Activities For Small Family Dogs

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Introduction

Most dogs that live in family homes are happiest as an integral part of the family and love to spend as much time as possible with their family members and small dogs are no exception. While there are some special considerations to take with small or otherwise fragile dogs when those family members include small or active children, there are there are many games that they can easily play to engage and entertain both the kids and the canines, no matter how diminutive either are. 

Hide and Seek

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 45 Minutes
Items needed
Family members
Places to hide
Reward
Activity description

Hide and seek is a game that can include kids of any age, even infants with mom and dad’s help, and it's a game that even the smallest canine can excel at. This game is fun for the kids, fun for the canine, and it may come in handy for you now and then as well, particularly if you have a tot who finds spontaneous and unannounced games of hide and seek highly amusing. While this game is generally simple in concept, choosing more difficult hiding places or adding twists to the game can make it exceptionally challenging even for the cleverest of pups. 

Step
1
Choose a reward
Some dogs will play this game over and over again for just praise and celebratory behaviors, but others may need a bit more incentive. While small treats are a common choice for a reward, too many treats can lead to obesity and this tendency is more pronounced in dogs who are naturally smaller and require fewer calories for day-to-day maintenance. Other good reward options include letting your pet retrieve a favorite toy from you, giving them a frozen Kong or chew toy, or tossing a ball or fetch toy as a reward.
Step
2
Choose a target
This can vary depending on the circumstance, the family, and the dog. When first introducing the game to the dog, choosing one target at a time is best, whether that choice is made by simple agreement, drawing straws, or just choosing the youngest first; young infants can even get in on the action by hiding with mom or dad. As the dog’s skill improves, additional targets can be added so that your dog is searching for several people in a row, or even searching for one specific person out of several hiders.
Step
3
Play the game
Now that you know what your dog will be rewarded with and who they will be looking for, it is time to find your hiding spot and play. In the beginning, you may want to start with simple spots, possibly even ones that are partially visible, then either you call your dog or have another party tell them to look for you. Once they have the idea of the game cemented in their mind, you can increase the intensity by adding targets, playing in the dark, or even taking the game of hide and seek outdoors.
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Which Hand?

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Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 30 Minutes
Items needed
Family members
Treats
Activity description

Asking your dog to choose which hand your treat or scented object is hidden in is a simple exercise that increases bonding and helps to improve their scenting ability. While playing this game with humans, the answers are usually determined by either sight or by guessing, while your dog is typically choosing based on smell, although random guessing does occur. It is important not to have this particular game continue for too many repetitions unless you swap out treats with another reward or use lower calorie natural treats like cut up sugar snap peas, watermelon, or even cucumber.  While this game is simple in its structure, there are many ways to spice things up when you have your family there to help you out. 

Step
1
Show the dog
Show the dog the thing you will be hiding in your hand. While using a pungent dog treat makes the goal rather obvious, if you are trying to teach your dog to sniff out specific scents, it is rather important to ensure that the dog knows exactly what it is they are looking for.
Step
2
Hide the target
In most cases, the target you will be hiding in your hand is a treat, but some people may choose to use a scented cloth that can be fully tucked into their hands. Make sure that the item is completely enclosed in your hand so that it cannot be seen from the outside of your fist.
Step
3
Give it a go
Let your dog sniff each hand looking for the treat. While some dogs may be able to choose right away, other dogs may need a minute to decide which hand is holding the goods. Once your dog has got the basic idea down, you can get the rest of the family to participate, giving the dog more than two fists to pick from and making the game much more challenging.
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Treasure Hunt

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Any Day
Free
Normal
5 - 45 Minutes
Items needed
Blankets
Pillows
Old clothing
Towels
Dog toys and treats
Activity description

While many small dogs were bred to be companion animals, there are just as many that were bred to be working dogs in one capacity or another. Smaller dogs were often more useful for hunting small game and for pest control than larger dogs and were often bred for a heightened prey drive. Dogs that possess a heightened prey drive and have no outlet for it may chase children or other pets in order to satisfy their urges. This activity is a fun and simple game for prey driven dogs to more safely engage that natural drive in a more controlled fashion. (This game should be avoided in homes that also have rodents or ferrets as pets)

Step
1
Pick your prey
You can choose regular stuffed animals if you wish, but you should be sure to choose one that has no hard parts to swallow and be alert to ensure your pet does not eat the stuffing after hunting their prey. A cloth toy designed for a dog is a better option as it is more likely to be able to withstand rough play. A toy that has a squeaker may provide additional incentive for your dog to hunt it, particularly if your dog was one that was bred to hunt and kill rodents. “Easter eggs” can be added as well in the form of treat toys or even toilet paper or paper towel tubes filled with treats and folded or taped shut.
Step
2
Prepare the field
Lay the pillows, blankets, sweatshirts and other assorted cloth obstacles on the floor in interesting piles and shapes on the floor. Keep in mind that your pet will be digging through these things, literally, and may not have a way to be gentle. Cloth items used for this purpose may sometimes get destroyed so don’t throw your favorite sweatshirt or the quilt your great-grandma made into the pile. Put toys and treats in various places under the piles and shapes in cloth, you can easily enlist even toddlers to help you with this part of the activity.
Step
3
Let 'em at it!
It doesn’t usually require a great deal of coaxing for these dogs to start searching through the enticing piles of fabric for their treasure. While they are playing and digging, encourage them to find all of the things that you have hidden and engage them in short play sessions when they locate the toys that are hidden under the play pile. Squeaking toys with squeakers or physically moving toys with your hand may also encourage them to look a little harder, just make sure they don’t go after your hand instead.
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More Fun Ideas...

Laser Pointer

That little red laser-pointer dot is not only entertaining for cats, but can be used to amuse dogs, birds, rodents, and even fish on occasion. It is important to avoid shining the light directly into your eyes or your pet's eyes as these toys can cause damage to the eye, particularly with prolonged exposure. A small percentage of dogs may become fixated on the dot, even if it is not there. If you start seeing obsessive or distressed behavior in relation to this type of play, it should be discontinued.

Backyard Bubbles

Kids aren’t the only ones who love soap bubbles, and your dog is likely to have a blast jumping and twisting, trying to catch the magical floating spheres. It is important to remember that dogs frequently pop the bubbles with their mouths so it may be best to use a home-made bubble solution created with dog-safe soap products or to use bubbles designed specifically for canines.  

Conclusion

All dogs, large and small, require regular play sessions and new activities to be at their happiest and healthiest. These activities, while designed for fun, also help to give your small dog a big workout, both physically and mentally. Finding games that everyone in the family can play together, no matter their age, fosters bonding and empathy for both child and canine and can even teach them to work together.