puppy games without toys

Toys are just tools to make an activity enjoyable for your pups.

But it doesn’t have to be the focus of the game.

In fact, there are many games to play with a puppy without toys.

You actually don’t need to spend a fortune just to have a meaningful bonding experience with your pups!

Don’t believe me?

Give me a few minutes of your time for me to convince you!

Because in this blog, I’ve compiled a list of puppy games without toys.

Each item in the list contains a general idea of the game and how to play with a puppy without toys. Make sure to read them all!

Are you ready to play with your dogs? Let’s start.

10 Puppy Games Without Toys

Puppies are incredibly adorable creatures with a knack for adventure and excitement.

But cute as they are, puppies require a great deal of stimulation to alleviate the boredom in their minds and their high energy levels.

And if you don’t have any toys around, then fear not!

Here are 10 puppy games and activities that you do without toys.

  • Hide and Seek
  • Cup Game
  • Tag Chase
  • Play Fetch
  • Scent Game
  • Tug-of-War
  • Doggy Playdate
  • Hidden Item Games
  • Rewarding Dog Walks
  • Agility Course

Of course, these games are only starting ideas that you can play with your dog.

But if you are feeling creative and original, you can devise your very own puppy activities without toys.

You shouldn't be limiting yourself to just ten!

The sky’s the limit in designing your games.

Just make sure it is stimulating and fun for your puppies!

hide and seek at home

1. Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek is one of the most popular puppy games for your dogs without using a toy.

The game consists of the spotter or seeker and the hider, who will stay away from the spotter’s sight.

However, since dogs excel better in the seek part than hiding, it’s best to give the spotter role to your dog while you hide away from it.

You can also incorporate nose works in the game as a chance to improve your dog’s sense of smell.

Teaching hide and seek with your pups should be simple as long as you make the training gradual and easily understandable for your pups.

Your training in hide-and-seek should revolve around these concepts:

  • Your pup should control its urge to follow you without a cue
  • Your pup should approach and find you on cue
  • Your pup can find you even when you're not in its sight
  • Your pup uses its senses to find you

Don't forget to use rewards, positive reinforcements, and treats throughout the training.


shell games for dogs

2. Cup Game

Cup games, also known as shell games, are simple games that you and your pup can play with just treats and cups.

The game involves two or three cups and making the pup guess what cup contains the treat.

Cup games are awesome games to play with your pup because it’s a way to make your pup work for its food or treat.

You can also incorporate nose work in the game to increase the mental challenge and stimulation of your pup.

Unsurprisingly, cup games are hard to execute since the game includes controlling your dog’s urges, making it do a certain behavior, and guessing the cup right.

But if you follow the right order of training, you can play guessing cup games with your pup in no time!

Ultimately you want to focus on these steps to start finally playing cup games with your pup:

  • Make your pup interact with the cup
  • Add a verbal cue to the behavior
  • Make your pup expect a treat underneath a cup
  • Add difficulty by adding more cups in the training
  • Slowly move the cups until you’re shuffling each cup


poogle dog breed

3. Tag

Playing tag is another great game to initiate for your pup.

Spoiler alert, it still doesn’t include any toys!

As simple as letting your dog chase you, playing tag is great because all these running and chasing are great physical exercises.

Playing tag also stimulates your dog’s chase instincts which would prove to be useful, especially in hunting roles.

And for pups growing to be hunting companions, playing tag also hones your pup’s preying and chasing skills early.

To play tag with your pet:

  • Make your dog sit on a location
  • Take a step back, a few feet away from your pup while preparing to sprint.
  • Command your verbal cue to your pup for it to start tagging you
  • Run and let your pup chase you
  • Adjust your speed to your pup’s chasing capabilities
  • Reward your pup when it’s able to tag you “it.”


Black dog holding a long stick in its mouth while running

4. Fetch

Fetch is a game that most people associate with dogs.

This game involves throwing a ball at a reasonable distance and letting the dog retrieve it for you.

But Dan! I thought you said that this is a list of puppy games without toys.

You’re right. But take note, if you don’t have any dog toy balls for your pups to play with, you can improvise and use a stick instead!

Now, while dog fetching is similar to retriever breeds when they catch their prey, you can teach the activity to many dog breeds too.

In fact, this game can stimulate even those dogs that are generally not into fetching objects.

Teaching your pup to fetch all comes down to two phases of the training: teaching your dog to mouth objects and returning the fetched object to you.

Mark your dog’s behavior with a clicker the moment it shows interest in the object.

With perfectly timed clicks to capture the behavior, work your way until your pup holds the object with its mouth.

With retrieving, your pup picks up the object first, mouths it, and then releases it in a designated area as you’ve instructed.

For that, it’ll take you a couple more training of behaviors, assigning new verbal cues, and proper coordination of commands to your pup before they can execute it properly.

A puppy smelling dirt on the grass

5. Nose Work Games

Another game that you can indulge your pups with is through nose works.

Nose work or scent training is a set of activities that drills your pup to use their sense of smell.

It’s also a way for your pups to recognize and separate a specific scent from other odors.

So instead of using physical activities to entertain your pups, this game is more of a mental stimulation for them.

Interestingly, nose works are also useful even outside any hunting roles.

