Did you know that your dog’s natural drive to play is no accident?
In fact, studies show that the domestic dog’s playfulness is an “adaptive trait” selected during domestication.
You might be wondering why humans have carefully selected this playful characteristic over and over for thousands of years…
Well, besides making our best friends irresistibly cute, their funloving nature plays an essential role in important areas like bonding and training.
In this study on the welfare of play in domestic dogs, the research points to most types of play improving the social connection between dogs and their owners.
And this study suggests that your dog’s natural playfulness makes training easier. And promotes the formation of an emotional bond between you and your pooch.
To top things off, the same study notes that regular playing with your dog is a big clue to the quality of your relationship.
So in today’s article, I’ll be sharing 9 fun games to play with dogs outside. No matter what breed of dog you have, how old your dog is or the fitness level of your dog – you’ll find a game or two that you both will love…
Outside Games Stimulate Your Dog’s Senses
Of course, any game you play outside, you can likely play inside too. With the exception of fetch, although, I have been known to play a round of fetch inside!
But playing games with your dog outside offers an abundance of sights, sounds, and smells to stimulate your dog. It’s the best of both worlds!
Think birds chirping, a cool breeze blowing or even pee-mail (that’s email for dogs!).
Fun games to play with dogs outside will not only deepen the bond between you and your pooch. But playing outside will trigger your dog’s senses and stimulate them.
9 Fun Games to Play with Dogs Outside
#1 – Fun Agility Course
If you think your dog can’t do an agility course, chances are you’re underestimating them.
In this article from the Telegraph, Graham Taylor, an agility events organizer says,
The only criteria for an agility dog is that it is fit and active – we don’t care what it looks like or who its parents are.
An agility course is a perfect way to test out your dog’s skills, keep them fit and bond with them.
And if you think you need to spend a ton of money on agility equipment, think again…
You can use objects lying around your yard and home to create a DIY course for your dog.
Here are a few ideas to get you going…
- Logs can be used to jump over.
- Old doors, wooden planks or plastic sheets can be used as a ramp.
- Small orange cones are great for weaving.
- A hula hoop to jump through.
- A wash basket or a broom to jump over.
- Garden chairs to jump on to.
And if you’re feeling particularly creative, check out these easy to follow plans to make your own weave poles.
To start with, you’ll need to do the course with your pooch. And this is where food rewards come in handy.
And I recommend working on one section at a time until your pooch has mastered it. Then move onto the next section of the agility course.
Once your doggo has mastered each section, it’s time to take them through the whole course you’ve created.
Use the luring technique to take your dog through each section of the course.
Hold the treat between your index finger and thumb allowing your pooch to see it and smell it.
Luring simply means using a treat to lure your pooch by their nose and rewarding them with said treat once they get it right.
#2 – Extreme Fetch
Most dogs love to play fetch. It stimulates their prey drive and gives them the opportunity to work. And believe it or not, all dogs were bred for a job first and foremost.
And of course, all dogs love chasing something that’s moving. Using a toy that travels far and fast will take turn a regular game of fetch into extreme fetch!
This game will also test your dog’s obedience and search skills, and here’s how the game works…
- First, play a couple of regular rounds of fetch.
- Next, ask your dog for a “stay” and walk off a short distance with the toy.
- Launch the toy a short distance away and give them your fetch command to release them from the stay.
- Once your dog has mastered staying in place at a short distance, it’s time to launch that toy as far as you can. Then release your dog to forage out their beloved toy wherever it lands.
To mix things up, even more, you can release your dog before the toy lands and watch them catch it in mid-flight.
Your pooch will love the challenge of waiting to be released and finding their “precious prey”.
For extreme fetch games, I like to use a frisbee or a tennis ball launcher like the Nerf Dog.
#3 – Tug-o-War
Contrary to popular belief, playing tug of war won’t make your dog aggressive. In fact, it’s a great way of rewarding good behavior in a fun non-food related way.
Of course, you will need to teach your dog the rules of engagement to prevent accidental nipping or a painful graze from their teeth.
Follow these easy steps to teach your dog how to play tug-o-war…
- Offer the tug toy and give your “take it” command.
