Playtime for your dog - Chistina Sondermann - ebook

Playtime for your dog ebook

Chistina Sondermann



Part of the pleasure of owning a dog is the mutual fun that results from the playing of games. However these games also have a role in the development and well-being of our four-legged friends, not least of which is building up our dogs' self confidence and boosting our relationships. With very little financial outlay and no previous experience, any dog owner whether the dog be a puppy or an older animal can invent games using household objects. The purpose of this book is to help you discover and employ games and activities on an everyday basis that both you and your dog will enjoy and that will contribute towards his fitness and training: Marvel at the super-abilities of your dog's sense of smell. Make his daily walks an exciting adventure. Find enough inspiration in your living room to exercise his basic play instincts. Take the opportunity when appropriate to turn your garden into a dog's adventure playground. TV shows have shown how dogs can become bored and unmanageable through lack of stimulation. The occupational therapies introduced in this book are easy to do and can be integrated into your normal daily routine without much time needed or complex training. Everybody, two-or-four legged, that enjoys joint activities can participate - independant of age, height, fitness or knowledge.

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Keep him busy throughout the day





by Christina Sondermann





We would like to thank all the two- and four-legged helpers that have contributed to the development and the success of this book: whether through their commitment during our photo sessions, through constructive proof reading or by telling us their inspiring ideas on playing with dogs!

I hope that by having this book translated, even more people and dogs all over the world will be infected with game fever. Of course, I’m also curious: what kind of games are you playing with your dogs? How do you take care of variety in your dog’s everyday life? Please send me your firsthand reports, game ideas, words, pictures and also any links on playing with dogs! I’m looking forward to your emails!



Christina Sondermann, Meschede/Germany, February 2006


[email protected]






Copyright of German edition: © 2005 by Cadmos Verlag GmbH, Schwarzenbek

Copyright of this edition: © 2006/2009 by Cadmos Equestrian

Arrangement and setting OF THE PRINT EDITION: Ravenstein and Partners, Verden

Photos: Christina Sondermann

E-Book conversion: Print Web Software GmbH


All rights reserved


Copying or storing in electronic or any other form is only possible with the written permission of the publisher.


ISBN 978-3-86127-922-8


eISBN 978-0-85788-660-6


Why playing is so useful

Rules of the game and tips for beginners

The right game

Rewards are the key to success

Food works best

Step-by-step to success

Accurate timing

Helpful training assistants

Keep it simple and easy

What if it doesn’t work?

Your dog is the best indicator of good mood

When children are participating

How to manage the multi-dog household

Sniffing games for super-noses

Beginners’ class

Searching for a meal

Hidden treats

Search-work in the dark

Treats hidden in a pile of blankets

The sniffing box

Take a plunge

Searching the three dimensions

Laying a scent track

Toys instead of treats

You want even more?

Scent discrimination the easy way

The shell game

Sniffing for professionals

Quick introduction to tracking

Living room agility

Various fantasy obstacles

The ‘curtain’

The dog flap

Weave poles and mobility games

Living room obstacles for high achievers

Never-ending tunnels and tubes

The collapsed tunnel adventure

Hoops and other openings

Challenges on the ground

Co-ordination exercises with a ladder

Balancing on a wobble board

Climbing tours

Crazy labyrinths

The 101 things game

101 things to do with a chair

101 things to do with a chair for the experienced

More 101 things adventures


Sitting down

Flat on your belly … or your back

On all fours


Using your arms

Mental exercise – Challenges for bright young sparks

Exercises for package artists

Fascinating cardboard boxes

Cardboard box mountain

Box in a box

Special packages

Tupperware party for our four-legged friends

What’s next?

Just staggering

Treats under bowls

Flower pot challenge

Treats under the flower pot roller board

A game of chance under cups

Treat bowling

Think outside the box

Skilful paws

A fishing rod for your dog

The treat box

Punch and Judy show

Intelligent machines

Spin the bottle

The drawer

The down-pipe

Sitting in front of the pipe

Treat balls and other food dispensers

The food bottle

A filled tube

Classical treat balls

The cube

The food skipjack

Games to buy for mental acrobats

Chewing makes you happy!

Chewing objects as they are!

Natural rubber toys

Snacks and packed lunch

Having fun with “Sit” – “Down” – “Come”

For starters, create the right attitude

Coming back is fun!

Who is calling best?

Back and forth variations

Come and find me!

Coming back game for singles

The treat lane

The flying dog

“Sit” and “down” in different places

Strange positions

“Sit” and “down” criss-cross

“Sit” and “down” everywhere!

Staying power

Building bridges

The loose lead

The fine cord

Egg-and-spoon race

Your Garden as a Playground

Space for high jumps

Basic jumps

Self-made professional jumps

Jumps as tests of courage

Weave poles

Basic weave poles

Do-it-yourself professional weave poles

More mobility exercises

Tunnels and hoops

Living obstacles

Tests of courage and co-ordination games

Fantasy obstacles for body awareness training

The fumble course

The dog teeter

Rolling adventure

Water games

The digging corner

The mixed course

Anything else?

