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!
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
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.