What outdoor games can I play with my dog?
November 8, 2012 7:47 AM   Subscribe

What are some outdoor games I can play with my dog?

Every morning, Donut, my 3-year-old beardie mix and I spend 20-30 minutes running around off leash in a big field before we proceed on our morning walk. She does a lot of sniffing and rolling in the grass, chases sticks, and generally gallivants. I think this unstructured dog time is really good for her and is definitely the highlight of her day.

Sometimes we play a game where I put her in a sit-stay, walk or run away, then call her. She ecstatically bounds towards me and gets rewarded. If my husband is with me, we play “Donut Ping-Pong,” where we stand 50-100 yards apart and take turns calling her and rewarding her when she arrives. These games are great because they keep her moving, tire her out mentally (seriously, even tasks this simple require concentration for her) and reinforce her recall skills. I want to come up with some other games we can play outside that will similarly make her think hard, reinforce some obedience-related skill, and add some variety to our play time.

Details that may be important:
-Donut is smart and trainable when she wants to be, but especially in a fun complex-smelling environment like the field, if I try to teach her something too difficult, she’ll just wander off and sniff things instead.
-Her recall is pretty good. Obeying other commands from a distance is not so good. If you have ideas of how to teach that, I’d love to hear them.
-She’s clicker-trained and I carry lots of high-value treats at all times, so any behavior that can be shaped is good.
-I’d prefer things that are low-equipment. Something I can carry in my pocket is fine, but I’m not going to be hauling an A-frame outside every day.
-That said, I do want to try agility with her sometime. Are there preparatory exercises that would increase her likelihood of success in an agility class?

Thanks for your help!
posted by juliapangolin to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you consider a hula hoop to be too much equipment? She can chase it while it rolls, jump through it, etc.
posted by elizardbits at 7:50 AM on November 8, 2012

Never known a dog to not love chasing a Frisbee, even when it's thrown between two people.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:07 AM on November 8, 2012

Are there logs or other natural hurdles or obstacles in the field? You could get Donut (omg best name ever!) used to jumping over them or standing on them, which would translate over to agility when you're ready for that.

You know those little flags that utility workers stick in the ground to mark the path of underground utilities? Those wouldn't be hard to carry, and you could stick a few in the ground to mark a slalom course and have her learn to run around them.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:38 AM on November 8, 2012

You could try some scent games. Have her sit in a stay while you drop treats around the field and then release her to "find it." Or bring along some plastic cups for a shell game.

This page suggests 3-2-1 Find It where you play with a stick for a while and then throw it into grass or brush for the dog to find and bring back.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:46 AM on November 8, 2012

Try the Flirt Pole - aka a Giant Cat Toy. Rather than getting a specific "flirt pole" (although this one gets great reviews), our trainer suggested a $11.40 lunge whip from the horse tack store which works great. We attach a toy, follow the training protocol/instructions in the post ... and the dogs *LOOOOOOOOVE* it! (On cold days we even use it at a lower speed/height in the living room.)
posted by apennington at 9:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

That Flirt Pole is neat! You could do the same thing over a larger area with a fishing pole if you have one. Cast a line with a ribbon or other lightweight visible thing attached to the end, and pull it toward you. You don't even have to move.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:58 AM on November 8, 2012

Our dog loves this game:

1. Throw a treat as far as possible to your left, and let your dog get it.

2. Call Donut to come to you. As soon as Donut gets to you (and makes eye contact, if you want to reinforce "watch" or "look" commands), praise her (and maybe give her another treat as well, until she learns how this game works) and throw a treat as far as you can to your right.

3. As soon as Donut gets that treat, call her to come to you again.

4. Repeat ad infinitum.

It's great for building a good recall, but it's fun enough to be a game for your dog, as opposed to "work." If your dog has had enough treats for the day, you can also do this with a high-value toy.
posted by Spinneret at 10:43 AM on November 8, 2012

Oh! Sorry to double-post -- but this is fun, too, if you and your husband are both around: Hide and Seek.

Have mister pangolin hide behind a bush or tree or other obstacle while you're distracting Donut. When he's all set in his hiding place, ask Donut, "Where's mister pangolin?" or tell her, "Find mister pangolin!"

(Obviously, be sure the hiding person has plenty of treats.)

You can play this in the house, as well, and if you ever have kids visiting that Donut can get to know by name, they will think playing hide-and-seek with the dog is the Best Thing Ever!
posted by Spinneret at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2012

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