Anyone who loves dogs is usually on the lookout for fun ways to play with, interact with, and bond with them.
While there is a long list of games to play with dogs in general, not every pup will like every game. For this article, I’ll be focusing on Labrador retrievers and the 7 games they usually like best.
But don’t worry; even if you don’t have a Lab, you can try these with your dog, too!
The Seven Best Games to Play with Your Labrador
- The Flirt Pole
- Dock Diving
- Chase Me
- Mat Time
- Hide and Seek
Quick Labrador Facts to Maximize Fun Time
Before we jump into the list of the seven best games to play with your Labrador, we should look at some facts about this awesome breed.
Knowing what to expect from a Labrador will help you choose appropriate activities that can maximize their health, fitness, and happiness. And who doesn’t want a happy, healthy dog?
Labradors Love Food
Labradors are notorious overeaters. Because of this, it’s important to work closely with your vet to be sure you’re feeding the right amount of healthy foods.
Overfeeding a Lab can result in obesity and a drastic reduction in energy—that means far fewer games for you to enjoy together.
On the other hand, underfeeding a Labrador retriever can result in decreased energy, too. It can also lead to muscle weakness and quick fatigue.
You need to find the right balance between feeding amounts and activity to keep your pup in tip-top shape.
By the way, if you’re interested in reading about my dog Max’s experiences eating different dog food click here.
Labradors are Incredibly Intelligent
Labs of all sub-breeds are intelligent, curious, and active. This is why they make amazing therapy dogs, assistance animals, and hunting dogs. They can bond quickly with humans, but they don’t mind meeting new friends either.
Since they’re so smart and curious, Labradors need a variety of brain-building and challenging games to play.
Their intelligence also means they are exceedingly easy to train. That’s a huge plus for pet parents who like to try new things and go on fun adventures with their pups.
Labradors Can Be Mouthy
As with many hunting breeds, Labradors can grow up to be mouthy. That means they may like to put all kinds of things in their mouths, including your hands or arms. While this doesn’t translate to biting or aggressive behavior, it can be a concern, especially around small children.
If you don’t train the mouthiness out of a young lab, it can develop into a problem. One way to do this is to train your Labrador to chew on appropriate things. This is a great opportunity for fun games with your dog while teaching them that it’s not okay to chew on people.
Labradors Have Boundless Energy
Labs are some of the most active and playful dogs you’ll ever meet. A healthy, well-fed, well-trained Labrador can play for hours on end with very few rest breaks.
This is important to understand because you should always match your dog choice with your own energy levels.
A young, fit, and exuberant Labrador is unlikely to be happy living in a household with sedentary humans. Be sure you give your Lab plenty of time to play, run, and seek adventures.
The 7 Best Games to Play with Your Labrador
Now that you understand some of the important traits of Labradors, we can look at some of their favorite games.
Each of these games was chosen because it combines time with you, an intellectually stimulating activity for your dog, and a way to expend energy in a safe way.
The Flirt Pole
If you’ve never heard of a flirt pole before, get ready for a real treat. A flirt pole is a lot like a fishing pole, but you’re fishing for your dog instead. It’s a long, flexible pole with a rope, twine, or other chew-resistant material attached to the end. You can then tie a favorite toy or lure to the rope.
The idea is to tempt your dog to chase the toy as you slowly turn around in place. As your dog learns this game, you can speed things up and bounce the toy up and out of reach to encourage acrobatic jumps. Or you can further challenge your dog with hold and stay commands, finally letting him get the coveted toy after he’s waited patiently for a few seconds.
This is a favorite of many breeds, but hunting breeds such as the Labrador are especially fond of it. It’s a good game for indoors and outdoors, so it’s a flexible activity that can be fine-tuned to your situation.
This is the flirt pole that we use that is inexpensive and incredible fun (Amazon link).
Fetch is a good old classic game that nearly all dogs enjoy. It plays on the prey drive, the need to run, and that playful interaction that Labradors crave with their humans. Fetch can be played indoors and out, with any toy or treat that your dog loves, and at any energy level. It’s a simple game that is easy to change at a moment’s notice.
