Playing with our dog is good for many reasons –
- Bonding – Dog play allows us to engage in a joint activity with our dog. In particular, we teach our dog certain skills, or work together with him to achieve common goals. This helps significantly with the bonding process.
- Pack leadership – While playing with our dog, it is important that we stay in control of the game. I set up some rules for the game and teach my dog to follow those rules. This helps to keep everyone safe, and helps to teach my dog good behaviors during his play sessions. Rules and structure will also put us in the leadership position and help establish us as the pack leader.
- Positive outlets for hyper energy – Setting up regular play sessions will also help redirect our dog’s hyper energy into positive areas. This lowers the likelihood of him becoming frustrated, or finding games to play on his own that may not be people or property friendly.
- Dog obedience training – Dog play also presents a great opportunity to obedience train our dog. I throw in frequent breaks during play sessions, so that my dog does not get overly excited and loses control. Break-time is a great time to slip in some obedience training commands.
- Fun for everyone – Playing with our dog is fun for everyone. If we do it right, our dog will have a blast and so will we. I keep dog play sessions short, interesting, and rewarding. I experiment with a variety of games to keep my dog engaged. I stop playing before he gets bored, so that he will always want more.
Why Food Games?
Food games are especially fun to play with a dog, because food is usually a strong motivator. Instead of giving my dog all of his food in his silver bowl, I keep some to use during our play sessions.
It is always strange to me why some people are against using food during play and training. Dogs need to eat, therefore we either make them work for their food or give food to them for free. Giving free food to a dog does not teach him anything except that food is easy to come by, and no effort needs to be expended to get what he wants.
On the other hand, using food during play and obedience training teaches the dog that-
- Food is not free.
- Food comes from us.
- Food is a reward for doing work for us.
- Working together with us is a good thing because it results in a fun and rewarding play session.
One of my dog’s most favorite game is Find-It.
I start by playing this game in my enclosed backyard.
- First, I call my dog to me and reward her for coming.
- Next, I show her that I have a small but tasty treat in hand. This usually gets her undivided attention.
- Then, I say “Find-It” and throw the treat a very short distance away and in clear sight.
- The motion naturally catches my dog’s eye and she pounces on the treat.
- I mark that behavior (Good!), praise her, and reward her with another treat.
Once my dog gets familiar with the game, I stop rewarding her for finding the treat. I also start throwing the Find-It treat farther away, and make it more challenging for her by throwing it into long grass, holes, or under bushes.
The Find-It game is also fun to play while out on a walk. My Siberian Husky loves going on hiking trails, and when it comes time to go home, she will usually want to linger behind. This is usually when I start playing the Find-It game with her to get her moving together with me in a homeward direction.
Most dogs love this game because it is rewarding and they get to practice their instinct to smell and search for food. As such, it can also be useful to motivate and distract dogs who are anxious about going outside.
Note – Of course, do not play this game in areas where there is trash, wrappers, poop, poisonous plants, or dangerous objects that we do not want our dogs to “find”. I only play this game after my dog has grown out of her “put everything in her mouth” phase, and after we have some training under our belt.
When playing any game with our dog, it is important to consider the environment, as well as our dog’s temperament, age, training, past experiences and more, to ensure that we use food and other motivators properly, to encourage good behaviors and discourage bad behaviors. Always make sure that our dog and everyone else around is safe.
2. Buried Treasure
My other dog, a Shiba Inu, can be very lazy when it comes to working for his food. Often, he will lie about and wait until my Husky has finished working on a food toy, and come clean up what she has left behind.
However, the “Buried Treasure” game always gets him going on his own.
- I start by getting all of his toys together in a corner of the room.
- Then I put little bits of kibble in some of the toys and bury them under other toys.
- In the end, I have a pile of toys, some of which have buried kibble.
- To top everything off I sprinkle some kibble down at the pile of toys and let it trickle down to the bottom of the pile.
Shiba Sephy has a lot of fun finding all the buried kibble while digging through his pile of toys.
Of course we can also bury toys in a sand-box or in holes in our backyard and let our dog dig them out. This game is great for teaching a dog which backyard areas are sanctioned excavation points, and which areas are off limits.
If we do not have a sand box, then another fun variation of the game is to hide food toys in various locations around the backyard or house. I start by hiding the toys in easier to find places and let my dog see where I am putting the stuff. Once he understands the game, I can increase the level of challenge by putting him in a separate location while I hide his toys. Once he understands the game, I may also start to put the toys in harder to look for, but safe places.
