Puppy Games

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There are many puppy games - games to play with your puppy for training and fun. This page covers all sorts of games, from training games, games with food, and bonding games.

Preparing to play puppy games with a ball.

Why Are Puppy Games Important?

Most dog owners are aware that their dog needs a certain amount of physical exercise to be healthy and happy, so they take their dog for regular walks. What some new puppy owners are not aware of is that dogs also need plenty of mental exercise in order to be satisfied. This is where puppy games come in. Games, along with training, provide the mental stimulation and fun that puppies need to develop into well-balanced adult dogs. Puppy games are also an informal version of training in many respects. You can read more about some of the best puppy training games here.

If you're a new Jack Russell puppy owner, I suggest you start with my free email mini-course on training Jack Russells.

Games to Play With Your Puppy

Games to Play With Your Puppy At Home

It's a bad idea to take your puppy into public places until it has had its vaccinations, so chances are you will want to start playing games with your puppy at home. There are a few very stimulating puppy games that you can start to play right from the beginning.

Puppy games - playing tug of war.

Tug of War

This is a favorite among puppies who are teething and is especially popular with Jack Russells. It's not uncommon for a JRT pup to latch onto a toy so hard that you can lift them right up off the ground - although don't do this for more than a second or two and don't do it often, as this may harm a puppy's teeth. Get a long, flexible chew toy that catches your puppy's eye, and let the battle begin.

Hide and Seek

Just like human children, puppies enjoy a game of hide and seek. This is also right up there with Fetch as one of the best puppy training games.

You simply hide and your puppy has to find you. To play this version you will have to either teach your puppy the Stay command first, or have someone else hold him while you go and hide. Once you are hidden, call your puppy's name and wait for him to come find you. Reward him with a treat when he does.


Catch is similar to Fetch, with the obvious difference being that the puppy has to catch the ball before it hits the ground. Some puppies will take to this game naturally, and some will show absolutely no promise of ever being able to catch a ball. Make sure you use a ball that fits well in your puppy's mouth, which means not so large that he can't pick it up, but not so small he can swallow it. Hollow, flexible balls are best.

Two Ball Fetch

This is a great game to provide a bit of extra mental stimulation for your puppy. As the name suggests, it's a variation of Fetch where you throw two balls instead of one. Try throwing both balls at the same time, or one after the other, and notice how your puppy reacts. This can tell you a lot about your puppy's personality. For instance, does your puppy go after both balls at once? Does he pick up one then go back for the other? Does he only focus on one? Does he chase when and then change his mind and go after the other one? This is great for getting to know your pup and it's also another great puppy training game.

Puppy Games With Food

3 Cup Find-The-Treat

This is a game I came up with inspired by an old sleight-of-hand magic trick. All you need is three identical cups that your puppy can't see through, some treats, and your puppy's attention. Place the treat under one of the cups and let your puppy see it go under. Then quickly mix up the order of the cups.

When your puppy touches a cup with his nose, lift it up. If the treat is underneath, praise your puppy and feed him the treat. If it's the wrong cup, put it aside and continue until your puppy chooses the right cup. Use smelly treats to make it easier for your pup. This game is excellent for mental stimulation.

Food-Filled Chews

This is a great game to bring out when you need to distract your puppy for some quiet time. Buy a chew toy with a hollow space in the center, and fill it up with peanut butter or another food for your pup to chew on. The puppy will give his teeth and good workout trying to get the food out. Note: This is not a game you should use too often, unless you have healthy treat options.

Jack Russell puppy with toys.

Games to Play With Your Puppy At The Park

These games are meant for older puppies, as young puppies shouldn't be taken to the park until after they have been vaccinated.

Frisbee Games

Games using a solid Frisbee should really only be played with dogs over one year of age, but there are some alternatives for younger puppies. Get a flexible, lightweight Frisbee that won't do any damage to your puppy's teeth and use that to start playing early.

Another alternative is to simply roll the Frisbee along the ground on its edge, rather than throwing it. This can be done in the back yard as well as at the park.


Again, this game can be played at the park on a much bigger scale as you have more room for throwing and running. I'd recommend you take the time to properly train your puppy how to Fetch consistently before playing this game at the park. You can simply throw a stick or the puppy's favorite ball. There are also purpose-designed tennis ball launchers made specifically for playing Fetch which can greatly extend the distance you can throw a ball, meaning more running for you puppy and more exercise with less effort on your part.

Puppy Chasing Games

Again, I'd only recommend playing these games at the park if you've taught some basic commands to your puppy first and you're confident that he will come back to you if he runs away. Test these out at home first and see how your pup reacts - you may think he's well-trained, but that can all change with the excitement of a game.

In the first game, the dog chases you. You show your puppy a toy or treat, get him excited, and then start running. Jack Russells love this game because it appeals to the hunter in them.

The other option involves you chasing the dog. This is pretty simple - run at your puppy until he runs away, then give chase.


This is a combination of the above two games. You start out by chasing your puppy, until you catch her. Then, after a quick bit of rough-and-tumble, you take off in the other direction, and it's her turn to catch you.

Some Tips About Bonding, Competitive Puppy Games, and Problem Puppies

I don't recommend lots of chasing games if you are experiencing problem behaviors with your puppy. These are what I classify as competitive games, as opposed to cooperative games. Many behavior problems in puppies result in part from not having a strong enough bond with your puppy, or your puppy not seeing you as a leader. If you're having problems, avoid games like chasing games and tug of war. Focus on cooperative or neutral puppy games like Fetch and finding hidden treats.

In my training ebook, The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training I explain in detail why bonding is so important to training your puppy to behave well.

I've created a free report on The Top Ten Jack Russell Training Mistakes, which is a great primer for new owners. Sign up by entering your details in the box below.

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