Dog owners often play traditional games with their pets such as fetch, tug-of-war, or the classic hide-and-seek. While these activities are entertaining and beneficial for dogs, there are many unconventional games and activities that can cater to the natural instincts and behaviours of our canine companions. Let’s delve deep into some of these unique pastimes, which not only provide mental and physical stimulation but also strengthen the bond between dog and owner.

10 Unconventional Games for Dogs

1. Bubble Chasing

Many dogs have a natural prey drive, which can be witnessed when they chase after small animals or objects. Capitalising on this instinct, bubble chasing can be a delightful and harmless game for your dog. Use pet-safe bubble solutions available in pet stores, and watch your dog leap, chase, and snap at the floating bubbles. It’s a joyous, low-cost activity that can be done indoors or outdoors.

note: getting your pet gps collars or microchipping them would be a great idea just in case they get lost 🙂

How It’s Played:

  • Purchase or prepare a dog-safe bubble solution.
  • Use a regular bubble wand or a bubble gun.
  • Blow bubbles towards your dog, allowing them to chase and pop them.
  • Start slowly, letting your dog get used to the bubbles, then gradually increase the amount as they become more excited and engaged.

2. DIY Snuffle Mat

A snuffle mat is a fabric mat with multiple layers and folds that hide treats. It challenges your dog to use its sense of smell, encouraging natural foraging behaviour. To make one, you’ll need a rubber sink mat and fleece fabric strips. Weave the strips through the holes, and hide treats or kibble inside. Your dog will nose around, hunting for the hidden treasures.

How It’s Played:

  • Get a rubber sink mat with holes and several fleece fabric strips.
  • Weave the strips through the holes randomly, making sure they’re tightly knotted.
  • Hide treats or kibble within the folds of the fabric.
  • Place the mat in front of your dog and let them sniff and search for the treats, pulling at the fabric and nosing through the mat.

3. Shell Game

This is a canine take on the classic game where a ball is hidden under one of three cups, and the participant has to guess where it is. Use three large cups or bowls and a treat. Show your dog the treat, hide it under one of the containers, shuffle them around, and let your dog indicate where they think the treat is. It’s a great game to challenge their observational and problem-solving skills.

How It’s Played:

  • Place three large cups or bowls upside down in front of your dog.
  • Show them a treat and place it under one of the cups while they watch.
  • Shuffle the containers around.
  • Ask your dog to identify the cup with the treat underneath, usually by pawing or nosing at the correct one.

4. Canine Enrichment Boxes

Take a large cardboard box and fill it with other smaller boxes, tubes, or paper. Hide treats within the smaller items and let your dog rip apart and dig through the box. It’s a fantastic way for dogs to use their natural digging and hunting instincts.

How It’s Played:

  • Fill a large cardboard box with smaller boxes, paper rolls, and crumpled paper.
  • Hide treats within these smaller containers.
  • Let your dog rummage, dig, and tear the boxes to find the treats.

5. Tug-of-War with a Twist

While tug-of-war is a classic game, you can give it an unconventional twist. Use multiple types of materials like ropes, old towels, or rubber toys, and introduce rules. For instance, when you give a command, your dog has to let go. This not only gives them physical exercise but also trains their discipline.

How It’s Played:

  • Use a sturdy rope, old towel, or a special dog tug toy.
  • Engage your dog in a tugging match.
  • Introduce commands like “tug,” “drop,” or “wait.”
  • The goal is to have moments of tugging interspersed with pauses, where the dog must follow a command before resuming the game.

6. Hide-and-Go-Treat

Instead of simply hiding yourself and calling your dog, hide treats around the house. Initially, make it easy, so your dog understands the game. As they become better at it, increase the complexity by placing treats under objects or in slightly concealed spaces.

How It’s Played:

  • Choose several treats your dog loves.
  • Hide them around the room or house while your dog is watching.
  • Release your dog to find them, praising them each time they locate a treat.
  • As they get better, hide treats in more challenging locations.

7. Flirt Pole Fun

A flirt pole is like a giant cat toy for dogs. It’s a long pole with a rope attached at the end, and a toy or rag dangling from it. Move it around, and your dog will chase and try to catch the object. It taps into their chasing instinct and is especially beneficial for high-energy breeds.

How It’s Played:

  • Hold the pole and dangle the attached toy close to your dog.
  • Move the toy around, dragging it on the ground, and swinging it in the air, encouraging your dog to chase and try to catch it.
  • Incorporate twists, turns, and sudden changes in direction to keep your dog engaged and entertained.

8. DIY Dog Puzzle

Using muffin tins, place treats in some of the cups and cover each cup with a tennis ball. Your dog will have to figure out which cups contain treats and move the balls to access them. It’s a simple yet effective brain game.

How It’s Played:

  • Place treats in some of the cups of a muffin tin.
  • Cover all the cups with tennis balls.
  • Encourage your dog to lift the balls with their nose or mouth to find and eat the hidden treats.

9. Balloon Batting

Blow up a balloon and let your dog bat it around with their nose and paws. Ensure you supervise this game to prevent accidental ingestion if the balloon pops. It’s a fun way to engage their playful nature indoors.

How It’s Played:

  • Inflate a balloon (not fully, so it’s easier to bat around).
  • Gently bat or toss the balloon toward your dog, encouraging them to nose or paw it back to you.
  • Keep the play gentle to avoid popping the balloon. Monitor closely and ensure any popped balloon remnants are immediately removed to prevent ingestion.

10. Water Games

Many dogs love water. On a warm day, set up a kiddie pool and throw in floating toys or sprinkle treats on the water’s surface, encouraging them to bob for them. Alternatively, let a sprinkler run and watch your dog jump and play in the water jets.

How It’s Played:

  • Fill a kiddie pool with water and throw in some floating toys.
  • Sprinkle treats on the water’s surface, encouraging your dog to reach or bob for them.
  • If using a sprinkler, turn it on and let your dog chase, jump, and play amidst the spray.

Conclusion

While every dog is unique, with its own preferences and quirks, these unconventional games can introduce fresh excitement into their lives. Always prioritise safety, gradually introduce new activities, and observe how your dog responds. Remember, the goal is not just exercise but also fostering a deeper bond, understanding, and a well-rounded enrichment for your furry friend.

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