Family dogs that have a heightened sense of smell can help detect dangers and warn their family about them.

Nose works for pups help them to hone their scent recognition skills and make them rely more on their power senses.

Eventually, you can play games that also require the dog to use its strong senses of smell.

For instance, I’ve mentioned that you can include nose work in the cup game.

You can do that by placing treats with strong odors underneath the cup.

Nose works can also work in hide-and-seek activities, especially if you carry a strong-scented item with you.

Lastly, if you’re satisfied with scent training your dogs without any toys, you can finally start investing in scent puzzle toys and items to further stimulate your pup.

But, if you are interested in doing nose work games with your dogs, you have to train their sense of smell first.

In essence, nose work all comes down to these phases of the scent training:

  • Making your pup show interest in the object
  • Adding another object to bring options and confusion to your dogs
  • Making the puppy focus on the scent in the object rather than the object itself
  • Adding difficulty by adding more objects
  • Adding a verbal cue to the command


Puppy playing with a rope tug toy

6. Tug-of-War

If you want a game stimulating your dog’s primal instincts, you can try playing tug of war with your pups.

As simple as it can get, playing tug means both of you pull the opposite ends of a rope to win.

But while the game is originally a “show of force” between you and your pup, you shouldn’t use your full strength when playing the game.

Letting your pup win boosts its confidence and enhances its dominant traits.

Winning over your dog, on the other hand, helps make your dog competitive over time.

Make sure to take turns winning during tug playing to balance out your pup’s developing personality traits.

If you also don’t have a rope toy for this specific puppy game, you can resort to using a strong fabric or a sturdy rope.

Rope toys are not necessarily required!

Now, if you want to play tug-of-war with your pup, here are some basic steps for teaching the game to your pups:

  • Let your dog interact and mouth the rope object
  • Tug the rope when your dog is mouthing it
  • Tug the rope harder if your pup starts pulling the rope too
  • Teach your dog to drop the object after the game
  • Add verbal cues before and after playing tug with it.

It’s also worth noting that in instances where your dog shows some signs of aggression during the game, you should immediately halt the activity.

Doggy playdates at the dog park

7. Doggy Play Dates

If you want an activity that focuses on playing and socializing, you definitely want to check out a doggy play date as an option.

Dog play date is an activity where your dog pairs with another fido for a playtime session.

If you leave them to their own devices, a lot of playtimes and games can spark from their first meet-ups alone.

Since play dates require your dog to interact with another dog, the activity fills your dog’s need to socialize.

In your pup’s case, play dates are great early exposure for them and a chance to get used to socializing with other dogs.

If you are interested in organizing a play date for your pups, here are the steps that you need to do:

  • Know your dog’s personality and temperament
  • Match your dog’s personality with other dogs in the vicinity
  • Contact the dog owner and pick a venue for the play date
  • Actualize the plan and let your dog play on their own

I also want to give some pointers so that you and your pup will have a smooth experience on your first dog play date:

  • Match your pup’s play date to its size
  • Don’t pick one of the dog owner’s houses as a venue for the play date
  • Pick a neutral place for the play date, like a daycare or a dog park
  • Don’t bring any dog toys to the venue
  • Intervene during play time only when one of the pups shows some signs of aggression and hostility

enriching your dog's life with nose work

8. Hidden Item Games

You’ve heard about hide and seek, but you can take this game to the next level.

Instead of people, your pup will seek a specific item instead.

The best thing about it is that the item doesn’t have to be a dog toy, as long as it’s something your dog can recognize well!

Additionally, you can use an item that has a distinct odor to help your dog better search for the item in question.


Better Walking Conditions

9. Fun Dog Walks

A lot of people find walking their dogs to be a tedious task.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Dog walks are amazing, calm, and enjoyable activities to do with dogs.

In fact, you can make dog walking as rewarding it could be by turning this simple activity into a game.

To make dog walks fun, here are some tips that you can apply to make this activity worthwhile:

  • Explore new areas to explore during walks
  • Pause to let your dog sniff
  • Change the walking pace
  • Create milestones in the trail and reward your dog per milestones.

bichon frise running agility course best dog breeds for agility training

10. Agility Course

Is your dog sporty and athletic?

If yes, you may want to use and enhance the agility course on your dog instead.

Dog agility is an activity where your dog goes through a standard obstacle course under a time limit.

The agility course takes into consideration your pup’s power, speed, stamina, and even its ability to react to commands.

Since this activity includes an objective to finish the course, a time limit for urgency, and a reward treat at stake, it’s already a gamified way to entertain your pups.

10 Puppy Games Without Toys: Final Thoughts

You don’t need to end the fun just because you don’t have a toy to give to your pups.

A little creativity goes a long way in entertaining your dogs.

With the list of puppy games without toys above, I hope you’re now equipped with some ideas in mind to better alleviate your pups’ boredom.

So, even without toys, you can use these games to your advantage and have a great bond with your pooches!

But hold up!

Are you looking for a meaningful seasonal activity with your dogs? Interested in spending time with your dog in spring? Summer?

Or how about autumn’s Halloween?

Then, you might want to check out these related articles to find more activities to do with your dogs!

Related Articles