4 Fun Games To Play With Your Labrador

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Is your dog bored? Does he get overexcited when you play with him?

Are you at a loss to know how to occupy him? Or how to get him to play nicely?

Let’s have a look at some gun games to play with your Labrador!

Structured play

The secret to successful play with a large dog is to define the boundaries and rules of the game, and to control where it starts and stops.

This is almost impossible with free play or ‘rough-housing’  where dogs often become over-excited and careless.

Structured games enable you to remain in control whilst keeping your dog happy and entertained.

Here are a few ideas

1. Scent Games For Labradors

Dogs have amazing noses.  It is not just bloodhounds that are great at following a trail.

Labradors can do it too.

Try laying a scent trail for your dog, with a treat at the end,  and watch him follow it with his nose.

You’ll need to begin with very short and simple trails.

And you’ll need a few simple bits of equipment

Equipment for dog scent games

Your dog will need to be on a lead,  and as he is going to be working out in front of you,  it is better if this is attached to a harness (he should associate a collar and lead with walking next to you.)

You will lay your trail with a scent marker.  A piece of cloth rubbed in some crushed hot dog should do the trick.  And you will also need some more hot dog for the treat at the end of the trail

Your first scent trail

Lay your first trail in a straight line on a open piece of ground.  Keep your dog out of sight.  Drag your cloth along for 3 feet or about 1 metre.   And place a little piece of sausage or some other yummy treat at the end.

Mark the start of the trail with a cone or a rock,  so that you know where to begin tracking

Now fetch your dog and take him to your start marker.  Watch him sniff around and follow the scent to the treat.  Now you can start to make the game more fun.

Making scent work it more difficult

Gradually make your trails longer.   Gradually make them wiggly rather than straight.

After a few weeks of practicing you will be able to lay quite complicated trails for your dog to play the bloodhound game.

The next game can be played indoors

2. Musical Statues For Dogs

In this game, your dog has to sit perfectly still without moving a muscle, whilst you walk all around him in a circle.

Take care not to step on his tail as you cross behind him.  You teach this game in easy stages, using an event marker to let the dog know when he is on the right track.

Your event marker

The event marker is just a sound that you make each time the dog is successful.  It can be a word like ‘Good’ or ‘Yes’,  or a click you make with your mouth or with a clicker.

Don’t forget to reward the dog with a treat, each time you use your event marker.

To begin with,  sit your dog next to you, stand still, and watch him carefully.  As soon as he is completely still, mark and reward!

The next step is to mark and reward 3 seconds of not moving.   (Fidgety dogs may need you to mark 2 seconds first, and then move on to 3)

When your dog can sit like a statue for 3 seconds, it is time to teach him to keep really still whilst you move your leg.

To start with, just lift one foot off the ground and put it back down again.  If he keeps still, mark and reward.  If he moves or fidgets go back to standing still for 3 seconds, then try and smaller movement of your foot.

Making it more difficult

Once he can do this, you can progress to bigger movements of your leg.   Don’t forget, he must not move a muscle.  If he moves, make the game easier for a moment.  When you give him his treat, let him move around,  then bring him back to sit next to you for the next attempt.

Over the space of five to ten games of five minutes each, you will be able to progress from lifting your leg,  to taking a step to one side, to taking a step backwards.  All without the dog moving.   Soon you will be able to step forwards, turn and face the dog!

You will also be able to step back wards and to one side, so that you step across his tail.  Mind you don’t tread on it.

It is then just a short step to be able to step all around your dog whilst his sits like a statue.

Don’t forget, this game requires concentration, and most dogs like to have a good zoom about in the garden afterwards!

3. Find the dog toy

Choose a toy your dog really loves.  Use the name of the toy a lot whilst your dog is holding and playing with it.  Now sit your dog or get someone to hold him and let him see you take the toy through and open doorway and place it on the floor in full view in another room.

Go back to your dog and tell him to find his ‘rope/ball/teddy’  in a happy, upbeat voice.

Tell him how clever he is when he gets it.  Now it is time to make things more complicated.

Making it more difficult

This time place the toy where he cannot easily see it until he is in the room.  Don’t hide it under anything yet.  You need to build up his skill gradually.

After a few more games, you will be able to make the game more difficult,  hiding the toy under a cardboard box or a cushion.

4. Teach Your Dog To Freeze!

Have your dog move around near to you.  Keep throwing him tiny treats to hold his attention and dance around to keep him moving.

Now suddenly stop and ‘freeze’.  If he copies you and stops moving, ‘mark and reward’  then throw a treat behind him and away from you.  Now start dancing around again.

Each time you freeze, wait for him to freeze too and immediately mark and reward.

Now you can start to add a cue word.

Dance around,  say ‘freeze’ and stop dancing.  Mark and reward the dog when he stops.

Making it more difficult

Now start throwing the treats further away and saying freeze when he has picked up the treat and is starting to return.

To begin with he may carry on running towards you before he ‘freezes’.   But as long as you always throw the treat well behind him,  he will soon start to freeze further from you.


Freeze is not just a fun game,  it can also be a useful cue to give a dog that is heading towards danger or getting too far away.

Other fun dog games

Looking for more fun games to play with your Labrador, then check out our article on activities here.

If you enjoyed the tracking game and your dog is good at it, you might like to consider taking part in working trials.  You can find out more here.

Keeping it fun

With all these games, it pays to make haste slowly, and to stop whilst the dog is having fun.   Most dogs will enjoy playing ‘find the toy’ three times in a row.

Many dogs will get bored if you carry on much longer than this.   Stop after five or ten minutes, and he’ll be keen to play again next time.

