Archives for posts with tag: games to play with your dog


It’s quite interesting that in this picture of me, taken the day our family moved from an apartment to the house I grew up in, I am carrying a toilet seat.  On days when you are married to your toilet seat because you are prepping for a colonoscopy or feeling ill, or on days when you are too tired or sick to get out of bad, you can still engage with your dog, challenging her mind and body while yours gets challenged for other reasons.

Being a big believer in not wasting good opportunities, my dog, Sky, already knows the bathroom is a place to play.  Sometimes, after she brings me an appropriate toy, I close the door with her on the outside, hide the toy and then invite her in to “Find it!”  You will be surprised to know how many places there are to hide a toy while you are actually sitting on the aforementioned toilet seat – at the far side of the toilet, perched on the toilet paper holder, at the edge of the sink, or, in my bathroom, on the ledge to the stall shower which means it will be behind the open door.  Sometimes I hide the toy on my lap or under the end of the bath mat.  Figuring out where to hide the toy and encouraging your dog to use her nose beats not having anything to think about but, yikes, the colonoscopy.  So we are already ahead of the game.

Should you need to pass a kidney stone during prepping, as I once did, you will find yourself crying whilst sitting in a tub of hot water to ease the pain.  In that case, a game of catch the rubber ducky is called for.  Sky will also toss it back into the tub on command or find it behind the pulled shower curtain.  If she really, really wants to play (always), she will lean over and scoop the duck from the water, then toss it back when asked to.

If you take to your bed, weeping and feeling like the unluckiest person on earth, your dog will happily pull you at least part way out of the dumps by engaging you in play.  In this case, you can roll a ball under the bed on one side so that it comes out on the other and see how long it takes your dog to go to where the ball will emerge as soon as you lean toward the opposite side.  You can hide a toy under the edge of the blanket and have your dog search for it.  If you’ve never done this, it will have to be done in stages.  Dogs, like babies, tend to think something is gone if it disappears from sight, so you will need to give your dog a few peeks at the hidden item for her to “get it.”

Playing games with your dog while you prep for a colonoscopy may be the epitome of multi-tasking.  Using your imagination plus your understanding of your dog’s skill, likes and dislikes, you can pass the time when things are hideous.  After a brain-challenging game or two or three, your dog will be happy to lie down in bed with you, pressing against you to help you release endorphins and oxytocin.    If she could only  be with me during the procedure rather than waiting with my DH (darling hubby) in the waiting room, things would be close to perfect, but I’ll take what I can get, fully understanding that playing with my dog no matter what is as good for me as it is for her.  And amen to that.






Most of us with pure-bred dogs do not live the kind of life where our dogs can do what they were  bred to do.  In fact, most of us with mixed breed dogs don’t keep sheep, hunt, search for lost children in the woods, have a used car lot in need of protection, have a secret place where we hunt for truffles or have a rodent problem on our property.  Some dogs are content with a daily trip to the dog run, a long walk along the river, a chance to retrieve a Frisbee and then a good, long nap.  But some are not.  Some need to be able to use the instincts passed down to them by generations of breeding for a specific task and sometimes, without the chance to use what they’ve got, they will find a way to do so on their own, developing obsessive compulsive habits that reflect the work they were meant to do.  So what’s a person to do?

You needn’t move to a sheep farm, go out and buy a rifle, train your dog for cadaver recovery or become a truffle farmer, though I hear there’s good money in the latter.  Instead, find an activity or even a game that uses some of your dog’s special abilities.  And play the game seriously enough that your dog feels he’s working, that he feels what he’s doing is important.

Your retriever might like to carry something on his walks, or even carry home a small bag when you go shopping.  Dogs of any breed or mix love to find things using their fabulous sense of smell.  It’s easy to start this game with a small biscuit and gradually work it so that your dog is finding objects by name hidden out of sight.  The dog who loves that game may graduate to finding objects that are out of place.  Try dropping a glove, say, behind your back as you walk through a field or on a trail.  Then send your dog back to find what you dropped without telling him what he should be looking for.

Once, when my first Border Collie, Flash, and I were out for a long walk, I could see that he was desperate to retrieve.  This time, I had nothing with me I could toss and anyway, we were on a city street.  Still, wanting to satisfy my darling boy, I pulled out my money, hoping I’d find a single I could tent and drop behind me, then send Flash back to find.  Alas, the smallest bill was a five.  I looked into my dog’s eyes, then tented the five, continued to walk and as we went, dropped the bill behind me.  At the end of the block, hoping no one had come along and scooped up my dough, I sent Flash back, telling him, “Find it.”  This he did, dropping the folded, wet five happily in front of my feet.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you have kids, you can have your dog retrieve out of place items from all over your house.  That should keep him busy!  By reading the history of your dog’s breed or by noting what talents your mixed breed dog has, you can come up with activities to satisfy his instinct to work, concocting brain-teasing, fun and deeply satisfying activities for the pup you love.  And here you were wondering what to do next weekend!