- Move the tug to from side to side to encourage your dog’s interest.
- Reward and encourage their interest verbally with excitement.
- When you’re ready, freeze the game by stopping all movement. This “kills the prey” so to speak.
- Give your “drop it” command. to encourage your pooch to drop the toy, offer them a food reward.
- The moment they drop the toy, pick it up.
- Include a “sit” or “down” command. This will help to control your dog’s excitement.
- Rinse and repeat. And as your dog becomes more fluid, delay the food reward for dropping the toy.
Playing tug is not only an excellent way to stimulate your dog’s prey and working drive. It will also help your pooch work on obedience and impulse control. Tug games will keep you and your dog fit as fiddles and there are only three rules you should never deviate from…
- ONLY you initiate play with a tug toy.
- Any contact with your skin ends the game and you walk away with the toy.
- At the end of the game, the tug toy is taken away from your dog.
It’s worth noting here that playing tug with young puppies should be done gently. Remember they are still growing and in their developmental stages, so it’s important to keep this in mind.
If you’re looking for suitable tug toys, check out these reviews. We own a few of these and I can vouch for their durability and ease-of-use.
#4 – Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is one of the easiest games to play with your dog. You can use a favorite toy or treat to hide and seek, or you can hide and encourage your dog to find YOU.
Hide and seek is super fun and a great way to encourage your dog to use their problem-solving skills.
How to Play Hide and Seek with a Toy or Treat
- Show your dog their favorite toy or treat. Let them smell it and recognize they want it.
- Give them the “sit” and “stay” commands.
- Hide the item in a fairly easy place to begin with.
- Give your dog the “find it” cue.
- Offer your dog lots of praise and excitement when they find the item.
- As your dog becomes more fluid with hide and seek, you can start to hide the item in more difficult-to-find-places.
How to Play Hide and Seek with You as the Object
- Ask your dog for the “sit” and “stay” command.
- To begin with, find an easy place to hide outside.
- Call your dog’s name.
- If your dog is new to this game, use your voice to help them find you.
- As your dog becomes better at finding you, increase the difficulty by finding harder-to-find places to hide.
- Once your dog is an expert you can lower your voice to a whisper which will make it more difficult to find you.
Check out this video by Claudia Varanski to see how fun and easy it is to play hide and seek with your pooch…
#5 – The Hunter
This is a fun spin-off of a game of fetch. And the hunter game will stimulate your dog’s desire to hunt, track and chase prey.
To play this game at it’s best you need a flirt pole. I’ve bought and tried several flirt poles and I’ve always been wholly disappointed by their quality.
My dogs are powerful and have broken several flirt poles during play. So unless you have a small dog, my advice for this game is to make your own flirt pole.
I followed this handy video from Bully Max to make a flirt pole that can take the rough handling from my dogs. It’s affordable and super easy to make. And the best part is, once they’ve destroyed the “prey”, you can replace it.
Check out this video to see how quick and easy this flirt pole is to make. Watch right to the end and see how Fred plays with his dog using the flirt pole.
#6 – Bubbles
You already know that your dog’s playful character is no accident. And what better way to stimulate that playful nature than with bubbles?
Remember when you first discovered bubbles? Well, believe me when I tell you that your dog will love bubbles as much as you did (or still do, like me).
All you need is dog-safe bubbles that you can buy online. Or make your own with a small amount of non-toxic dish soap and water.
Then head outside and start blowing bubbles! Your pooch will love chasing those bubbles and the look of surprise on their face when a bubble suddenly disappears is priceless!
#7 – Fun with Water
Okay, this game is only fun if your dog already likes water. And you can mix this game up in different ways to keep things interesting.
My dogs are in love with the garden hose and sprinklers. So on a hot day, I let them chase the water from the hose. Or if I’m feeling lazy, I turn on the sprinkler and let them make their own game out of it.
Having fun with water is easy and it’s a great way to help your pooch cool down on a hot summer’s day.
Check out this cool compilation from Youtube. Yes, this is how much fun your doggo can have with water!!
