15-Minute Games You Can Play With Your Dog

By: Victoria Schade, CPDT-KAUpdated:

games to play with dogs
Chewy Studios

15-Minute Games You Can Play With Your Dog

You’ve got a full schedule ahead of you and a dog who’s begging for your attention. While it might be tempting to go for a quick walk and call it a day, playing games with dogs is a better way to take the edge off pent-up energy.

Dog games that tap into your pup's natural drive, and incorporate the body and brain (mental stimulation FTW!), are great for keeping your pup entertained and can even strengthen your bond.

The following easy and quick dog activities take just 15 minutes—and your dog will thank you for the good time.

6 Quick and Easy Indoor Games With Dogs

games to play with dogs - tug of war

1Tug-of-War

People used to mistakenly believe that playing tug-of-war could cause aggression in dogs, but playing it with a few simple rules is actually a fantastic way to quickly exercise your pup.

The rules of tug-of-war are simple:

  1. Your dog waits to take the tug toy until you present it.
  2. They release the toy when you ask.
  3. They respond to “sit,” “wait” and “down” during breaks in play to encourage focus and discourage over-excitement.

The type of toy you use when playing with a dog is important, because your dog is likely to have a preference for both the size and texture of it. Smaller dogs might enjoy a soft toy, like the KONG Scrunch Knots Toy, while bigger and more energetic tuggers might benefit from a rope toy like the Frisco Ball Knot Rope Toy, which puts enough space between the eager mouth and delicate fingers.

Tug-of-war is a perfect quick game for dogs, because it’s easy and doesn’t require much space. Adding the training element between rounds helps your dog’s training stay fresh too.

KONG Scrunch Knots Fox Dog Toy
$14.99
Frisco Fetch Colorful Ball Knot Rope Dog Toy
$17.91
Games to play with dogs - hide and seek

2Hide-and-Seek

Though my dogs can sniff out microscopic crumbs, this “search and rescue” scenting game often stumps them.

Hide-and-seek is a fun way to encourage your dog to use their nose to find you in a hiding spot, whether you’re ducking behind the couch or camouflaged under the drapes. Creative pet parents can squeeze a ton of rounds into a 15-minute period, which will result in a mentally tired pooch.

Here’s how to play this classic game with your pup:

  1. Start off the game by stepping behind a corner and telling your dog “find me” in an excited voice. (The game starts off simple on purpose!)
  2. When they discover you, praise them, then tell them to stay.
  3. Leave the room and hide in a new spot. You might have to make extra noises, like whistling or clapping, as your hiding place gets more creative, but don’t give your dog too many hints.

Once your dog understands the rules, you can play hide-and-seek anywhere. Taking the game outside adds a layer of difficulty, because you’ll be competing with more distractions, so you can reward your dog with an extra special treat, like Stewart Beef Liver Treats, when they find you. If your pup is toy-crazy, play a quick round of tug-of-war or game of fetch when they find you with Tuffy's 4-Way Ring Plush Dog Toy.

This game is a fantastic way to grow your bond, and because it gets your dog excited about coming to you, it’s an excellent foundation for teaching your dog to come when called.

Stewart Beef Liver Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Treats
$35.99
Tuffy's Ultimate 4-Way Ring Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
$24.99
games to play with dogs - find the toy

3Find the Toy

Most pet parents know they need to exercise their canine athlete’s body, but we forget that our dogs have busy brains that also require a workout.

Much like hide-and-seek, “find the toy” taps into your dog’s incredible scenting abilities by asking them to use only their sense of smell to find hidden toys. It’s the ultimate quick game to play with your dog, because it only takes a few repetitions to start to mentally tax your dog.

Here’s how to play “find the toy”:

  1. To begin, place a new toy in an obvious spot, like peeking out from under the couch, and tell your dog to “Find it!” in an excited voice.
  2. Play with your dog and the toy once they grab it.
  3. Then, hide the toy in another obvious location and tell them to find it again.
  4. After a few repetitions, your dog should understand what “Find it!” means, and you’ll be able to hide the toy in increasingly tougher spots.
  5. Ask them to stay in a different room, then hide the toy where they can’t see it. Tell them to find it, and watch them use their amazing nose to uncover it.
  6. Don’t forget to let your dog have some playtime with the toy once they find it!

Keep in mind that the size of the toy you use will impact how easy it is to hide it. Try to use the smallest toy that’s safe for your pup so you can stash it in top-secret spots like behind pillows, on bookshelves and hanging from door knobs. Plush toys like Ethical Pet Skinneeez come in two sizes and don’t have stuffing, which means they can be rolled up to fit in a variety of surprising spots.

games to play with dogs: never ending fetch
games to play with dogs
games to play with dogs

4Never-Ending Fetch

Sure, playing fetch with a dog is fun, but if you only have a short time to play with your pup, a round of never-ending fetch can crank up the intensity level. The key to never-ending fetch is to have a variety of toys and balls ready to go, so that your dog barely has time to pause in between throws—and so they never know what they’re going to be chasing.

