From Boredom to Excitement: How to Keep Your Dog Entertained with These Games and Puzzles

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash


Here is our list of 50 games to play with your dog. Games for dogs are fun for both you and your dog. They also have many benefits including:

– cure boredom which can be the leading cause of unwanted behavior problems
– provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your dog
– help to burn and release pent-up energy
– teach your dog rules and boundaries, and new skills
– reinforce training and aid with having a well mannered and behaved dog
– strengthen and build your bond with your dog

Dog Boredom Symptoms

Dogs were bred to work. If your dog doesn’t have adequate stimulation from bothdog boredom symptoms physical and mental activity they will become bored. A dog that is bored will look for ways to entertain themselves. This often leads to trouble as it manifests itself in behaviors such as digging, nuisance barking, escaping and even aggression from frustration.

To tell if your dog is bored look out for these dog boredom symptoms

they exhibit destructive behaviors. This may include behaviors such as excessive chewing, nuisance barking, and digging. It may also include behaviors like getting into things they shouldn’t such as the trash or escaping and taking themselves for an adventure.

attention seeking behaviors. For our dogs, we are their main source of entertainment. We decide when they eat, play or go for a walk. If they are not getting the attention they want from you they may well start demanding it. This may include whining or demand barking at you. It can also include getting up in your face or jumping on your lap and starting to pester you or even biting at your clothes.

velcro dog syndrome. This is an expression when your dog follows you around, even to the toilet. This may simply be because they like to be close to you. But often it is a sign of boredom.

obsessive behaviors. This includes behaviors such as chasing their tails, pacing, or excessive grooming, licking and even chewing themselves.

Lying around. Some dogs may just lay around looking sad and bored.

Games for dogs to burn energy

If you have a hyper high energy dog you will know it because you have walked then twice today and they are still keen for more. Or you have played fetch for an hour and your dog is still pestering you with the ball or stick. Or you took them for a long bike ride and your dog still runs faster than you can pedal.
Here are some games for dogs that burn energy fast that you can do in addition to your daily walks. For more ideas on tiring a dog and burning energy check out
How to tire out a hyper high energy dog” and ” How to tire a dog quickly

Frisbee Toss

Most dogs can chase and catch a ball. But a Frisbee requires a little bit more skill, coordination, and timing. If your dog doesn’t innately know to jump and catch the Frisbee in the air, start off small. Roll the Frisbee on the ground towards your dog. They will instinctually want to grab it in his mouth. Once you’ve accomplished this, try tossing it at a very low level first to your dog. If you feel like your dog is ready to go to the next level, toss the disc a little higher and further. Great energy burner and you may be amazed at your dog’s agility and acrobatic skill.

Flirt Pole

A Flirt pole is like a giant cat tickler for dogs. It has a long handle with a bungy type rope with a lure or toy attached to the end. You simply move the lure along the ground around in circles or in different directions as your dog chases it. It works directly with their natural prey instinct. Be sure they have a good “leave it” command and don’t allow them to destroy the toy. This game is excellent for burning up that pent-up energy in a short amount of time.

View Flirt Poles on Amazon

Jolly Ball

Jolly Ball is a nearly indestructible ball for dogs that they push and chase around. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and are also available with a handle or rope attached for tug of war.  This activity is particularly popular with Pitbulls and Staffies. It is also ideal with herding dog breeds such as Border Collies and Blue Heelers as it simulates their natural herding behavior. Check out the video to see what great exercise and fun they are for dogs.

View Jolly Balls on Amazon


Playing Fetch with your dog is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Dogs can play this for hundreds of throws. A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs

Round Robin

You will need three or more people for this one. Have each person grab a handful of treats and spread out. Then each person calls the dog and gives them a treat and lots of praise. As they get better at the game you can spread out more to make it more challenging and burn off some energy. This is a great game to perfect your dogs recall.

Stair Exercise

A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury. This is only for dogs that are more than a year old. Younger dogs have developing joints and are at risk for long-term injury. If you have a puppy read “How to exercise a puppy” for more information.

For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.

