13 Fun and Enriching Games to Play with My Dog

28 May, 2024

13 Fun and Enriching Games to Play with My Dog

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Dog lover and pet sitter Kelly Hayes-Raitt shares some of the favorite games she plays with the dogs she pampers. Read on to learn 13 top tips and games to play with my dog.

13 Games to Play with My Dog When I Am Dog Sitting

By Kelly Hayes-Raitt

One of the joys I get from house sitting is playing games with my dog. I’ve learned new games from my homeowners, and I’ve been able to share those games with other homeowners. One of the true win/wins of house sitting!

games to play with my dog
“My ball! My ball! My ball!” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Playing games with the dog you are caring for helps:

• You bond with your new charge

• Increase the dog’s confidence

• Provide an outlet for the dog’s energy

• Reinforce rules and boundaries

• Make training fun

• Stimulate your dog’s natural tendencies to forage and sniff*

• Control behavioral problems like separation anxiety

• Prevent chewing, licking, and shredding (signs of boredom or stress)

• Create mental stimulation

“More kibble more kibble more kibble!” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt
[* Dogs love to sniff, so you can use this instinctive behavior to stimulate your dog’s mind and create some energetic fun.]

TIP:  You will be more successful if you initiate the game, as that helps establish your dominance, according to a study by the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

Here are 13 games to play with my dog:

1. Multiple Fetch

Not all dogs I pamper are good at the concept of “fetch.” They might retrieve the ball or stick, but refuse to return it! I throw consecutive sticks or balls to distract the dog from the first ball or stick so I can keep up the exercise momentum. They go after ball #1, then stick #2, then ball #1, etc.

“Here’s the ball!” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

It’s kind of a good workout for me, too. Since the ball or stick isn’t returned to me, I need to fetch it!

TIP:  Rub the stick or ball under your armpit to give it your scent. That way, your new canine charge will begin to associate you with fun, security, and authority.

2. Tug-Of-War

Dogs love competing with you for a toy. It’s ok to let them win. The goal is not winning, but creating a bond with the dog.

However, you still need to assert that you are “alpha.” I give my canine charges one of my old socks to tug on so they begin to associate my scent with my authority.

When playing “tug-or-war,” always pull side to side. Never pull up and down and never drag the dog around. Lifting the dog in the air could injure his or her spine.

TIP: This is a great game to practice the “drop it!” command. Periodically, ask the dog to “drop it!” and wait for him or her to release while you are still holding the toy. Be sure you stop tugging so the dog is not getting mixed messages. Resume the game once s/he has let go and you’ve offered praise.

3. Hide the Treat

games to play with my dog
“I know it’s here. I know it’s here somewhere!” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

This is one of my favorite games to play with my dog! I put the dog in another room behind a closed door. In the family room, I hide 3 or 4 treats. Some are in plain site on a stool or low shelf. Others are tucked under the edge of the throw rug or behind a cushion on the couch.

When I let the dog out, I say, “Find it!” and it’s so much fun watching the dog sniff out the treats!

TIP: Never put a treat in a place where the dog is not allowed, such as on a table.

4. Towel Game

This is another of the food-oriented games to play with my dog. Lay an old towel out flat and pepper it with crumbled treats or kibble. Slowly roll up the towel to keep the treats in place. Place it on the floor and watch the dog have a blast unrolling the towel to get dinner.

TIP: Be sure to pick up the towel quickly so the dog doesn’t tear or scratch at it once treats are gone.

5. Magic Cups

Hide a small ball or toy under one of 3 overturned plastic cups. With your dog sitting or lying in front of you, mix up the cups then tell your dog, “Find it!” Keep mixing up which cup the ball is under to keep your pup guessing!

TIP: At the beginning, you might have to help the dog out a bit by showing him/her how the game works.

6. Hide’n’Seek

Just like the game you played as a kid, have your dog sit and stay in one room while you hide in another. Call out to him/her to come find you. Start easy so your dog can “win.” Later, hide in closets, behind doors, anywhere not in plain sight that requires your dog to sniff you out.

games to play with my dog
“Ah! Found it!” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

TIP: Give lots of love and praise when the dog finds you!