Here’s how to teach your dog to play never-ending fetch:

  1. Ask your dog to sit, which is a way to encourage polite behavior, then immediately toss a basic fetch option, like a tennis ball.
  2. When they bring it back, ask them to drop it—and immediately throw a different type of ball. (If your dog is reluctant to let go of the first ball, just wiggle the next option enticingly so they let go of the one they have, then work on the Drop it!” command when you have more time.)

The goal of the game is to use increasingly more intriguing balls and toys (including some of their favorite toys!), so your dog brings them back to you faster and faster in order to see what you’re going to throw next. Keep the balls in a bucket so you’re always ready to go for a quick round.

For ball-crazy dogs, opt for a variety of types, from tennis balls like Frisco Fetch Tennis Balls to balls with unusual textures, like the Gnawsome LED Balls. If your dog prefers plush toys, try Playology Beef Scented Plush Toy.

This high-speed dog game involves a ton of running—and an element of surprise that will keep your pup engaged. If you keep up your speed and throw the balls in a variety of directions, your dog will be tuckered out in no time.

Frisco Fetch Squeaky Tennis Ball Dog Toy
$3.44
Gnawsome Squeak & Light LED Ball Dog Toy
$6.18
Playology All Natural Beef Scented Plush Squeaky Ball Dog Toy
$19.97
games to play with dogs - toy on a string

5Toy on a String

The best games to play with dogs tap into their natural drives, and there’s nothing quite like the thrill of stalking and taking down prey. Cats love chasing string toys, but many pet parents are surprised to discover that they can be used for playing with a dog too. A game of toy on a string mimics the joy of the chase.

You can buy pre-made “flirt pole” toys on a string, like the Outward Hound Tail Teaser, or you can make your own with some string or yarn and a small plush toy. The string should be long enough so it can be dragged along the floor—but not so long that it endangers your lamps and vases if you flick it too far. (And don’t use a thin string, as it might cut the inside of your dog’s mouth if they latch onto it by accident.) String and yarn are unsafe if ingested, so these toys should be used only under a responsible adult’s supervision.

Here’s how to play toy on a string:

  1. Drag the toy slowly at first so your dog can get used to chasing it.
  2. Then, as they get better at tracking the toy, make it more challenging for them to catch it.

It’s important to occasionally let your dog grab onto the toy, otherwise the game will get frustrating for them. To discourage jumping, keep the toy on the ground rather than pulling it up in the air.

6Muffin Tin Madness

This fun scenting game unites two canine favorites: balls and treats! It’s also an easy DIY introduction to more sophisticated brain-teaser puzzle toys like the Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle, which your pup can tackle after mastering the muffin tin.

Variety keeps the game interesting, so first gather a bunch of different types of treats like Stella & Chewy’s Beef Liver Treats, Bocce’s Bakery Beef & Cheddar Treats and Charlee Bear Cheese & Egg treats. You’ll also need a bunch of different types of balls, from basic tennis balls like Frisco Squeaky Tennis Balls to the type that’ll make it easy for your pup to see the goodie below, like the JW Pet Hol-ee Roller Toy. To make it extra fun and challenging, try to gather balls that vary in size and texture. Finally, grab a muffin tin that can handle some canine exploration!

The set up is simple: Let your doggy watch as you place a different type of treat in each cup (so your dog can be successful every time!), then cover it with the balls. Most pups will dive right in and grab a ball to get to the goody, but if your pup seems hesitant or overwhelmed, begin the game by using just one treat and ball.

It’s best to play this fun enrichment game on a carpeted surface, since the tin can get noisy on hardwood floors. Once your pup has cleaned out the tin, finish the game with a round of fetch to keep the fun going!

Stella & Chewy's Beef Liver Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Treats
$14.99
Frisco Colorful Fetch Squeaky Tennis Ball Dog Toy
$4.14
JW Pet Hol-ee Roller Dog Toy
$5.87
Our dogs need an investment of time to make sure their physical and mental needs are taken care of, but sometimes life gets in the way. When you’re crunched for time, try creative and fun indoor games that quickly engage your dog’s brain and body—and you’ll be able to attack your to-do list without suffering from pet parent guilt. Next, learn pro tips for the best walk ever with your dog.

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By: Victoria Schade, CPDT-KAUpdated:

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