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Dog Activities - Agility, Sporting and Playing
New Games to Play with Your Dog

By Jodi Bryson
There are myriad reasons to play with your dog, such as
weight management or to simply have a good time -- for both
of you. "If you play with your dog for five minutes a day, three
times a week, you'll have a better behaved and happier dog,"
says trainer Ellen Poole of Just Tails, a pet training site and
service in the California Bay Area.
"Dogs are like you -- you feel better when you exercise and when you spend time with people
you love," says Poole. "Play time is exercise time for dogs, and being with you is what your pet
wants the most. This is true for all breeds, not just natural herders or retrievers who need
'jobs.' Little dogs love to play, and should play, too."

Poole says there are so many interesting, different games that you can play with your pet that
go beyond fetch or tug of war. Although your dog may be used to those classic games, and it
may at first turn its nose up to new games, Poole suggests patience is in order. She advises,
"Try a few games to see which ones make your dog happiest."

Treasure Hunt
Different trainers have different names for this game, but the premise of Treasure Hunt is the
same: hide treats, and then let your dog find them. "You always want to be a part of the game,
and you always want to be in control," says Poole. For Treasure Hunt, command the dog to
wait. For some dogs, this is a "down" command, while others will respond to "stay" or "wait."
Next, hide three-to-five treats -- you want the dog to be able to keep track of where you've
hidden each surprise. Let your dog watch you hide the "prize." Then give the command "GO!"
and allow your dog to run and find the treats. Poole says if weight is a concern, you can hide
toys instead of treats. Good owner!

Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek is similar to Treasure Hunt, but instead of treats, your dog is going to find you!
"What your dog wants the most is to be with you," says Poole. "And what your dog likes to do
the most is play, so this game is definitely bonding." Hide and Seek could also be the easiest
game to play with your dog. Simply have your dog sit and stay, and then you hide. Next, call to
the dog by using a name, a whistle or a funny animal sound to get your dog revved up! When
Doggie finds you, give lots of praise. And try not to think of your dog's "peeking" when you hide
as cheating! Smart dog!

Toy Cleanup
Toy Cleanup is a game that reinforces "return for refund," because your dog will earn a treat
for every toy placed successfully in your hands. Give a sit and stay command. Grab your dog's
toy basket and scatter the toys around the room. Using verbal and physical cues, like simply
pointing at an individual toy, encourage your dog to pick up one toy at a time and place it in
your hand. The challenge is for your dog to not drop the toys at your feet. Then encourage your
dog to put the toys in a basket, or other storage container, which your pet can access. "Even
the oldest dogs can be trained with repetition and positive reinforcement," reminds Poole. Over
time, your dog will clean up his own toys at your command. What was once work for you can
become play for your pooch.

Go Wild and Freeze!
This is a great game for dogs with a jumping-on-visitors habit and/or canines that get a little
over-excited. Take a treat and wiggle it just above your dog's nose so its head moves up
toward the treat. This will naturally position your pet's rear to the ground in a "sit." Then
command "GO WILD!" and jump around, clap and make sounds like a nine-year-old headed to
recess. (This is a great game for children to play with the family dog.) You want your dog to get
as excited as you are. Next, give the command, "Stop!" Then you stand tall without moving.
Repeat the wiggle-treat-to-sit step. Wait, and resume the entire process as many times as you
both desire. Over time, your dog will learn that "stop" means sit and freeze in place, a skill that
can come in handy when in-laws drop by.

Nose It
Now it's time to bring toys into the mix. Poole advises that you choose toys that encourage
chewing, because it's relaxing for the dog. "I like activities for dogs where they can roll a toy
and nose it around," she says. For Nose It, select a toy that can be stuffed with edible treats,
such as the
Kong. Or, choose one of the new "monkeys in a barrel" type toys that have several
little surprises inside a bigger toy.
Hide-A-Squirrel and the Iqube II Cagey Cube are two
examples. These toys allow your dog to "nose" and pull each of the surprises out while
enjoying a good chew on the soft plush "prey." Just stuff the little toys back into the bigger toy
for another round. "This keeps the dog busy, and nosing out the treat and chewing is calming
for the dog," says Poole.

Jodi Bryson is a writer in San Francisco who enjoys playing fetch daily with Sadie Lou, her
11-year-old red Doberman/Shepherd mix.
Regular activity is an
important component of
promoting a healthy and
happy lifestyle for your dog.
Not only does play increase
the bond between pet and
owner, but mental and
physical exercise relieve
one of the biggest causes
of problem behaviors in
dogs-boredom.

In
50 Games to Play with
Your Dog, discover games
that are both easy to teach
and fun for your canine pal.
The book includes
challenging mental games
for indoors as well as
stimulating physical games
for outside the home. Learn
ideas for group games that
are ideal for multi-dog
households and doggy play
dates. Color photos fully
illustrate tricks and proper
training techniques, while
sidebar tips for safe play
feature throughout the text.

For the dog owner who
wants to help his or her pet
stay active and engaged,
50 Games to Play with
Your Dog offers enjoyable
game ideas that are
appropriate for all ages and
activity levels of both dog
and owner.