3 DIY Games You Can Play at Home With Your Dog

There are many benefits to playing games with your dog. Here are some easy and inexpensive DIY games you can make with household objects.

Finding games for you and your dog to play together can feel like a challenge. There are so many options with so many price points, it can be tricky to know what’s worth the investment. Take money out of the equation by creating fun dog toys with objects you already own.

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Why Is Playing With Dogs Important?

Exercise associated with play comes with plenty of benefits for your dog.

  • Physical Health: Dogs need exercise. Active play such as chase games can promote heart and joint health. But do play in moderation. Too many sharp turns can put unnecessary strain on your dog’s joints, especially puppies.
  • Mental Health: Play is also mentally stimulating and engaging for dogs. Brain games, where your dog solves a maze or puzzle to earn a reward, are just as tiring as a walk.
  • Training: Engaging in games with your dog teaches good life skills and boundaries. Using play in this way can help teach your dog the foundations of a drop cue (where your dog can drop an item when told) or a recall (where your dog can come back to you when told). You can also use play to teach puppies what is and isn’t appropriate to bite. This is a no-treat game — the reward is play, not food.
  • Bonding: Like trick training, play helps build a bond between you and your dog.

Three DIY Games to Play With Your Dog

These three games use standard household items to provide enrichment for your dog.

Bottle Flip Challenge

What You’ll Need:

  • A long piece of twine or string;
  • Empty, uncapped plastic water bottles (any size);
  • Scissors.

To start, pierce two small holes on either side of your water bottles, toward the bottle top. Thread the string through the holes until you have a row of bottles sitting up. Tie each end of the string between two fixed points, such as a pair of chairs. Make sure they’re at a good height for your pup. Then pop dog treats in the water bottles and encourage your dog to flip the bottles over to knock them out.

Start indoors. Once your dog has gotten good at this, take it outside. It will be more difficult, because once the treat falls out, your dog will have to sniff it out in the grass!

Homemade Snufflemat

What You’ll Need:

  • An old towel;
  • Small, tasty treats.

Sniffing activates your dog’s relaxation system, which slows their movement and makes them feel happy and relaxed. Finding the food is reinforcing and promotes feel-good hormones such as dopamine.

To start, sprinkle some treats down the center of your towel. Then fold it in half the long way, hot dog style. Encourage your dog to sniff along the towel and work out that they must open it to access the goods.

Once your dog understands this, try rolling up the towel and presenting it to your dog to unroll. Scatter a few treats on the folded towel before rolling to make it easier.

Muffin Tin Game

What You’ll Need:

  • A muffin tin;
  • Tennis balls (enough to cover each muffin cup);
  • Small, tasty treats.

This simple game encourages your dog to use their greatest tool: their nose! Place one or two treats in each muffin cup and allow your dog to gobble them up.

Next, place the treats in the cups as before, then cover each hole with a tennis ball. Now your dog must work out how to remove the balls in order to access the treats.

For the final stage of this DIY dog game, put treats in only a few of the cups, then cover them all with the balls. Now your dog has to use their nose to sniff out the treats. This game is also a neat dog trick to show guests.

If your dog gives up, try only reducing the number of treats by a quarter. As your dog improves their skills and grows in confidence, you can continue reducing the number of treats until there’s only one cup with a jackpot.