As with many of the other chasing and retrieving games, you can mix things up by adding a hold or wait command after you throw the toy. A well-trained Labrador will hold the ready position until you give your release command, and then they’ll shoot forward to go fetch that toy. It’s really cool to watch, and it is supremely satisfying for your dog.
Most Labradors absolutely love the water. Swimming is a great exercise for Labs and helps keep them slim and trim. It’s good for the lungs and for a fun bonding activity with you.
The idea behind dock diving is simple. If your Labrador enjoys playing in the water and also like to play fetch, simply combine the two! Stand at the end of a dock or on the beach and toss a favorite floating toy into the water.
You can either let the dog chase it right away, or you can use your hold and release commands to teach your dog patience and obedience. Either way, your Labrador will love getting wet, splashing around in the water, and bringing that toy back to show you what a fine job she’s done.
Not all dogs or owners are in the mood for sporty, super active games at all times. Or maybe you’d like to play a game that doesn’t involve props or toys or much planning in advance. If that sounds like you, then a rousing game of chase me might be just what you and your Labrador have been looking for.
This is one of the most basic games, but also one of the best. It’s as simple as taking a playful stance and running toward your dog. If she is in the mood, she’ll drop her front half down in a half-bow and then jump up and run away. A moment later, she’ll turn around to be sure you’re still following. At this point, it’s your turn to stop, drop down in a squat, then turn around and run away.
Chase me is a game all puppies play, so this one comes naturally for all dogs. As long as you start playing this game with your dog at a young age, he won’t forget it. In fact, it’ll probably bring you two closer much faster since you’re basically speaking his language.
Not all games have to be about running, jumping, and burning energy. Sometimes, a great game involves thinking and waiting. Mat time is just that kind of game. It will help your Labrador learn to relax, focus, and be patient—skills many Labs lack all on their own.
Training for this game is simple in concept but might take some practice for energetic pups. The goal is to teach your dog that any time a specific mat, blanket, or towel is on the floor, they are to lay down on it and be quiet.
It should be the same mat, blanket, or towel each time in the early days. However, you can teach a Labrador to do this with any mat or blanket once they understand the rules.
The reason this is one of the best games to play with your Labrador is that it builds trust and deepens your bond. Your dog learns to trust that you will eventually let him off the mat and he will be rewarded for being obedient.
It’s also one game that serves a utilitarian purpose. When you teach a dog to sit quietly on a mat, you teach them to stay safe and out of the way if you happen to be busy or have to work with dangerous materials.
Hide and Seek
Since dogs mainly use their sense of smell to navigate the world, why not play a game that uses that incredible sense? To play hide and seek with your dog, simply choose a favorite toy, let her sniff it, then hide it under a blanket.
At first, you should let her see you put it there so she starts to understand the game. Allow her to “find” it and reward her with lavish praise and treats.
Over time, start to hide the toy in different locations where she can’t see you, then give the command to find it. You may be surprised to see just how quickly she can sniff that toy in some very difficult situations!
Games that can be played anytime, anywhere, are some of the best games for Labradors. In this case, the game of freeze is a lot like the mat game. It teaches your dog to listen, focus, and wait. Instead of using the mat or blanket as the safe zone, this time you can teach your dog to freeze anywhere.
It’s as easy as teaching the command. Saying, “Freeze!” is always a good choice, but you can use any other word you like. Just be consistent. This should not be taught using common phrases such as stay or wait. Freeze should have its own separate command and expected actions.
It’s fun to go on a walk with your Labrador then suddenly shout freeze. They should stop in place immediately and look to you for the release command. If done properly, this command should work anytime, no matter what else is going on around your dog.
Not only is it fun to freeze and unfreeze just for kicks, but this is also a great way to teach your dog about safety. If you see your pup running off into a dangerous situation, simply shout, “Freeze!” and you can avoid tragedy.
And there you have it. These are the seven best games you can play with your Labrador. They are fun, engaging, and help build a strong bond between you and your pet. But each one is also a good way to teach obedience, burn off some calories, and help your Labrador learn manners.
Have you tried any of these games with your dog? Let us know in the comments!