Jump rope

Teach your dog to jump rope. This one is a little more advanced. Start by teaching your dog to jump on that spot on command. After that is mastered, add in the rope, cueing your dog each time they need to jump as the rope comes down. It will take a lot of practice and dedication from your both to master this. But think how amazed your friends and family will be seeing your dog skipping.


This is the classic kids game. Tag your dog and say “your it” and run away and encourage your dog to chase you. This will burn up energy for your dog and give you a bit of exercise at the same time.

Water game with a hose

Some dogs love to chase the stream of water flying out of the end of the hose. If they do like this it is a great game, especially in hotter weather. Other dogs won’t go anywhere near a hose. Maybe it reminds them of bath time.


Teach your dog how to dribble a soccer ball. Remember that biting and puncturing the ball is a penalty.

Hurdle Jumps

Make a jump for your dog with items you have like chairs and a broomstick. Have your dog jump over the obstacles. Jumping burns energy and is also great for building and strengthening the rear end muscles. How often do you see a dog with a big thick chest and shoulders and a skinny rear end?

Urban Agility

This is a great game to play when out on your walks using obstacles you come on your adventure. You can have your dog jump up and off a park bench or walk along a low wall. This is only limited by your imagination.

Backyard agility

backyard agilitySet up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon.

You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.

Spring pole

spring pole is simply a spring connected to a rope that hangs from a tree branch or beam with a lure or toy attached to the end. This allows your dog to play tug of war with him or herself even if you are not there. Popular with a lot of dogs and particularly terrier type breeds like the Pitbull that loves a good game of tug of war.

Brain games for dogs

Physical exercise is important for your dog to release pent-up energy and keep them healthy. Mental challenges and stimulation and providing enrichment for your dog are just as important. Mental activity can tire a dog just as much as physical exercise and keeping their minds busy will prevent boredom and the unwanted behaviors that go along with it.
To learn about the six categories of mental stimulation and enrichment check out “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs

Ring Stackers

I am sure you know the popular game for toddlers that has them place rings over a peg. This is great to develop for children to develop hand/eye coordination and will develop mouth-eye coordination for your dog. Be patient as this game may take some time and practice to learn. This game is best suited to really smart dogs that don’t get frustrated too much. Once your dog gets the idea they will become quite skilled at this. You can make the task more challenging by mounting the stick to a wall so the dog has to fit it onto a horizontal peg rather than dropping it onto a vertical peg. You can also put the rings in a different room, so your dog is running back and forth to collect and stack all the rings.

Hot and Cold

Have an object in the middle of the room that you want your dog to go to and even bring to you. Sitting there with your bag of treats, as your dog moves closer to the object say “hot” and toss a treat. If they are more away from the object say “cold”. This is another game for smarter dogs that don’t become frustrated too easily.

Balance the treat

An agile dog can learn to balance a treat on their nose and hold it there until they are given permission to flip it into the air and eat it. This is great to teach your dog self-control and obedience.

Teach a new command or trick

Learning something new is a great way to challenge and focus your dog’s mind. There are hundreds of tricks you can teach your dog from simple to difficult. Check out Utube for ideas.

Learning the name of their toys

Dogs have the ability to learn over 200 words. Start with one specific toy and begin using a name for it. You may find that they already know the name of some of their toys such as “get the ball” By repeating the name while playing with it they will start to pick up on the name you’re using. Once they are an absolute master with all their toys you can add another toy. Or ask for a name they don’t know to see how they react. There is a Border Collie named Chaser who knows the name of over 1022 different individual items. You can check out the video of Chaser in action here.  

Dog puzzle toys.

There is quite a range of puzzle toys available for dogs. This involves your dog workingdog puzzle toys out how to get the treat out of the toy. They come in various degrees of difficulty. If you have a smart dog you may find they solve the challenge easily so you would be better getting one of the more challenging puzzle toys. For my top picks see “Top Puzzle Toys for Dogs”

Scenting and nose games for dogs

Why play scenting and tracking nose games?

