10 Great Dog Games Kids Can Play With Dogs
There are few things more joyful than the relationship between a child and their pet. Most of us animal lovers have memories of bonding with the family dog, spending hours talking with our horse, or curled up for nap time and cuddles with our cat.
But the relationship between pets and kids can open up the door for much more than celebration: they provide emotional, physical, and social benefits to your developing puppy… and your child. And playing dog games is one of the best ways to do that!
You don’t have to overthink it. Play is the best way to explore the wonderful synergy between your two young loved ones, both for the dog and child.
Introduce these simple dog games into your family’s routine, ones that your child can easily master. But first, let’s explore the benefits of puppy-child play.
Dog games aren’t just child’s play.
If you’ve ever observed a preschool or primary school class, you’ll know that there’s a great deal of play going on. It’s easy to assume children are just killing time. But in fact, parents and educators know that play is a crucial aspect of cognitive development.
Kids are learning about spatial relationships, manual dexterity, cause and effect, social norms like sharing and turn-taking, as well as physical and mental boundaries and how to overcome or adapt to them.
The same goes for your dog. They are wired for learning – some breeds are keener for a challenge than others, like German Shepherds and Border Collies for example. Good trainers know that dog games go hand-in-hand with obedience and even advanced levels of training. Even police dogs have playtime during their training and their workday.
In fact, training should always be fun for you AND your dog. Because if either of you isn’t having fun, then you won’t want to play. And why should you?
So above all else, keep it simple and remember to make it fun!
Playtime with a dog can:
- Relieve anxiety and stress – for your child and the dog.
- Create puppy training opportunities wrapped in “fun”.
- Provide exercise for both the child and the dog.
- Give your child an opportunity to be the teacher instead of a perpetual student.
- Reduce boredom – bored kids and bored dogs get up to no good, as a rule.
- Provide your child a way to become a leader of the pack, and to practice asking for what they want in a clear way.
- Strengthen the bond and understanding between child and dog.
10 simple and fun dog games your child can master.
You don’t want to leave your child in charge of obedience training, but you can engage them in the process by teaching them these ten simple games to play with their furry companion.
Remember to teach them the simple commands you have for your dog: sit, wait, come, etc. so they can be reinforcing them while they play. Puppies, like kids, need and crave rules and boundaries.
They need to know what’s appropriate to do or not do, and how to behave properly in different situations, which improves their confidence. And that is a life skill they’ll put to good use for the rest of their life.
So here are the games:
1. Follow me
As the name suggests, your puppy is going to follow your child… but you’re going to add a layer of fun with obstacles. In the early going you’re going to keep the puppy on a leash until he or she is comfortable with the course. As they become more proficient you can add obstacles – things for the puppy to climb or jump over, wiggle through. Let your imagination go wild!
The world famous dog Skidboot was known as the World’s Smartest Dog! And it all started with games just like this one. Watch and you’ll see why in this wonderful interview with Skidboot and his dad on the show Pet Star:
2. Clean up
A parents dream come true, what better skill for both puppy and your child to develop than putting away their toys! You can make it a “timed tidy” with a countdown, a counting game, or just a clean-up of the living room. Dogs, like kids, can be taught to return their belongings to a central place, like this darling dog toy box, so their toys are not underfoot just waiting to trip you up as you walk by.
If you have elderly people, or anyone who’s unstable on their feet in your home, this is an especially wonderful trick to encourage in both your dog and your child. Again, you’re teaching a lifetime skill of valuing and maintaining a clean, neat space.
3. Hide & Seek
This is great fun for puppy and child alike. You’ll find out that your child gets more and more creative with their hiding spots as the dog becomes better at sniffing them out! This is an excellent dog game if you’re looking for some quiet time and want to keep your little troublemakers busy.
There’s a hidden benefit to this game that’s serious and very important. If you don’t play any other games, then play this one. Why?
Because if your child ever goes missing, you can ask your dog to find them. They’ll know how to do that if they’ve been taught! Fido could be your child’s HERO in a big way by saving the day!
If you’re a first-time puppy owner be sure there aren’t any hazards for inquisitive hands, paws or mouths tucked away in closets or in little nooks you thought were “out of range” because that could hurt. Nothing ends a fun game faster than OUCH and an unplanned race to the doctor’s office.
Dogs innately love to chase things… but catching a frisbee – like this one for stronger chewers, or this softer version for sensitive puppy mouths – out of mid-air takes some skill and training. Playing frisbee is a wonderful game for eye/hand/paw coordination and agility and will tucker out both of your little bundles of energy.
Another great game for letting off some steam. Choose balls, special dog bones, and toys that are safe for your child to handle and don’t have any choking hazards attached that your pup might swallow.
Your child’s plushies might be appealing, but they won’t necessarily be safe, so choose toys designed for your dog. Like this one, Lambchop, it’s one of my dogs favorites. Or this great set of crinkly dog toy flyers, easy for little hands to catch and throw, and super fun for pups to toss around too. For stronger jawed canines, get something like this.
If you’ve got space to spare and your little ones have the energy to burn, some foot races are just the ticket. You’ll need to supervise carefully in the early going, especially if you have a younger child or an enthusiastic puppy who still thinks nipping is appropriate contact. But it’s a great teaching opportunity for your puppy to learn manners while still having fun.
Make sure you learn the right rules of tug-of-war before introducing this game to your duo. Your child must know how to begin and end the game, because in the early going your puppy will have no clue and bad habits can come from an out-of-control game. Again, this is an opportunity to teach your dog some manners. It will make socializing easier… and your child and puppy will build up their strength and balance! It’s recommended for kids older than 10 years of age so that they can be careful and safe.
8. Pet tricks
Teaching their four-legged friends to dance, speak, shake, rollover, howl or kiss is a great way for kids to spend quality time with the pets. Dogs love to be challenged, and love to please…they’re ready to tackle new skills and will be open to all sorts of creative ideas that might inspire your child. Keep in mind that accolades, rewards, and inspiration are the best methods that lead your pooch to learn and remember tricks.
9. Catch the bubbles
This is another simple outdoor game that dogs and kids too just love. It’s easy and fun, and feeds off the fact that dogs have a sense that makes them chase anything. Kids aged 3-8 love this game the most. They even offer flavored bubbles these days that don’t give your dog an upset stomach. Be sure to find a safe version for dogs, like this one!
10. Hide the dog treats
Here’s a wonderful dog game you’ll have so much fun with!
Your child probably loves an Easter egg or treasure hunt… your dog will too! This is a wonderfully versatile game you can play inside or out in the yard. You’ll be enriching your dog’s sense of smell, their problem-solving abilities, their sense of adventure, and their analytical skills. All that just with buying a bag of treats! Our favorites are Wag More Bark Less, or Dog Mama’s Biscuits, or Full Moon’s Training Treats.
For more great games for kids and dogs check out Kyra Sundance’s 10 Minute Dog Training Games!
Playing dog games enriches the relationship between your child and your pet and will create hours of memories you can smile about for years. Capture the joy and innocence of play and watch your child and your puppy thrive.
Another great way to encourage your dog and child to bond, communicate and understand each other is to help them learn how to talk to each other! It’s easy as 1-2-3! Start here at The Heart School of Animal Communication with your free ebook Hidden Secrets to Communicating with Pets
Thanks to Lauren, a fellow dog lover, for all these great ideas!
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you: