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A dog playing with young boy in a field

Games for dogs to play & mental stimulation for dogs

Play is great. It's one of the best things about owning a dog! 

Did you know that play is also hugely beneficial for dogs' wellbeing?

Let's take a closer look at fun games for dogs to play - both outside and in, along with how to keep your dog mentally stimulated when you're not around.

The benefits of play

Play is beneficial because:

  • It creates a bond between dog and owner
  • It’s a great form of mental stimulation
  • It helps dogs to burn energy and stay fit
  • You can use it to reward your dog for learning new skills/tricks
  • And let's not forget, it’s fun!

Dogs use play to communicate. They use it to learn about the world - to interact with humans and other dogs, to develop their instincts and defend their territory. Structured play is also very useful for helping to establish boundaries.

Different breeds prefer different games. You may find your dog loves all games, has a clear favourite or isn't much interested in games at all. Nonetheless, experimentation is part of the fun, and once you've settled on a game your dog likes, it can become part of your daily routine.


Fetching things and bringing them back to their owners is an inate instinct in lots of dogs. You can use a ball, a Frizbee or soft toy (even a rolled-up pair of socks). 

If you're introducing a young puppy to the game of Fetch, you might find it helpful to:

  • At first, only throw the toy a few feet away
  • Run alongside your dog to encourage them to collect it
  • Once the dog has the toy, encourage them to return and praise them when they do
  • When training your dog to let go of a toy, use one consistent command such as 'Drop' or 'Leave'


Tug is a great way of interacting with your dog. You can use a toy or even an old towel - they won't know the difference!

When playing Tug with a young puppy, make sure to be nice and gentle. Tugging too hard could put too much strain on their jaw.

dog playing with ball

Chasing food

This is one of the best games you can play with your dog. Grab some treats, encourage them to follow you keep changing pace and direction. It's a simple game, but crucial in establishing a good relationship between you. Food games are also a great segue into learning the basic commands.

Other types of mental stimulation for dogs

Sadly, we can't be with our dogs all the time. Thankfully, there are ways of keeping them entertained when you're not around. 

Scattering food - If you're busy or heading out for a while, gather a handful of dry food and scatter it over your lawn or living room - your dog will have a great time sniffing it out!

Hide treats - If you have any spare cardboard boxes lying around, you could set up a little game of 'Find the Treat'. Just hide a treat in one box and leave the rest empty - your dog will keep themselves occupied as they search.

Kong toys and puzzle feeders - These are great. Just stuff them with food and they'll keep your pooch entertained for ages.

Make sure that your dog always has access to toys, too. That way, they can keep themselves entertained when you’re not around and will feel less dependent on you.

Need more info?

For more advice on keeping your dog entertained, have a chat with your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.

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