Your dog’s favourite game

What is your dog’s favourite game?  Share with us in the comments box below.

More information on Labradors

labrador-jacket-800You can find out more about how to keep your Labrador as fit and healthy as possible in the Health section of our website.

If you’d like all of our best Labrador information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life.

The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.

 

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I was surprised when I took a toy that my puppy was playing with and placed in another room out of sight. I entered the room and then told him to ‘find it’ and he zoomed off sniffing in the other room. I repeated ‘find it’ and he gets excited and ends up finding his toy. I give him lots of praise. He went from a simple place to a complex place within minutes.

    I almost get the feeling that my puppy is an old soul and has been here before, I am just reminding him of what he seems to already know. So far, very proud of my 14 week old Labrador.

    I have him doing the following:

    -Sitting
    -Laying Down
    -Standing Up
    -Fetching
    -Bringing Back
    -Waiting for his food while on the ground in front of him
    -Waiting at the door and letting me leave first as well as enter when we return
    -Finding toys or treats I have hidden
    -Crawling
    -Paw / Shake
    -And believe it or not, showing me where I get water from and where I put it once I get it.

    I am mind blown at how smart he is and this is my first dog, so I have no idea what I am doing. This site as been a major asset for me and giving my dog the best training that I can do myself.

    Thank you!

  2. Me and my Mollie love to play at hide and seek. As soon as we get to the beach or the park, I throw her ball for her, then she picks it up brings it back to me before running off and hiding! As she is a choccy, sometimes it’s hard to see her against the trees in the park and the groynes on the beach! She peeps out to see if I ‘m still there and we have a great time. A lot of people stop to watch us and laugh.

  3. Ours is fFind the Treat!? I have the dogs leave the room. I hide small pieces of treats around the house….window sills, on top of anything I can find, in corners, under tables, etc…..when I am done I open the door, they have to sit and stay..then I tell them to find the treat. Their noses take them everywhere. First time they weren’t sure what to do and kept coming back to me because they could smell it on my hands. Now, their noses take them all over the rooms it’s hidden it. So mentally stimulating for them!

  4. Hide and seek I usually get a toy and get my lab excited with it then I throw it out the back door into the garden then I run and hide then when the dog comes i say his name and he goes to find me (he is actually really good at this due to him knowing my scent)

  5. Hi My pup, Austin, is now 10 weeks old. He can do the basics of sit, walking with a lead and is house trained but he does not seem to go further than that with more instructions or games. What would be a good age to start teaching him more? Any ideas please?

    • I would say right now is a good time, other would probably suggest otherwise. I have been using treat training since I got my pup, which was 4 weeks ago and he has progressed really quickly. I think they need a little guidance at first and with the help of a treat and luring him into situations has seemed to work wonders for me.

      I have a session of pure treat training where I do the basics: sit, down, come, etc…

      Then I move on to a bit of fun and messing around. Get his excitement out of his system.

      Then I calm him down by taking away any distractions and move back to a few minutes of training but this time I use the treat as a lure. I hold it in my hand so he can smell it but can’t see it and I have him do all sorts before he earns it. I don’t push it too far though. I don’t want him to lose interest. So, I usually do about 4-5 commands and then treat him and repeat. Seems to be working well for me and he enjoys it.

      It’s never too early to start training in my opinion.

  6. Hide and seek. the family of four started in a circle each with some treats. We stood very still, and in turns called ‘find Max!’ or whoever was to be the target. At first that person would call Miriam (who was very small then) and reward when she came. Later we would stay silent – she would sniff around each of us, and when she got to the right person – a big fuss and a reward. That person would nominate another and so on. Now, in the woods one of us will hide behind a tree whilst she isn’t expecting it. We then call her and give the command to find the missing person (sometimes several hide at once.) She charges around until she gets the right target. She will go to any of us at a command from another, but if that person isn’t there she tends to guess. Useful when its someone else’s turn to bath the dog.

    • Here’s another version of hide and go seek. First, you get a treat and show the dog. Next, you tell him/her to stay or whatever word you use for it to stay. And show the dog your treat again and go hide somewhere easy. Then yell okay! Or whatever word you want to use. Once you teach it good enough, it will come looking for you and eventually find you. Once it finds you, tell it good boy\girl! Your dog will highly enjoy this game

  7. We live in Chicago where the weather can get very, very cold. An activity that I have found that works great to tire our labs out is to throw a ball down the stairs and have them bring the ball back up the stairs to you. The stairs is good exercise for them. And you can just relax while you are wearing them out. 🙂

    • I would be a bit wary about labs on the stairs. Their front leg joints are hugely complex and can be fragile with the impact of the weight of the dog pounding on them running down stairs. We don’t allow ours upstairs at all, just for this reason. It would be interesting to know if this is true, or just an urban myth.

      • I don’t really have a choice with my dog. I visit my parents often and they live in an upstairs flat. So much dog has to go up and down stairs multiple times while we are there. I wouldn’t be using it as a means to wear him out though. I just feel its important for them to understand how to use stairs. My dog stays down stairs at my house but I do treat him to a short investigation upstairs from time to time and he loves it.

        I would also like to hear others thoughts on this and if it is damaging or not?

        • We recently moved into a house that has a second floor and basement. Our lab Penny goes up the stairs to the second floor with ease (sometimes she runs up) but we have to tell her “slow” and “easy” coming down as she tries to hurry and has slipped on a few steps (although she didn’t hurt herself). She does not venture down the basement stairs – not sure if it’s because the walls are close and not open or what. She’s made it down 3 steps but no more, not even with treats. Not sure what we’ll do when there’s a bad storm and we have to go downstairs.

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