Scenting and tracking nose games are an excellent way to provide that very importantscenting nose games mental enrichment and mind stimulation that dogs truly need to be calm, well behaved and happy. When a puppy is born they are blind and deaf but their sense of smell is fully intact. The newborn puppy relies on this sense to decipher the world they have entered and it will continue to do so for their entire lives. The nose rules the brain and the portion of the dog’s brain that is dedicated to examining scents is 40 times larger than that of humans. Scientist estimate that the dog’s brain can identify smells 1000 to 10,000 times better than humans. You can combine this extremely powerful sense of smell and a dog’s natural desire to hunt with their love of toys, food, and exercise to play many games. You can have fun together, exercise your dog’s brain, and expend some of that pent-up energy all at the same time. Being a social animal, playing is very important in developing relationships and bonding.

Scent and tracking nose game ideas

The objective is to start off simple so your dog is successful from the start and do not try to advance too quickly or your dog may become frustrated.

Which hand

A very simple game to start with is to place a treat in one hand with a closed fist so your dog can’t see the treat and have them select which hand it is in. If they choose the wrong hand, show them the treat but don’t give it to them. For a more advanced version of this, get three or four cups or containers turned upside down. Hide a treat under one of the cups and have them find which cup the treat is under.

Find the treat

Using up to ten cardboard boxes you can hide the treat or toy in one of the boxes and have your dog indicate which box it is in. The first few times you can leave the boxes open to make it a little easier. Start by putting your dog in another room so they don’t see which box you hide the treat in. If you have more than one dog, it is best to play the game with one dog at a time.
To take this game to a new level you can teach your dog to find a particular scent similar to how drug dogs are taught. With a ball or toy, put a scent of the item such as an essential oil or similar and get your dog interested in the item. The hide the item in one of the boxes as before and have them find it. As you repeat this game, use the same box to put the item in to avoid cross contamination but simply move the box. As your dog gets good at locating the scent, you can put the scent on a piece of paper and place in the box to test if they are able to locate that particular scent.

Find it while on a walk

While you are out for a walk, take a treat from your pocket and show it to your dog. Toss the treat into some long grass or brushes and have them find it. This is good to bring a little variety to your walks.

Hide and Seek

Put your dog in a sit stay or have someone hold them while you hide. Then let your dog find you. Stay very still and quiet so as not to give away your hiding place and allow them to figure it out for themselves. As your dog gets more skilled at finding you, hide in more difficult places like under a blanket or behind a curtain. Give your dog lots of praise when they are successful.

Hide treats around the house.

Put your dog outside and hide treats around the house in places they can access. Try placing them at different levels so your dog is using both ground scent and air scent skills such as some on the floor and some on the arm of a chair or somewhere reachable but above their head height. let your dog in and allow them to find the treats. Most dogs will keep going until they find all of the treats and know when there is no more. If they stop looking encourage them to find the treat until all are found and tell them no more when they have found them all. Another way to play this game is to hide the treats in the open but with the lights out.

I lost it game

As you are walking drop an item you have been carrying or had in your pocket. Continue walking for a further few meters, then stop and look like you lost something, say to your dog “where is it, find it”. Start to walk back towards the spot you dropped the item encouraging your dog to “find it” If your dog needs help, subtly kick or point to the item and make a fuss of your dog when they find it.

Lay a scent trail game

Without your dog present, lay a trail of small treats with a larger bonus treat at the end as a reward. Show your dog where the trail starts At first lay small trails until your dog gets the idea of the game. As they become more proficient, increase the length of the trail or leave a bigger gap between treats. Another variation of this is to lay a trail using beef or chicken stock and watch how they react.

Find the toy game 3-2-1

Holding your dog by the collar start playing with a favorite toy to get them interested. Throw the toy into the grass or ground cover. Count backward from three aloud and them release your dog telling them to find it. Once they have the idea of the game you can increase the difficulty by holding them for a longer period of time, say to the count of ten or play it in the dark so they only have a general idea of where the toy landed.

Get that one game.

