast and enough fenced in property that you have enough room to play.

Simple Petting

Almost every dog that I know responds well to petting.  You want to pet in the direction of hair growth, otherwise it could make your dog uncomfortable.  Belly rubs are popular and help your dog get used to exposing their underside with you.  This is a sign of submission, but don’t force it if you’re dog doesn’t like it.  I’ll go ahead and repeat, DO NOT force your dog onto his back to expose his belly.

Hide and Seek

Once your dog has learned the come command, Hide and Seek is an excellent game for you or your children to play with your dog.  Grab some treats and go hide in another room and call your dog to come to you.  Hide around the corner to start with and make it progressively more difficult.


Whenever possible turn training into a game.  Have your dog sit before you toss or roll a ball for your dog.  Have them look before petting, etc.  Be creative.  Having your dog work for playtime is completely fine and adds a little practice into your fun and games.

Can you think of any other fun games we have missed?