The play’s the thing … Hamlet used the play to catch the King; we, as dog lovers trainers, can use play to capture the interest of our dogs. Play is natural with babies and puppies but we tend to fall into set patterns of play as our dogs mature.Even with the crew here it’s easy to see how reinforcing playing the dogs favourite way can be. Sally would play fetch all  day. Sam would chose a variation of “Getcha”. Brody loves tricks for food and so on.

That said,  handlers who are proficient in all types of play have a leg up on the rest of the dog world. They can make easy transitions within a sport, or sport to sport and they can work with a wide variety of dogs. It’s  good for the dogs too. They can enjoy whatever, and learn to enjoy it wherever with glee.
Play helps with recalls, in fact a dog wanting a good game can be hard to lose. A game can distract a dog from something stressful.. In fact games were how Sally learned to deal with trailers bouncing by our country home. I’d hear a trailer coming and a great tug toy would be out before Sally realized what was happening. She’d tug right through the trailer; then we built the tug to be the reward for ignoring a loud trailer.Play is a great reward for a dog (and many handlers enjoy it too). Play builds relationships and it will come as no surprise to anybody that I believe relationship is the critical element to life with a dog. 
With many thanks to all who have shown me great games human and dog here is a list of 50 ways you might want to play with your dog and your dog with you!
Toy Play 1-18
Personal Play – 19-38
Food Play 36-50
  1. Fetch
  2. Catch
  3. Big Balls- try kicking them or having a multiple of balls out
  4. Basketball when I play basketball with the dogs my goal is to get a bouncing ball past them – their goal is to get (and in Sally’s case puncture) said ball
  5. Frisbee – the fancy disc stuff alarms me with the leaps and twists but chasing a frisbee adds a dimension of fun for many dogs
  6. Tug   
  7. Chew –while not interactive so important for so many dogs – stress relief, pleasure, boredom prevention …
  8. Get it/Out – Sally and Wyn both enjoy this game just for the games sake … they take and spit out a toy just to interact with me
  9. Make a toy -what in the environment can be a toy? You may find your dog has more imagination than you thought – if Sally hears “go get/find a toy” she’ll scan to see if there is a traditional toy at hand if not you  may find yourself presented with a wide range of things – leash, water can, if she can carry it you may get it!
  10. Hide a toy – start simply – let the dog see you hide it somewhere that’s hardly hidden, you can build to very complex hides 
  11. Select a toy – from a scattered group your dog or you can chose a specific toy to play with 
  12. CRUSH it -best played with water bottles!
  13. Go Fish– Sam loves being a huge shark on the end of a flexi lead – we have great fun fights!
  14. Flirt pole fun!
  15. Water games with a hose, or in a lake or in a tub
  16. Three way fun … if you have multiple dogs your dogs may enjoy both tugging with you in the middle or having two toys (or more) out for a fetch game
  17. Monkey in the Middle -some dogs love this game, some hate it -it’s really important to make sure they have success frequently 
  18. Srsly it’s a toy!! We use all kinds of crazy things as toys here – a spoon, a hairbrush whatever – this game is nearly a reverse of #9 … human picks the “toy” both enjoy the play
  19. Tag- alternate who chases who; you may not want to let this one go too long the high dogs here get pretty amped up by it!
  20. Goose Goose Duck – Wyn enjoys this game – I goose one flank, then the other, then rub his ears
  21. Wiggly Waggly gonna get you! Yen loves wiggly fingers coming after her toes 
  22. Monster hands Sally loves hands that are clenching and unclenching come in to give her a really good scritch 
  23. Push and run put one hand on your dogs chest and either push gently back or hold steady then take off .. your dog will bound after you
  24. Getcha – will your dog chase you? I bet if you turn away and glance back then take off they will!
  25. wwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiittttttttttttt 
  26. Leap – was reminded of this goofy fun game for shy dogs yesterday – the dog simply bounces off you or beside you
  27. how high can you go? – high hand touches, ,actually all hand touches can make great games 
  28. many many tricks become highly reinforcing for both dog and human – Brody  loves his dance and offers it with great joy when he wants to interact with me
  29. TTOUCH – massage may not be traditionally seen as play but it sure does build relationship – and gives great pleasure to both parties -so here it is!
  30. Stretching – again not a traditional play (and for some dogs might fit into food play better) but we all enjoy stretches here.
  31. Silent walk – how careful is your dog to pay attention to you? The dogs here like this game as sometimes the first dog to get to me gets a treat… very motivating to pay attention to changes in direction
  32. Belly rubs and raspberries – just enjoy your dog physically in whatever way you both like (Brody likes being blown on but I’m sure enough that’s unusual enough not to give it it’s own number)
  33. Hide and Seek -big field? trees? hide and call your dog …
  34. Where are we going? – get your dog following you – then go up, down, under, over and around whatever you can think of – stop and engage your dog occasionally to keep them motivated.
  35. Puppy Push Ups – not exactly traditional personal play but some dogs think this is the most amazing game.. it’s just rapid fire sit, down, sit with lots of happiness 
  36. Zeke and Deke – if you zig and zag and move oddly your dog will be curious and want to engage you
  37. On/Off – what ever works for you to go up and down in energy with your dog .. Sally can flip between tug and table like nobody’s business 
  38. Shell game – hide a treat under a cup and have a couple of empty cups out too – let your dog find the treat 
  39. Where’d it go?  hide treats (much like #10)  in varied places, under blanket, on a chair -wherever you think of 
  40. Track that – a trail of yummy treats is fun for your dog to track 
  41. Magic there might be no game more fun for some dogs than to be happily working away and suddenly have the world’s best jackpot appear (like magic) – most effective if the dog really isn’t expecting it!
  42. Dinner games – if your dog has issues with resource/food guarding please don’t play some of these  without help but meal dispensers like treat sticks, Kong Wobblers, some Ottoman toys, multiple bowls whatever take meal time and make it even more fun! Dinner on a cookie sheet can help a dog connect noise and fun.
  43. Trade it – Dog has treat, you have treat. Trade treats! Great for manners and great for fun.
  44. Bowl the treat – Denise’s term for the action of sending a treat rolling away from you .
  45. Rapid Fire – how many tiny treats can you deliver in 2 seconds? 4 seconds? 
  46. Ping Pong – similar to bowling but the treat could go in varied directions (personally I  face the way I  send the treat)
  47. Leave it/get it Can your dog ignore a treat then get it? I bet they can …
  48. Under, Over send the treat under your legs or over your legs – randomly switch it up and the dogs get pretty happy to be engaged with food! Don’t forget to get down on the floor with your pooch!
  49. Juga-giggle – my efforts to juggle treats have dogs engaged and well fed usually – a juggler I am not but it’s pretty entertaining to try and the dog playing with me loves the fall out (literally)
  50. Bouncy Bounce – probably Mr Food Brody’s favourite game. A piece of food in a closed fist in each hand. We face each other and I bounce from side to side on the balls of my feet then take off one way or the other. Brody chases me and gets the treat from whichever hand is on his side.
Have fun – create your own special games. Wyn and I have a hand nose bump that is our special thing. He enjoys it as much as I do! Not all dogs will find all games fun – that’s fine. Your dog may be amused by activities like the one pictured above, maybe not though!  Balance is the goal but find fun games from each type to enjoy with your dog!