For more advanced hide-and-seekers, we can even set up an agility course that the dog must conquer in order to find all the food.
Only do this after the dog is already trained and comfortable with each of the agility obstacles.
3. Food Puzzles
Finally, another great way to engage our dog is by putting his food into interactive food toys. In this way, he has to exercise his mind and figure out the toy puzzles, before he can get to his food.
There are a fair number of interactive toys that my dogs enjoy. The toys are fun, keeps them occupied, and gives them something interesting to work on.
In addition to ready-made interactive food toys, I always try to figure out new ways to create food puzzle games for my dogs.
For example, during Halloween, I tried a chicken bobbing game (a variation to the apple bobbing game). I filled a container with water and placed little pieces of chicken under the water. Then I let my Husky bob for the pieces of chicken. She had a lot of fun and it is also a great way to cool down.
My dogs also love tearing apart cardboard boxes to get at the food inside.
Sometimes, I may combine multiple interactive toys together to change the food puzzle and increase the challenge of the game.
I always supervise my dog when trying out a new interactive toy. I make sure he does not swallow anything that may be unhealthy, a choking hazard, or may disrupt his digestive system.
There are many other fun ways to play with our dog and keep him happy and well exercised. Some of my dogs’ favorite activities include neighborhood walks, playing with other dogs, flirt-pole, and more.
I try to always keep dog play fun, upbeat, and rewarding. This will make everyone happy, and enhance my relationship with my dogs.
A busy, and tired dog, is a well-behaved, relaxed, and fun companion!
Hi! I ran across this website trying to find more info on huskys, my boyfriend and I just adopted a 3 yr old from the pound that doesnt seem to fit the bill on typical husky behavior. I cant get him to do anything but be a bump on a log and attention hog. Hes not interested in toys or the large assortment of treats, he basically just looks offended that you try to hand him anything. It could be peanut butter or a french fry or even cubed steak he just wont touch it. From squeaky ducks, tennis balls, frisbees, bison femur bones, kong stuffed with wet food, cant get him into it, he just wont eat the treats. We took him to a pet store where they put out over a dozen different types at his feet and just nothing. Hes alone maybe 3 hours a week but acts like we’re never here. Walks around crying some times and I just dont know what he needs/wants. Vet says hes in perfect health. Any ideas for a dog who doesnt like toys and isnt food motivated?
How many days have you had him? Moving into a new home can be very stressful for a dog, and it may take a while for him to get used to the new environment, people, and everything else.
When we moved houses, I quickly set up a fixed schedule for my dogs and a consistent set of house rules. This helps to create some certainty in a time of change, and helps them understand what to expect from me, what I expect from them, and what to expect from the environment.
My Shiba Inu also needed more space after the move, so I made sure he had a quiet and safe place to rest, and I wait for him approach me when he is ready. I make sure to reward him very well when he chooses to interact, but I also give him quiet time to rest and relax. My dog only had to deal with a new environment, and that was already causing some stress. I imagine things would be a lot worse if he had to deal with both a new environment and totally new people, and before that life at a shelter.
I try to observe my dog quietly but carefully, so that I can better understand what things he enjoys, what he is trying to tell me, and what types of things cause him stress. It took some time, but now, I understand my Shiba quite well, and continue to learn more about him every day. 😀
Here are some articles with good information on caring for a new shelter dog-
We have had our husky for about 6 -7 weeks, he doesn’t leave my side when we are in the house always has to have eyes on me. Beautiful manners, no pulling on leashes, no jumping, no chewing, knows basic commands but still a very very picky boy about everything. Only update I have is I figured out he was not eating his dinner because he doesn’t like his wett food touching his dry food. Still walks around and crys, I try to play with him and hes not interested. I just dont know what to do to get him engaged in something.
Sounds like he is engaged in doing commands and going on walks? Those are two great areas to build on. Since he likes being around people, have you tried doing recall training? That could be a fun thing to play with a dog, and it is a very useful command as well.
Where do you currently go for your walks? What does he seem to enjoy doing during walks?
What games have you tried playing with him? Does he take food from your hand? When he is just hanging out with you, what does he choose to do? Does he like getting affection?
Different dogs are motivated by different things. Part of this is also based on past experience. I try to observe my dogs carefully and see what motivates them most, then I can use those things to engage them. Some dogs are motivated by food, others by toys, some by affection, new experiences, other dogs, and the list goes on.