7. TP Roll

I made this up — and it’s one of my favorite games to play with my dog! Put a treat or a couple of pieces of kibble in an empty cardboard toilet paper roll. The dog loves rolling it around until the treat falls out.

Be sure to retrieve the cardboard tube quickly so the dog doesn’t devour it looking for more treats.

TIP: For a bigger challenge, use a longer cardboard paper towel roll.

8. Muffin Tin Game

Fill an old muffin tin with tennis balls in each cup. Hide treats or kibble under each ball. Your dog will be challenged by removing each ball and remembering which cups no longer hold treats as balls roll from cup to cup. As your dog acclimates to this game, make it even more challenging by putting treats in just a few muffin cups, but keep balls in all the cups.

TIP: For extra mental stimulation, rotate the tin 90 degrees every few minutes.

9. Enrichment Boxes

“Eating is soooo much fun!” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Fill a few boxes of various sizes with crumpled packing paper or newspaper. Drop some kibble, crumbled treats, bits of cheese, or your dog’s favorite veggies in the folds. Spread the boxes throughout the house and challenge your dog to “find it!” This is one of the great games to play with my dog that stimulates the hunting instinct.

TIP: You might need to put a little kibble trail between boxes to help your dog along.

10. Bubbles

Who doesn’t like bubbles? Your dog can chase the floating bubbles and smell them when they pop as s/he catches them. There are even bubbles made specifically for dogs in scents like beef, bacon, peanut butter, and cheese! For extra fun, use a bubble wand or a bubble blowing machine.

You might need to pop a few bubbles yourself first to show the dog how the game is played. Afterward, be sure to wipe off any bubble residue from your pooch’s snout.

TIP: Be sure to buy nontoxic and tear-free bubbles.

11. Find It!

“Can’t we play some more? Please? Please?” Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

This is one of the great games to play with my dog while we are out on a walk. Distract him or her from other dogs or stimuli by tossing a few kibbles or treats off to the side and tell your dog to “find it!”

TIP: Keep a sharp eye out to be sure your dog eats only the treats you’ve tossed!

12. Which Hand? Game

This is another good game to distract your dog from triggers while out walking. Put a treat in one of your hands and hold out both of your fists so the dog can sniff which hand holds the treat. S/he should eventually linger over the correct hand.

TIP: Don’t drop the leash! Loop it securely around your wrist so you can grab it quickly if your dog decides to bolt after his/her trigger.

13. Agility Course

If you want to get really ambitious, you could create an obstacle course for your dog if there’s a big enough outside area. Support broomsticks or curtain rods on cardboard boxes (not too high) for your dog to jump over. Or create a maze using rows of books, filled plastic bottles, or anything that won’t hurt your dog’s paws if it jumps and knocks it over. Tunnels can be made by hanging old blankets from a rope just above the ground, adjusting to the dog’s size, or by cutting the bottom out of a large cardboard box.

I enjoy these 13 games to play with my dog while I house sit. I hope you do, too! Mix it up every day to keep your dog on its toes, um, paws!

love petsittingKelly Hayes-Raitt has pampered dogs as a house sitter for nearly 15 years throughout the world. Her favorite, though, was ChaCha, the rambunctious pit/lab rescue she cared for every spring and fall in Mexico for a decade. Here ChaCha approves of Kelly’s book How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the Housesit Diva.



How to become a house sitter

Being a house sitter presents you the chance to explore new places and live in fabulous homes. And sometimes you may even end up getting paid for it. You’ll need to have a genuine passion for caring for pets and housekeeping.

Sign up on a home sitting website to get started.



Further reading about housesitting and trusted house sitters

At Housesit Match we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, housesitting and pet sitting. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on house sitting useful.

What a housesitter does – Top 10 responsibilities

Housesitters keep pets safe at home and save money

What is House Sitting?


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Kelly Hayes-Raitt

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