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5 Games to Play with Your Puppy

Part of Our Summer 2023 Puppy Primer

By: Teoti Anderson

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Featured Photo Anurak Pongpatimet/Shutterstock

#1 Know Your Name

Goal:
Teach your puppy his name for attention purposes. You want him to look at you and come running when you call his name. This is a foundation exercise for all family manners. 

Step 1: 
Stand close to your puppy. When he is NOT looking at you, call your puppy’s name one time. If he looks at you, mark “Yes” (or click with a clicker) and give your puppy a treat. If he does not look at you, touch his nose with the treat and draw it up to your eye. When your eyes meet, say “yes” and give him the treat.

Step 2: 
Gradually stand farther from your puppy so he must come to you to get the treat. Work to across the room, then across the house. 

Step 3: 
Practice outdoors on a short leash, then a long one. 

Tip: Try not to call him more than once at a time, or he won’t learn to listen to you the first time. 

 

 

Photo Masarik/Bigstock

#2 Brain Games

Goal:
To stimulate your puppy mentally and help with brain development.

Step 1: 
You can purchase a variety of toys for this purpose or create your own. Get a muffin tin and 12 tennis balls. Hide treats in the muffin cups, then place the tennis balls over the treats. 

Step 2:
Encourage your dog to remove the tennis balls to get the treats. 

Tip: Some dogs learn quickly, and some take longer. Be patient and cheer your puppy on for trying!

 

 

Photo NynkevanHolten/Bigstock

#3 Sharing Is Caring

Goal:
Teach your puppy to share with you. This is also great for channeling puppy teeth onto a toy for snuggle time.

Step 1: 
Get a long chew bone, so you can be holding one end with plenty of room for your puppy to chew the other end.

Step 2: 
Encourage your puppy to chew on one end of the bone. Your puppy can be in your lap, next to you on the couch (if permitted) or anywhere that’s comfortable for you both. Praise her for chewing the bone. 

Tip: Try to choose a time when your puppy is not overly active. If she wants to run around, then she will probably not be in a mood to enjoy this game. 

 

 

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#4 Chew on Toys and Not My Stuff

Goal:
Teach your puppy to make better choices with his teeth! Have a variety of hard plastic or rubber chew toys, plus food-stuffed toys. Avoid stuffed animals as they just teach your puppy to chew on soft things, like your clothing, pillows, etc. Do not use household items, such as water bottles or socks, for toys. 

Step 1: 
Introduce your puppy to the toy. Show great interest in the toy to stimulate interest. 

Step 2: 
Every time your puppy picks up the toy, praise! 

Step 3: 
Rotate the toys daily to make them seem new. Do not leave a basket of toys out or your puppy will still grow bored with them.

Tip: Make sure your pup has toy options everywhere they are allowed to be, so they have a chance to make good choices.

 

 

Photo Surfsup Vector/Bigstock

#5 Handling All Over

Goal:
Teach your puppy to enjoy being handled all over his body. This is a critical skill to help you take care of your puppy, as well as helpful to your veterinarian and groomer. For example, if your puppy needs eye drops or ear medicine, you want him to cooperate and enjoy his care, not avoid you or get aggressive. 

Step 1: 
Have tasty treats set aside, within arm’s reach. Gently and briefly touch your puppy’s paw, mark “Yes,” let go and immediately give your puppy a treat. Repeat with the rest of his paws.

Step 2: 
Repeat the exercise with his ears, tail, neck, and teeth. 

Step 3: 
Pick your puppy up, “Yes,” put him down and give him a treat. 

Step 4: 
Gradually increase the duration of your handling, such as really examining a paw or looking carefully in his ears. Only go as fast as your puppy is enjoying the game. 

Tip: If your puppy mouths you, turns his head to see what you’re doing, or licks you rapidly, he’s telling you he doesn’t like that body part touched. Make your next touch repetition briefer, even with just one finger, if necessary, until he relaxes.  

 

 

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Leading Experts Recommend Early Puppy Socialization

“There is no medical reason to delay puppy and kitten classes or social exposure until the vaccination series is completed as long as exposure to sick animals is prohibited, basic hygiene is practiced, and diets are high quality,” says The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). “The risks attendant with missing social exposure far exceed any disease risk.”

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (ASVAB) echoes this, stating, “… it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.”

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This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

Last Updated:

By: Teoti Anderson
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