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As highly social animals, dogs require play for a happy and healthy life.
Playing games provides many benefits for a pet, including improved physical and mental health. Play is often how dogs learn—they improve social skills with both pet parents and animals through social games.
Looking for ways to explore educational play for dogs? Try the activities below.
Fetching is often an instinctual puppy behavior, making it a great place to start with educational play. To play fetch:
Get a pup’s favorite toy and have them sit to the side. Command “stay.”
Toss the toy a short distance from them, but keep repeating “stay” until after a few seconds they’re allowed to chase following the cue “ok”.
Encourage the dog to return with the “come” command.
Have the pup “drop it” and sit down before picking up the toy. Once they have both dropped the toy and sat down, calmly walk towards the toy and pick it up.
Reward the dog with praise, their favorite treat, and repeat the process.
Over time, pet parents can train their dogs to fetch nearly any object across longer and longer distances or in different rooms.
Hiding one of the dog’s favorite treasures around the house and having them sniff it out is an excellent enrichment activity for dogs:
Hide a yummy treat or favorite toy somewhere in the house or yard.
Instruct the pup to “go find.”
Help the dog find the treasure by using a calmer, lower tone when they move away from the treat and a higher, excited tone when they get closer—think “hot or cold” for dogs.
Praise the pup enthusiastically when they find the treasure.
Serious agility course training offers its own set of benefits, but pet parents can start with a simple at-home course:
Teach the dog to jump over a broomstick, toy, or even a pool noodle by coaxing them over it on the ground with a treat. Then elevate it slightly off the ground. Then gradually raise the broomstick to the height of the couch or bed, praising each time the dog executes a full jump.
Train the dog to jump through a hula hoop. Start with the hoop on the ground and coax them to walk through the hoop with a treat. Then gradually raise the hoop off the ground and praise every time they go through the hoop.
Encouraging the pup to weave through lawn chairs or other obstacles with treats.
Pet parents may not think of dog training as a form of fun, but any dog parents can use training as a form of enrichment. Whether just getting started with puppy training or refreshing an adolescent or adult dog’s commands, incorporate fun some new tricks into their repertoire, including:
Army crawl. To master this great trick and good exercise for the pup, start with teaching the dog to hand target and brush up on their “down” skills. Combine the fundamentals of both to teach a dog to crawl towards an object, treat, or loving pet parent.
Under-the-bridge. Teach a dog to pass between the legs for a cute party trick. This skill also requires basic hand targeting skills to get started.
Balance. A classic test of will is the “balance” trick, in which a dog balances a treat or toy on their nose until their parent gives the cue. A dog will need to start with a strong grasp on “wait” or “stay” to add this trick to their skillset.
No matter how much a pet parent has trained with their dog, there are always fun new educational games to try. It always helps to consult an expert for guidance.
If you want to learn more about how to teach a dog tricks, become a Fuzzy Member and ask a behavior and training specialist for tips via 24/7 Live Vet Chat. The Fuzzy Team can help pet parents explore educational play options for dogs in real-time.