Teaching Your Dog New Games

Charli Saltzman

It’s a cold and rainy day, and you and Buddy are stuck inside the house. You, of course, have plenty of things you can get done that day, but poor Buddy is so bored. What can you do for your furry friend? If you don’t do something, both you and Buddy will go crazy. Well, how about a fun game called “Find it”?

Dogs have an excellent sense of smell. This is why “find it” is the perfect game to teach your dog. First, you start out with one of Buddy’s favorite toys. This could be a bone, ball, or rope. Put Buddy at sit, and tell him to stay. Start by placing the toy only a short distance from Buddy, right where he can see it. Then give the command: “Buddy, find it”. If it is the dog’s favorite toy, he will immediately run and grab it. When Buddy grabs the toy, give him lots of praise. Do this a few times, only placing the toy in plain sight. You may only make it through this step for the first day.

On the second day you play this game, start out with the same distance but gradually move it further and further away. Eventually, you can move the toy as far away as hiding it under a blanket or in another room. You have to make sure Buddy is not watching you hide the toy. When I play this game with Joba, I leave him at rest in the living room, go into my bedroom, and close the door. Then, I place the toy in either the back of his kennel or wherever it is out of sight and he actually has to sniff for it. After I hide it, I open the door and tell Joba to rest. After that, I give him the command to find it. He will race all over the apartment looking for his favorite toy.

This game can be advantageous. First, it can force the dog to use other senses rather than sight. Not only that, but it keeps a dog’s mind focused on a particular task. Maybe your dog loses attention quickly. Joba does sometimes. But this is why it is important to begin simple, take your time, and, most importantly, have fun. This game is a step by step process.

This is also a good alternative to playing fetch in the back yard. Playing fetch in the winter is often difficult because this Nebraska weather can become extremely cold. This “find it” game allows your dog to move around. Yes, tug-of-war is another fun game, but I would tell you to take caution when playing this little game. When you and your dog are tugging back and forth on a rope, you should make sure that you end up with the rope and not your dog. The last thing you want to do is allow your dog to think he has the right to take things out of your hand. However, I play tug-of-war with Joba all the time because he knows when I am serious and when I am playing. If we are in the middle of a game, or if Joba has picked something up that he shouldn’t have in his mouth, he will immediately drop it if I use a serious tone. I use the words “drop it” and “out” to help him understand that playtime is over and I want him to give me the toy so I can put it away.

There are several other games you can play with your dog, but keep in mind that your dog might also enjoy just having you sit and pet him or her. Dogs love the attention. So, on those rainy days when you and Buddy are bored, try the “find it” game. You may find that it’s a lot of fun. Plus, all the time you spend with your dog is helping your bond with your dog grow stronger.

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