Adventure walks – Looking for ideas on the way

Open air course along the way

Balancing act

Platforms and other climbing opportunities


Co-ordination exercises on your way

Round and round it goes!

Adventures at the waterside

Bathing challenge

Treat tracing

Bridges and catwalks

Rummaging and searching games

Foraging for treats

Hide and seek

Sniffing walks

Sniffing and exploring

Sniffing in a group is even more fun

And what comes next?

Recommended reading

Why playing is so useful

Why playing is so useful

You probably have this game book in front of you because you would like to do something with your dog. You would like to offer your four-legged friend something to liven up his daily routine? Perhaps you have already discovered how much fun joint activities are and need more ideas. Then you are in the right place. This book tells you how you can have a lot of fun with your dog, whether at home or on a walk, without needing expensive equipment or complicated training.

You are probably dying to get going already. A wagging tail and a smiling face are really all the encouragement you need to spend time on joint activities and you actually needn’t continue reading this chapter. However you will probably enjoy playing even more when you know the positive effects these joint activities can have.


Joint activities liven up your dog’s daily routine.


When you give your dog activities to do, you have fewer problems with those he finds for himself.


Playing at home is easy to do and a useful activity that stimulates and satisfies the dog. Bored and under-occupied dogs bite holes in our socks and rip wallpaper off the walls or, in the worst case, they tear the carpet apart. You can prevent this. Joint activities that you can easily integrate into your normal daily routine while away the time and keep your dog happy.

Canine activities are often associated with extensive walks, jogging and bicycle tours or dog sports. Many people (and dogs) also think of throwing and chasing balls and other objects. However it is not always physical exercise that makes an even-tempered dog. Rather, some dogs become wound up by too much action.

And others – due to age, illnesses or size – are hardly in a position for physical exercise. The same can apply to their two-legged partner.

No problem! The possibilities to play at home are so varied, that you can adjust them to the needs of your dog perfectly. If your four-legged friend is a puppy, for instance, then you can stimulate him mentally and encourage his development by using a mixture of brainwork as well as motion and co-ordination games.

You can offer your older dog something as well. Mentally active dogs stay younger longer and many old dogs prove with enthusiasm that they aren’t past it yet at all. If your dog is wound up easily and is restless, he can learn to concentrate mainly through calm games such as nose-work or brainteasers.


All dogs like playing – even old dogs or dogs with a handicap: Collie Lana could hardly stand on her feet. Lying on a blanket in the garden she tried out a mental exercise set full of vigour and with sparkling eyes.


The calmer participants blossom out during living room agility games or on the garden course, and gain self-confidence by passing little tests of courage. And the variety of games possible addresses the tiny Miniature Pinscher as well as the massive Newfoundland.

Overcoming little challenges in the familiar environment of your home builds up your dog’s self-confidence. Not only fearful and insecure dogs benefit: when your dog gets used to overcoming little tests of courage or to solving brainwork tasks successfully through playing together, this will also increase his confidence in everyday life. Could there be anything better than an unconcerned, calm dog? He is often less susceptible to problem behaviour and doesn’t get out of balance that easily.

When you and your dog are devoted to your play programme within the stress free and distraction free atmosphere of your home and are without any pressure to perform, then you are set up for success. It is not only fun, but almost without realising it, you and your canine companion complete a lesson in dog training at the same time. Along the way, you train yourself by teaching your dog little things. You learn how to motivate him, how he reacts, how you can accelerate his learning process. And your dog also learns through play to understand you better and to interpret your signals and cues.

People who can teach their dogs little tasks or tricks generally have fewer problems with important thing (from a human perspective) like “sit”, “down” and “come”. The difference between irrelevant and important exercises only exists for us humans, not for the dogs.

The biggest advantage of playing together is the positive effect it has on the relationship between dog and human. It is quite possible that you will get to know and cherish new talents and a fairly new view of your four-legged partner. Your dog will probably experience the same. And both of you will get better and better at communicating with each other. It is likely that your dog will become more altogether attentive and will look out for you to a greater extent – whether at home or on a walk. Maybe, the next time you call your dog, you will have invented a new activity. And of course Fido will not want to miss that.


Having fun together: playing enriches the relationship between dog and owner.


Is Mum preparing a game there? Meggan certainly doesn’t want to miss that!


Little challenges – big effect. Playing together has significantly contributed to Asta – a Beagle rescued from a laboratory – to since becoming a self-confident, happy dog.


To begin your joint play, you need time for your dog (and you should have that as a dog owner anyway), a bit of creativity, to be ready to experiment – and to have plenty of high spirits. This is all you need to benefit from the numerous positive side effects of joint activities.

