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Family fun with your dog

The summer holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop!

The kids are back in the classroom, tan lines have faded, new school shoes are scuffed, and we have all slipped back into the old routine with a frightening ease like those heady days of summer never even happened (holiday? What holiday?)

But, just because the leaves are turning, there’s no need to cocoon up into your shells and wait for Hallowe’en JUST YET! Here at NHHQ we are all about joy-mongering and so have decided that now is a great time to share some of our awesome family games ideas – that dogs can join in too, naturally! What’s more, in typical style, the weather’s warmer than it was all August. So, get active and healthy in the garden or park with all the family with our family games ideas. Many of these games can be easily adapted to play indoors too because, you know, there’s positive-thinking and then there’s British drizzle and freezing winds.

1. Throwing frisbees or balls for the dog

Great for challenging your dog’s agility and training his concentration and patience, try throwing a ball or a frisbee in between family members before throwing for the dog. Ok, so the ball and frisbee might get a bit slobbery, but it will keep your dog super happy to be included in the family game and is enormous fun. Also good for working on your kids hand/eye coordination on the side, saving you expensive after-school club fees. You’re welcome!

2. Hide and Seek

Dog love a game of hide and seek. Try it with their favourite toy, or even a handful of treats…Watch out for our new range of Nature’s Harvest air-dried treats coming very soon! Hide yourself away, holding his toy or treats, and then when he finds you be sure to offer lots of praise and to hand over the toy and/or yummies. If he isn’t leaving you alone in order to get into your award-winning hiding spot, get another member of the family to actively play with the dog while you squirrel yourself away. You never know, if you find a REALLY good hiding spot, you can take a cup of tea and a copy of Grazia and hope that it takes him 10 minutes to sniff you out? Sadly, with dogs superior nose skills we feel we must warn you that this is unlikely.

3. Treasure Hunt

A great game for honing your dog’s scent-tracking skills; dogs love a treasure hunt.

Hide some of your dog’s favourite treats around the garden and house. Make sure he doesn’t see you hiding them, so get a family member to distract, or – even better – take him on a little walk off the premises while you do it.

When all the treats are safely hidden, bring him into the garden and ask him to find them. All family members can help him along the way if he is struggling (or you have been too cunning in your hiding spots!) Give lots of praise when he uncovers one. Dogs learn fast, especially when it comes to treats, so you might find that when you play this game again you need to up the cunning level a notch or two.

4. Tug of War

A great game that helps to keep your dog exercised, but is also a very useful training tool to help him learn some basic impulse control and reinforce some other commands like “stay”, and “leave it”. It is also a great game if you are trying to teach a puppy not to mouth you, as you can stop the game as soon as his teeth touch skin.

There are some great rope tug toys available for dogs, but a piece of rope or old towel (not posh guest towel) will do. Put it on the ground and tell your dog to “stay”. Make sure you reward your dog for staying. Once he has understood this, the game can begin! You can take it in turns as a family to play tug with the dog, using a timer or working as team against them (depending on the size of your dog, obviously. No point having Dad and your three rugby playing sons play against your chihuahua).

In the middle of the game, get your dog to “let go”. This is definitely one of the most difficult commands – especially as the game is so fun and dogs can get quite excited. When your dog does release – make sure to reward heartily again with your dogs’ favourite toy or treat.

5. DIY Agility Course

Building your own agility course in the garden or park can be a really fun way to give you and your dog some mental and physical exercises. The obstacles can be super simple and made up of anything you like that he can jump or hop over, or crawl under or weave through! Chairs, balls, rugs or blankets, the hula hoop from the garage, a step ladder…be creative – get the kids involved!

11. Round the Houses

This is a simple game that can be great fun. You can play this in your garden if it’s big enough, but you do need at least three or four people for this to be a challenge for the dog. Ask every member to spread out (at least 10 metres from one another). Then, every person will call the dog’s name. Every time he comes, reward him with praise and treats and move around to keep him interested. If you want to make it a workout, try running into different spots after each round. Maybe doing a burpee when you get there? No? Ok, we’ll shut up.

This game can be played indoors as a more static game, but with people in different rooms. The grown-ups needn’t move at all in this version, but call the dog from place to place. This game can be played from a chair too, so is suitable for any family members with mobility difficulties.

So. There you go. There’s still fun to be had in 2019, we promise. So you had better get joy-mongering too and go out and have it!

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