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Playing is training


Did you know the more you play with your dog the more you are actually training your dog? In the picture above this little girl is chewing on a dog toy filled with a tasty treat. As she was playing her owner realized she was increasingly chewing on her fingers. So now, instead of her fingers she replaces a toy in her new puppy’s mouth. The puppy still gets to chew which it needs to do at this age, but is no longer using fingers and hands as her chewing preference.

If you want to teach your dog to play fetch start out with a little game of fetch the treat. Don’t use household food as that can be bad for your dog. Instead use dry dog food (something other than their normal food) as a treat or string cheese. Make sure you are prepared ahead of time. Take the string cheese, break off pieces and roll between your palms to make several little balls. Put these little morsels in a pouch, preferably something you can wear on your belt for easy access. This game will bring much pleasure to your pet as you toss pieces onto the ground for them to fetch. Of course make certain your puppy is contained where he can not run off. Once your puppy gets good at finding the treats, start working with a ball or disc and toss it. If the puppy brings it back, reward him with a treat. Do not chase your puppy if he runs off as that will lead to a game of catch me if you can. Instead turn around and ignore your puppy, puppies crave attention and will come back around. It may take a while for your puppy to get the idea of picking up the toy and bringing it back. You must have patience and as with a small child your puppy will tire of this game quickly. That is ok, just switch to another game or take a break.

Another game you can try is hide and seek. Take some hollow children’s blocks put a treat in them and hide them throughout a room in your house. Your puppy will soon learn to use his nose and go around finding the treats. You will have to show him in the beginning where the treat is, but he will quickly get the hang of it. Start off slow and place the blocks close together so he can go directly from one to another. This game stimulates the mind and keeps him mentally active. Don’t allow puppy to chew on the blocks after the game, pick them up and reuse another day. Puppy’s should only be allowed to chew on toys designed for dogs. Another fun game if you just really don’t have a bunch of energy is puppy bubbles. You can sit in your favorite lawn chair and blow bubbles for your dog. He gets lots of excercise and you don't work up a sweat.  For those that don’t like blowing bubbles there are actually machines that will disperse them for you. They come in flavors that dogs love and most dogs have a blast jumping up and popping the bubbles.

Remember, your puppy wants to be with you, so the more fun your puppy thinks you are the more he will want to stay by your side. So even when you are tired, take time out for a little fun and games with your new best friend.


  • Eve Alexander - Clicker Training Examiner 5 years ago

    Great article Sherry!

    Pat Parelli, the natural horsemanship trainer, calls his training exercises 'games' and says he 'plays' with the horses.

    Training should be fun for the dog and his person!