Some cross breeds are favored because they have lower energy levels than their parent breeds. Some are favored because they’re bouncy and cute. Unfortunately, bouncy cuteness can lead to behavior problems if the dog’s energy isn’t properly channeled. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep dogs busy and tire them out. Let’s look at some of the best dog games and activities for cross breeds.
It’s important to consider your dog’s parent breeds to understand what behaviors are part of their genetic makeup. For example, the Labrador in labradoodles could love fetch and retrieve games more than anything else in the world.
It could also make for a very food motivated dog, which is great for training. However, bite inhibition could be non-existent (poodle genes).
Morkies come from high energy parents. Their energy is usually spent in short bursts of vigorous, interactive play, so activities that require stamina and endurance are probably out.
What this essentially means is that the full spectrum of dog games and sports applies to cross breed dogs. However, it’s still good to have some idea of what appeals to their composite breeds to meet their needs and have serious fun.
Activities cross breeds could potentially love
- Retrieving games (fetch)
- Scent games
- Hide and seek
- Dogs sports, for example, Flyball, Agility, Dancing or Rally Free and Obedience
- Hiking and swimming
- Brain games
Retriever cross breeds (labradoodles and goldendoodles) are naturals at retrieving games. Their retriever heritage makes them predisposed to find and carry objects in their mouths. So any kind of retrieving game, such as fetch with balls and rope toys, make them happy. These are also dogs who like to use their noses to find their targets. Incorporate nose work by training your retriever cross to ‘find it’ and then retrieve it.
Spaniel cross breeds (cockapoos) also get a kick out of retrieving games.
Scent games or Find It
Dogs’ sense of smell is super-sensitive. This is why dog games with a scent aspect are so enjoyable, especially for retriever crosses, spaniel crosses and terrier cross breeds.
There are two ways in which you can train scent or find it games.
- You can take a nice smelly treat (dried tuna, ostrich liver or pilchard fudge), show your dog, say “Find it” and toss it nearby. Your dog should run to eat it and come back to you. Repeat the process and throw the treat further away and start using easy obstacles, like throwing it around the corner or just under a chair or in your dog’s bed. When your dog has the gist of the game, you can put her in another room or outside and ‘hide’ the treats in plain sight, for example, on top of a footstool, under a step, on their bed even in the middle of the floor. Let your dog back in and tell her to “Find it”. When she has the idea you can start hiding the treats in more challenging places and put them under containers for a greater challenge. This treasure hunt is one of the best dog games to keep pooches occupied when you leave the house.
- You can start by teaching your dog to target a scent item – something like a container with small holes in the lid and some ear buds with strong scent on them, such as cedar oil or something else they’re unlikely to encounter in their everyday lives. Teach them to target the container with their nose and reward them on the container to reinforce the idea that for this game the container is whole world.
When they’re reliably targeting the container, you can add another identical container but without any scent. You want your dog to choose the scent box every time. When she can do this 9 times out of 10, you can start placing the container a little distance away from her and see if she will go to it and target with her nose. As she gets better at the game, you can increase the distance and start being more imaginative about where you hide the box. Note: this is not a retrieve game; it’s a target game, so your dog should keep her nose on the box until you reward her (on the box). You can also use a ‘find it’ cue to set your dog up for the hunt.
Hide & Seek
Hide & seek is one of the all time best dog games because it uses up a lot of energy, is a huge amount of fun and improves their recall.
There are a variety of dog sports that cater to all dog types and exercise needs.
Flyball is a great sport for dogs with energy to spare and who can function amid a lot of excitement.
Agility is a great sport for dogs who need to work their brains while getting good physical exercise. (It’s also great for dog moms and dads who need to work their brains while getting good physical exercise.) It’s suitable for all dogs of all breeds and all sizes. You can join agility training classes or you can buy some basic agility equipment (jumps, a tunnel and some weave poles), set up courses in your garden outdoors and have as much fun as you want.
Dog dancing and Rally Free are fantastic sports for dogs who need more brain work than physical exercise and who enjoy mental challenges. They’re suitable for all dogs of all breeds and all sizes.
Obedience is another great sport for all types of dogs as it challenges their brains and teaches them good manners and provides valuable self-control.
It’s important to note that while a lot of dogs enjoy hiking and/or swimming, not all dogs do. It’s also important to recognize your dog’s physical limitations. Small cross breeds (toy breeds) may love to run on the beach but they don’t do well on long hikes. They might also like to wade in a baby pool but hate big pools which are scary.
Spaniel, standard poodle and retriever cross breeds would probably enjoy hiking as well as a spot of swimming. Remember to always take water when you hike with your dog to keep them hydrated. Never leave your dog unattended in or even near a pool.
Brain games are fun to play with your dog. They also build confidence and teach valuable problem-solving skills. Furthermore, many brain games have practical value as they can be used to teach tricks and life skills like loose lead walking.
Some handy brain games to play include hand targeting, mat targeting, platform targeting and send away.
Trick training provides fun mental stimulation. It’s quite easy if you understand the fundamentals of clicker training and shaping. Great tricks to train include wave, sit pretty, say your prayers, play dead and weave.
Simply playing with your dog is more rewarding for both of you than you might think. In a nutshell, playing with your dog combats canine and human depression. It strengthens your bond, provides physical exercise and makes you part of your dog’s reward system.