Go to the area you want to set this game up and plant several items or toys around. Then get your dog and start playing with a toy to get them interested in that particular toy. This will allow their and your scent to be strongest on this particular item. Holding your dog by the collar, throw the toy in the area the other items are and give the command to find that one. If they bring the wrong item just say nothing and put it in your pocket and encourage them to find the one again. When they get it right, reward them with praise, a treat or a game with the toy.

Where is dinner?

Instead of feeding your dog in the same place each day, mix it up a bit by putting their bowl somewhere else and say “where dinner?” Encourage them to hunt for their meal.

Tracking a person

nose games for dogsThis game is great to teach ground scenting as opposed to air scenting. Lay a track in moist grass, where the scent will be easiest to find. Scuff your feet at the beginning to create a scent path. Walk 40 to 50 meters in a straight line, scuffing your feet along the way. As you walk, drop a treat every meter. You can use cones or something to mark where the treats are so you know where you have walked. At the end of the trail, place an object with your scent on it like a sock with treats inside. Walking your dog on a leash tell them to “find it”. Don’t guide or correct them if they go off course. It is often difficult to distinguish between a dog of course or a dog picking up an air scent. As your dog becomes more proficient at this game, you can make it more difficult by laying the trail going in different directions.

Give some of these games a try and see which ones your dog enjoys the most. If you are wanting to take their scenting skill to a new level, there are many dog sports such as drag hunting or earth dog trails that make use of this talent you may wish to look into.

Home alone games for dogs

There are times when leaving a dog alone while at work is necessary. With our modern busy lives with work, family and other commitments this cannot be avoided.
The last thing you want after a hard day at work is to come home to a demolition site or unhappy neighbors.

So you need to find ways of how to keep a dog happy when home alone. Here are somehome alone games ideas and tips to keep your dog entertained and busy when you are not there. Some of these games for dogs are for dogs that are left outside when your not their and others for dogs who are inside.
For more ideas for the home alone dog check out “Entertaining a dog home alone

Digging box

Some dogs love to dig. However, most people don’t want their dog digging up there garden. Give them their own digging box so they have an approved digging area to call their own. If they don’t understand that it is their digging box and okay to dig, bury some of their toys or a bone in the box. You can use soil in the box or alternatively use sand. If using sand and you live in a hot area be aware that the sand will get hot. You can wet it down before they use it to keep it cool. Check out “Dog Toys for Diggers” for more similar ideas.

Puzzle toy game

Using several puzzle type toys such as a Kong or treat ball. Hide these around the house or property when you are about to leave your dog at home alone. The first time you do play this game, let your dog see you hide the puzzle toys so they know it is a new game. This will occupy your dog as they find all the toys and play with them to get the treats inside before finding the next one. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” and”How to use Kong” for more tips.

Spring Pole

A Spring Pole is like a tug toy that allows dogs to play tug of war by themselves. It attaches to a tree or beam with a bungee rope or spring with a toy or similar for your dog to hold. Alternatively, you can hang a small tire or similar to a tree. This is a real favorite among Staffies and Terriers. However, if your dog loves Tug of War it doesn’t matter what breed they are.

Indoor games for dogs

Sometimes when the weather is just to bad to get outside with your dog you need to find activities and ways to exercise your dog indoors. Here are some games for dogs to try when it is raining cats and dogs outside.
For more ideas check out “Entertain a bored dog inside

iPad games for dogs

Believe it or not, there are applications for games for your dog to play. The object is for your dog to lick the screen or hit it with its nose or paw. The dog gains points and sets off a series of sounds by hitting the screen, further stimulating their senses. I would suggest a screen protector if your dog is going to start using your iPad.

Blanket game

This one may seem a little strange but most dogs seem to love it. Get a blanket large enough to cover your dog. Throw the blanket over your dog and say “where’s Fido”. Watch as they figure out how to get out from under the blanket. Be careful that they don’t crash into furniture or get their paws caught in the blanket. If your dog doesn’t seem to be enjoying the game you should stop. This will have you rolling around with laughter.

Indoor agility course.

