Having a pet means dealing with a lot of responsibilities that include feeding, care and training. But, fortunately, along with the responsibility comes fun playtime.
Playing with your pet is paws down the best part of having one. It’s a great stress reliever for you — plus it has the added benefits of getting your pet more exercise and engaging her interest and intelligence. And she may even learn a useful trick along the way.
But what other tricks and games are out there besides fetch and stacking treats on your dog’s nose? I poked around and found these games that are fun, engaging and stimulating for you and your pet.
1. Take It
In Tricks and Games to Teach Your Dog, author Sophie Collins explains how this game works: “You’re teaching your dog to take something in his mouth — either from your hand or (usually at the next stage) to pick it up from the floor.”
This way, not only are you spending quality time with your dog, but also you’re teaching her a neat trick: picking up her own toys. How handy is that?
According to Collins, this is how it’s done: “Pick up a toy that you’ve already seen your dog carrying around. Put him in a ‘Sit’ position and hold it out to him, saying ‘Take it’…. Praise him as soon as he has it in his mouth (if you use a clicker, the exact moment that he takes it from you is the point for clicking). After a second or two, take it back from him and give him a treat.”
2. Invisible Prey
Although cats love playing with small objects like marbles, rubber bands, string and yarn, these aren’t good choices because they are easily swallowed. In Denise Seidl’s Fun and Games for Cats, I found a simple and fun alternative: Invisible Prey.
For this game, simply take an old shoebox and punch 2 or 3 holes in the sides that are large enough for your cat to stick her paw through. Then put a couple of easy-to-grip toys inside the box (if they’re noisy, this makes for a better experience), and let her try to grab the toys. “Games where the toy must first be found and then caught before it can be played with are particularly exciting, as they elicit curiosity, which gets the cat involved as he tries to locate the prize,” explains Seidl.
3. Hide ‘n’ Seek
On its website, Purina offers great games that engage dogs on both physical and intellectual levels, but there’s one age-old game in particular that stands out: hide ‘n’ seek.
To play, grab 2 cups that are large enough for your pup to get his muzzle into. Simply hide a ball, treat or toy under one of them and then let him try to figure out the object’s whereabouts.
Alternatively, you can be the treat: Hide yourself and see how long it takes your dog to find you. Choose a keyword or phrase like “Find it!” to let him know that it’s time to sniff you out. When he does, praise and reward him — he’ll catch on quickly.
If your cat is leery of the bathtub, this next one may be a little difficult.
On the other hand, if you have a highly active cat who loves balls, this game suggested by Animal Planet may be for you: Bathtub ping-pong.
Take a ball that’s easy to bounce (such as a ping-pong ball) and toss it into the bathtub. The smooth surface of a tub is conducive to lots of bouncing, and its compact area makes for an intriguing game that may occupy your cat for hours on end.
Just remember to remove all the shampoo and other items from the tub first. You don’t want your cat to accidentally slip and fall or to swallow any soap by accident.
Watch this cute Lab play some mentally and physically stimulating games:
5. Snorkeling for Toys — Ferret Edition
This game is easy but stimulating and fun for your ferret. Take your ferret’s dig box and fill it with whatever his favorite digging material is. Simply bury toys inside the material and let him go to town.
No matter what type of pet you have, there’s bound to be a game out there that suits you both. Engage in your inner child, get down on the floor and play with your pet. You’ll both be glad you did.