Special equipment, experience in training or physical fitness is not necessary. “Just play!” is the motto of the activities presented in this book. This is why you won’t find any difficult exercises or tricks, but just games, at which you and your dog can go straight ahead and be successful. Be inspired to try it yourself. Have a good time discovering the unlimited possibilities of playing!


A cardboard box, a piece of food and lots of fun: many activities are that easy.

Rules of the game and tips for beginners

Rules of the game and tips for beginners

There are a few things you should look out for so that you and your dog will be able to truly enjoy these joint activities. Take your time to read through the rules of the game: your canine partner will thank you for doing so by having even more fun!

The right game

Most of the exercises described in this book should, of course, be playable for all people and all dogs. However please use common sense and think of your dog’s capabilities when choosing a game.


You don’t need to make a big effort to have fun: Mücke shows us how dogs in their prime can stay mentally fit.


Your arthritis-ridden senior will thank you for not expecting him to jump over big obstacles. This wouldn’t be good for your small puppy either. An especially nervous dog doesn’t have to walk across the big, threatening, rustling plastic cover straight away, or jump over the neighbours’ kid’s arms and legs during “people-agility” and so on. You can decide best for yourself what is good for your dog.

Dogs that enjoy easy-to-do activities in the beginning set themselves up for success at games together at a later date. Always take care that you only use equipment for your games that can’t hurt or injure your dog.


Tiffi loves small challenges because she always gets something delicious!

Rewards are the key to success

Reward the dog for playing with you? This might seem a little strange at first: aren’t you satisfying him simply by being with him? You are certainly right! Most dogs enjoy sharing activities with their humans. Many games are like little exercises, though, that the dog has to learn first. Not every dog, for instance, is successful in walking through a tunnel set up of chairs and blankets or balancing over a wall at the first go. And why should he climb up a tree trunk? Or rush up to his family with his ears flying in the wind, when playing the come game?

Now it is your turn: you have to get across to your dog how much fun this can be and how successful he can become. You, too, learn best and faster, those things that you do voluntarily and willingly and that you are really interested in. And aren’t you also much more motivated when something is really worthwhile? In this regard, our dogs aren’t any different from us humans. And this is why we count on rewards during joint activities. You will see your dog play along enthusiastically and dare new challenges with pleasure. You can celebrate joint success and really have fun together!

Food works best

Your dog will tell himself which reward is best for him. Most dogs don’t really make an effort just for kind words, and rightly so. Stroking and touch are preferable for quality time on the sofa and usually don’t go down well in training. Play or throwing a toy is more for toy junkies. But this often disturbs the activities. So food is usually the best choice. It is easy to handle and it motivates the dog.

Do you already see your dog as a four-legged sausage rolling through your apartment? Don’t panic, just use a part of his normal daily ration when playing together and let him work for it a little bit. Most dogs enjoy earning their food that way!



Your basic equipment for nearly all games is food rewards. When you start a new game or work with your dog in unfamiliar situations or environments, use really attractive treats in the beginning. In everyday situations you can just use part of his normal dog food.

When you and your dog are out and about, a waist bag is ideal to store your treats.



The better you know what really makes your dog excited, the better you can reward him. Make up a list of things your dog likes best: put down his top five favourite treats. Think about things that he likes just as well as his food, for instance like running or searching or catching his ball.

Step-by-step to success

Always remember: while you already have an idea of what your dog should do, he doesn’t have the slightest idea in the beginning. And you can’t explain it to him either, because dogs don’t understand human language.

Think about how you would feel if you were alone in a foreign country. You don’t speak the national language and somebody tries to get something across to you. What would make you feel better: someone who keeps talking at you, grabs your arms and hustles you around, friendly at first but then more and more impatient because you still don’t understand what is expected from you? Or a nice interpreter who would help you find your way gradually, in a calm and friendly way? The latter would, of course, be more appreciated. And your dog feels the same in our world.

It is therefore your duty to introduce your dog step-by-step to all the new challenges. Be an example of endurance and patience. Try to do so without touching, pulling or pushing your dog into the right position completely during training. Never yank his collar or lead. As long as the environment is adequate (your dog’s security always comes first!), you do best in training without a leash at all.

With a treat in your hand like a magnet, you can lead your dog into any position. This alternative is suggested within the instructions of this book because this is the easiest way for most of the dog-owner-teams in the beginning. For those who like more of a challenge, you can teach your dog to follow your empty hand and give him the reward out of the other hand or a pocket. Those who are familiar with clicker training can do completely without luring the dog, and can let him figure out the exercise himself. The less you have to lure the dog, the faster your dog will understand a game.


Reaching the goal step-by-step: at first Ronja finds it quite strange to step into the box.


Manuela therefore rewards her for every little improvement. Every other paw in the box is worth a treat. Success is not long in coming!


If he doesn’t just follow the treat without looking, he will better realise what happens during the exercise. Of course, he still gets lots of treats.