6 Games & Activities to Enhance a Dog’s Life
By Teena Patel
Photos by University of Doglando
Did you know that it’s entirely possible to incorporate games and activities into dog daycare environments, even when staff are responsible for dozens of dogs? If you own or work at a dog daycare facility, there are limitless possibilities for adding these types of experiences to a dog’s day—all you need is motivation and creativity!
Mindfully planned games and activities engage every one of a dog’s senses, which is a vital part of enhancing the daycare experience that each dog receives. In fact, you’ll likely notice a reduction in “problematic” behaviors, such as barking, charging the gate, and more. It’s a win–win–win for daycare facilities and their teams, the dogs in daycare, and the people who put their trust in dog daycares.
1 Bobbing for Apples
You don’t have to use apples for this canine–friendly take on a classic human game, but you certainly could. To play, fill a large bucket with water and place toys and/or food in the water. To retrieve them, the dog must get wet, making this a great game for a hot summer’s day. Adding food gives the dogs an opportunity to use their smell and taste, too.
2 Squirt Gun Shenanigans
Here’s another game that’s perfect for the upcoming summer season. Purchase simple water guns for staff members to have a “water fight” with the dogs. Let the dogs chase the water from the squirt gun or squirt water at the ground to make mud (because getting dirty is often the most fun game of all!)
It’s important to remember that not all dogs will love every game, especially ones that involve water. Never force a dog to participate—they should always have the freedom to remove themselves from a game or activity if desired. And you can always create another game for dogs not willing to participate. For example, many dogs will happily chase a single ice cube or chunk around a room.
3 Jolly Balls, Jolly Times!
Jolly Balls are large, inflatable rubber balls that were originally designed for horses. They’re too large to guard effectively, making them perfect for communal play. Staff should be actively involved in this game, as they can kick the ball, toss it to different parts of the yard and otherwise engage with the dogs as they play.
4 Keep Away
For dogs who love to chase balls, add some more human interaction into the game by playing soccer or keep away. In fact, dog daycare owners should encourage team members to play right alongside the dogs they’re monitoring. This helps build lasting relationships, which should always be a goal of daycares.
5 Ball Hang
At Doglando, we have a few pups who love playing with a hanging, handled ball. All you have to do is tie rope to one of the handles, then hang the ball from a wall, ceiling, tree or other structure.
By now, I hope you’re noticing a trend: Games and activities don’t have to be complicated to be great fun for a dog.
6 Sleuth Out The Scents
Dogs love searching for scents, and there are tons of ways you can use that sense for some engaging daycare games and activities. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Hide treats under rocks, logs,
in sand and elsewhere throughout your environment.
- Spray leaves, grass and other natural substrates with a scent for dogs to roll in.
- Stuff items with interesting smells into a jar with holes.
Where food is concerned, you might be worried about fights breaking out, which is understandable. However, if food is a regular part of your environment, this won’t be an issue. At Doglando, we’re always using kibble and other foods. It’s given freely, and the dogs have learned this.
Even More Games and Activities for Dogs
This short list is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many other ways you can add simple, yet highly valuable, games and activities into the daycare environment. For even more fun, visit www.bit.ly/enhanced-play. This free guide has 10 additional games and activities you can try in your facility. You’ll probably come up with even more ideas as you read and get inspired!
It can be a daunting to implement, especially if you’ve never tried this with groups of dogs. But, I promise it’s entirely possible and entirely worth it. I know you’ll agree once you see games and activities in action at your own dog daycare!