Also, because of temperament and past experience, some dogs may also become anxious and fearful of certain things. For example, some dogs may fear loud noises, others may fear being alone (separation anxiety) or being abandoned.
Here is a bit more on dog anxiety.
Here is a bit more on separation anxiety.
sorry that i have to say this, but i have played the first game you mention, and maybe where you live, the streets are clean and without any chocolate paper on the floor, but since i have played this game with my dog i cant stop him from eating everything from the floor.
By all means I don’t mean to be negative, it just can’t be applied in dirtier cities.
Thanks for your comment. I have added a section to provide greater clarification.
Crystal Milligan says
Hello..Ive been reading your articles all morning. Great information. We will have our very first Husky Puppy in a few weeks. July 10th to be exact. I would really like to know more and i have some questions about some phrases you’ve used. To start how do I become your friend on FB, twitter and add this blog so i get updates..I have a feeling i am going to need all the help i can get 🙂 Also..to begin what toys, items should we absolutely have here when pup comes home?
Congratulations on your upcoming Husky puppy!
In terms of FB, I am there as Shiba Shake. I don’t get on there much though – mostly use it to view puppy and dog pictures! 😀
You can get article updates by adding http://shibashake.com/dog/feed to your Feed List.
You can get comment updates by adding http://shibashake.com/dog/comments/feed to your Feed List.
Here are a few things that I got with my first puppy-
Great tips! Arya is shiba/kleekai and food games are the only games she’s interested in. She gets very bored with chasing balls and frisbees, but she’ll chase a bullystick all over the yard because it means she gets to run around and then chew on something.
Random question… do your dogs bark at strange things outside of the yard, and if so how do you teach them to do something different? Arya will stop and make little woofs at anything out of the ordinary. Our yard is very big with a wire fence, and she doesn’t mind cars or dogs but if any unfamiliar people visible she will stop still and woof at them. I am unable to distract her by jumping around, saying things in an excited voice, or leading her away with treats… I have to physically pick up her and move her, but with that I don’t want to teach her that picking her up is a bad thing…
I would like to teach her that she doesn’t need to alert to unfamiliar people, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that…?
Yeah, Sephy is like that. I think it is the guard dog in him.
What I do when they bark outside, is I first give them the Quiet command (which I have pre-trained). If they stop, I make sure to reward them well for following my command. If they do not, then I no-mark them and bring them inside if they continue.
Hi, I am 19 years old and me and my girfriend looking to get a shiba inu. I have lots of energy. I do crossfit almost everyday. And I just wanna know, with work. 7:30-3:30 during weekdays, and doing crossfit almost everyday for an hour or so after work. Do you think is still have plenty of time for the shiba inu. I do come back during the day from work a few times. Lunch is over an hour. My house isn’t too big, and doesn’t had a fenced in yard. But I would love to take him for walks and such, same with my girlfriend. And I plan on setting up a big
Leash for him to run around the yard with. And if possible let him
Run around while I am there in yard with her. Also I will be getting a bigger house in a year or so and hoping to get a fenced in yard. If really like your opinion on this since you are so knowledgable on this breed.
1. Training a Shiba
It depends a lot on the Shiba, and also on us. When I started out with Sephy, I didn’t know very much about dog training and I didn’t know very much about Shibas, so I had to put in *a lot* of time to train him, and also train myself. 😀 Sephy was very mouthy, he did not like people handling him, he got really reactive towards other dogs, and much more. Solving each issue took a fair amount of effort and time.
Sephy was also very energetic when he was a puppy, and he really needed some amount of off-leash time. We also didn’t have a fenced yard then, so we took him to a nearby SPCA for off-leash exercise and training (at least three times or more per week), in addition to on-leash exercise. They had a nice enclosed area and we would do training sessions and play sessions with compatible and friendly dogs at the SPCA. Dog daycare and hiring a dog walker are two other possible options to keep an energetic Shiba occupied. What works well will depend on the temperament of the Shiba.
Now that Sephy is older, he needs less exercise.
2. Tethering a dog outside
I would only tether a dog outside for very short periods of time and only under supervision. I would *not* leave a dog tethered outside on his own, especially for long periods of time. A Shiba will likely chew through his lead and escape. Unsupervised tethering can also encourage aggression and other behavioral issues.