Set up an obstacle course inside your house. You can use chairs, pillows, broomsticks or whatever you have to set up jumps, tunnels, and other obstacles. You can even get indoor agility sets from Amazon pretty cheap.

Simon says

Great way to test and reinforce your dog’s commands. Grab some treats and give your dog command after command. Reward them for getting it right. Mix it up just to keep your dog on their toes.

Hide and Seek

This one is self-explanatory. You go and hide and your dog has to find you. If your dog has a good “stay” command you hide and give them a call once well hidden. If their “stay” command isn’t so good you may need someone to hold them.

Find the treats

Hide treats around the house. If your dog has a habit of chewing shoes obviously don’t hide them inside shoes.

Tug of war

Many dog trainers may tell you that you shouldn’t play Tug of War with your dog. Thetug of war feel that it promotes dominant behavior. As long as your dog has a good “drop it” or leave it” command. If your dog gets overexcited or starts to mouth you stop the game. It is also okay for your dog to win sometimes as long as they return the toy to you.

Tidy up your toys

If your dog is like mine they have quite a collection of toys. Start by having your dog pick up a toy near where the box is. Have your dog “drop it” while standing over the toy box. This is a great game to play with your dog as they also clean up after themselves.

Dog puzzle toys.

There is quite a range of puzzle toys available for dogs. This involves your dog workingdog puzzle toys out how to get the treat out of the toy. They come in various degrees of difficulty. If you have a smart dog you may find they solve the challenge easily so you would be better getting one of the more challenging puzzle toys. For my top picks see “Top Puzzle Toys for Dogs”

Treasure Hunt

Use something quite smelly like a Kong stuffed with their favorite treats or a favorite old toy. Have your dog “stay” while you go and hide it. Then tell them to go and find it.

Green Light, Red Light

Red light, Green light simply means stop, go. Replace with a stay and come.

Teach a new trick or command

Learning is a great way to stimulate your dog’s mind and mentally tire them.

Doggie Basketball

Using a small basket or bin hold a ball over the basket and drop it in saying “drop” to demonstrate to your dog what to do. Then have them take the ball in their mouth and go over to the basket. Once their head is over the basket give the “drop” command. Reward them every time the ball goes in the basket. In fact, give them two treats as a basket is worth two points in human basketball.

Chasing Bubbles

Teach your dog to chase bubbles. Some dogs will be fascinated by the bubbles and do it anyway. Other dogs may need you to show them what to do. Start by blowing one or two bubbles. If your dog doesn’t show any interest, point at the bubble and make a big deal of it. If they still are not sure what to do catch the bubble yourself. You can even get bacon flavored bubble mix just for dogs. Usually, if a dog’s nose is interested in something they will be curious.

Make your dog work for their food

Use dog puzzle toys for stuff a Kong for dogs to feed them their meals. This is a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog as part of their daily routine.
Alternatively, you can make your dog perform some tricks or commands before receiving their meal. Dogs were bred to have a job and this provides a psychological boost for your dog.

Pass the Parcel

Just like the children’s party game, wrap a tasty present in several layers of paper and give to your dog to unwrap. Just be prepared to clean up the mess. Alternatively, you can get a box and put in it several parcels or small boxes containing treats and puzzle toys or Kongs. This will keep your dog occupied for a long time.

Balloon game

Blow up some balloons for your dog to chase around the room. If your dog is timid and likely to be frightened by a balloon popping this game may not suit them.

Hopefully, you have come across so new ideas for ways to keep your dog occupied, provide so mental stimulation and burn off a little extra energy in this list of 50 Boredom Busters and Games for Dogs. You may also be interested in “Self playing dog toys” for times when your dog is alone.  If you have any other ideas for games for dogs, feel free to put them in the comments.


  • Joseph Coleman

    A lifelong writer and proud dog dad. Joseph started this blog dedicated to helping other dog owners find accurate information on how to keep their pets at their healthiest through exercise and nutrition. His passion for all things canine shines through in his writing, and he believes that every dog deserves the best possible care. If you're a dog owner looking for reliable advice on how to keep your pup healthy and happy, be sure to check out Joseph's work.