What does the trainer do to train his own dog? He goes out and plays a game with him. Any great dog trainer can tell you: Dogs and owners who play together, stay together. There is nothing better for teaching your dog impulse control, confidence and bonding you to him than a game you both enjoy.

Your dog’s age, breed and temperament may give us hints toward his favorite games. A retriever may love to fetch on land or water, a terrier may love to play tug of war, and a herding dog may love to play a prey game, using his favorite toy tied to a string and a stick.

When you create a game for your dog it is best to put some structure to it. You don’t want the game to become another problem behavior, so set some rules.  If you choose to play fetch or tug spend some time working on dropping or releasing the object (try starting with two of the same toys and trading him one for the other to the command “drop it”). If you are going to play searching games take some time to build a fun course. Think about an area of your home where you could set up seven to 10 empty small boxes; hide treats in five or more of the boxes and encourage him to “find it.” Play often causes dogs to get excited. This will help you work through frustration and impulse control behaviors like barking or jumping up. If you reward incompatible behaviors you will have a dog offering wonderful behaviors for the thing he loves most.

If you are looking for something fun, consider looking up some of the most exciting canine sports almost any dog can play. Go online and search for “canine nosework”, “disc dogs”, “flyball” or “treibball” and you will have options to choose from. Before you know it you will have a new fun way to exercise your dog that you both will love!