#8 – The Tidy up Game
Personally, I love this game because it saves me from having to tidy up their toys! And although it means the end of play, my dog’s see it as a game.
I learned to teach my dogs this handy trick from the Brain Training for Dogs program. Here’s a quick rundown of the steps…
- Place your dog’s toy box at your feet and make sure there are a few toys scattered around.
- Make sure your dog has a toy in their mouth.
- Call your dog towards you.
- Give your dog the “drop it” command. Because the toy box is at your feet your dog’s head will naturally hover over the box.
- The minute the toy lands in the box, click and reward your dog handsomely. you can reward with food or verbal praise.
#9 – Soccer
Did you know that dogs make excellent goalkeepers?
Soccer actually stimulates a dog’s hunter and tracker instincts. Your dog will try to attack the ball and not let it pass.
Putting your pooch in goal is great for coordination and reflexes. Or, if you prefer them to play midfield, they’ll love chasing the ball around like it’s his prey.
Believe it or not, there’s even a world record for the most goals saved by a pooch! Her name is Purin and she’s a 9-year-old Beagle from Japan.
Currently, Purin holds the Guinness World Record for most goals saved in 60 seconds.
Check out this adorable video of Purin breaking the world record with 14 goals saved in 1 minute…
These fun games to play with dogs outside are excellent ways to stimulate their natural drives for prey, work, hunting, and tracking. And it’s also a smart way to work on obedience and impulse control.
Add to that the extrasensory stimulation of the outside world and you have the perfect combination to keep your dog entertained and fit.
I have three German Shepherd Dogs; one is only 4, one is 10 and the oldest is 11. My 11 year old has arthritis in his right elbow due to an injury when he was younger when he chased a burglar through a window and now he’s older he can’t walk very far without having a lie down. I give him his ball which I throw straight into his mouth and then he likes to lie down and chew it.
This isn’t a problem as I play ball and tug with my other two but I’d like to know if there’s anything else I can do for him to put some fun into his walk?
I also do scatter feeding of tiny treats so all of them can use their noses and I also do a leisurely walk so they can enjoy a sniff safari.
Thanks for your comment and question.
Something I do for my older boy who also has elbow dysplasia is to go outside and hide treats all over my garden and in shrubbery. Then I let him out without my other dogs so that he can hunt out and scavenge on the treats I’ve hidden. Because of his ED he’s a little slower so I like for him to have this experience with just him and I.
It tires him out and engages his much loved since of smell.
Another thing he enjoys is chilling on the grass chewing on a bully stick as well as working to get food out of his fillable food toy.
There is a video on YouTube of a dog that brought a sprinkler through a dog door. My friend knows these people. They are from Texas and have their sprinklers set on timers. They keep their home monitored while they are at work. Upon checking to see if everything was okay at home, they saw their dog having the time of his life playing with the sprinkler in their family room. They were unable to leave work and unfortunately the sprinkler was set to run for several hours. What a fun time (for the dog)! After all, who wants to play outside when it is so unbearably hot.
Wow! This is probably the best story I’ve heard so far in 2020! Although I’m sure your friends didn’t know if they should laugh or cry!! My dogs would absolutely do this if they could – they adore water coming from a hose! I hope there were no electronic devices nearby while their dog was frolicking in the water!!
Thank you for sharing this with us, you really made my week!! 🙂
Hi, and thank you for this article Great ideas for my energetic 6 month old GS dog. He has more energy than 3 five year old children.
You’re very welcome! I’m pleased you’ve found some fun ways to help your pup burn energy. The best part is these games are easy on a growing pup’s growth plates. Just keep in mind if you’re going to do the fun agility, keep jumping to a minimum, especially jumping from heights. Just until your boy is about 18 months old at which point the plates have fully settled. 🙂
Hi Gabriella! The solid black GSD looks just like my precious Ellie. She’s 6 months old and needs lots of new stimulation! This article has given me some great ideas.
Thank you for the work you do to provide solid info for all of us Shep owners♡♡
Thanks for your comment, you’ve made my week! I’m pleased you’re finding value here!
Drop me an email or a comment if you have any questions. 🙂