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11 Games To Play With Your Golden Retriever (Exercise & Bonding)

Updated November 20, 2022
11 Games To Play With Your Golden Retriever (Exercise & Bonding)

Goldens are exuberant, goofy dogs that want to play all day long. Golden retriever games should be entertaining, mentally stimulating, and provide your dog with sufficient exercise.

Playtime is also an excellent way to bond with your dog and reinforce command memorization.

Popular dog games such as fetch, cardio twist, and open sesame teach the dog new commands or impulse control in a fun way.

However, dog games don’t always have to be practical – some can be simply amusing. Your golden will appreciate water games, tug of war, and bubble chasing.

Try out different games to find your dog’s favorites, but don’t stick with one game – goldens are intelligent dogs that like new experiences.

1. Tug of War

Tug of war is one of the best games for golden retrievers because it’s simultaneously a great exercise and a lot of fun.

Goldens aren’t the only dogs that admire tug of war, but this game is a perfect match for such an exuberant and strong breed.

When playing tug of war, ensure that the rope is safe for dog teeth. Ideally, play with specially designed dog toys. Another safety precaution is teaching your dog that the game ends when it touches your hand with its teeth.

Goldens are unlikely to hurt someone intentionally, but they may get carried away when playing and accidentally bite the owner. Alternatively, teach your dog to play tug of war all by itself.

Set up a bungee in your yard so your dog can pull it as much as it wants to. It’s an excellent exercise because it requires the dog to use all its muscles.

2. Fetch

Fetch is both a fun game and an effective training method. Goldens admire running and have a soft bite, so they can play fetch for hours and practice safely bringing you items.

Fetch is also an easy way to teach your dog the “run,” “come,” “take it,” and “drop it” commands, which are essential for every golden retriever.

You can experiment with different items and see which ones your dog finds the most amusing. Many goldens like playing fetch with tennis balls, but you can try to chew toys, frisbee, or anything else.

If your dog is still a puppy, don’t throw the toy too far to avoid it getting confused and distracted along the way. Start with short distances and increase them gradually as your dog grows.

3. Water Games

Golden retrievers are natural-born swimmers because of their hunting heritage. They were historically used to retrieve waterfowl and evolved to have webbed feet, strong muscles, and a water-repellent double coat.

Fetch and tug of war may be fun, but there are no games better for goldens than water games. The variety of water games for golden retrievers is endless.

You can play fetch in the water, have your dog collect hoops floating on a pool, swim away from you while you are chasing it, or surf – yes, some dogs genuinely enjoy surfing and do it well!

There are even special dog water toys that will replace a lake or pool – for example, a splash sprinkler pad where your dog can catch water sprinkles.

Choose toys that can float, ideally, with a squeaking sound. The toys don’t necessarily have to be for dogs – playing with a regular beach ball in the water with your dog is also fun.

4. Clean Up

Clean up is a useful game that teaches your dog to clean up its toys after playing. It’s simultaneously fun and facilitates command memorization. It’s like teaching your child to clean up the mess after playing.

To play this game, you must first teach your dog to retrieve toys on cue – playing fetch is of great help here. Then, sit near a container where you store your dog’s toys and have your golden pick up one toy and bring it to you.

When your dog holds the toy above the container, command it to drop it. When the toy falls into the container, give your dog a treat as a reward. This way, you’re building positive associations with the process.

Repeat the step with other toys until everything is cleaned up, then praise your dog for a good job. Don’t overwhelm your dog – start with three to five toys. Gradually increase the distance to the toy box.

After a while, you can teach your dog the verbal cue “cleanup” or similar to eliminate the need to command “bring it” and “drop it” every time.

5. Stairway Dash

Stairway dash is a perfect indoor golden retriever game for a rainy day when you really don’t want to play outdoors. If you have a stairway, you can make your dog run up and down it, burning calories and having plenty of fun.

Start at the bottom of the stairs and throw a toy up the landing. You can keep your dog in a sitting position and build up the excitement by commanding, “wait… ready… go!”. Then, let your dog run up the stairs and take the toy.

Encourage a slower return because fast running down the stairs can lead to an injury. Your dog is unlikely to withstand over ten repetitions, so it’s a perfect game for when you need to calm down your pet.

6. Under, Over, and Through

Under, over, and through is a great mental exercise for golden retrievers because it facilitates command memorization. This fun dog game involves commands “sit,” “stay,” and “crawl.”

Start by placing a chair or small table in the middle of the room. Then, encourage your dog to crawl under it – you can use a command or hold a treat on the other side of the chair if your dog doesn’t yet know the verbal cue.

When your dog is on the other end of the chair, command it to sit or stay. Then, practice your dog going around the chair or table instead of crawling under it.

If your dog is big enough, teach it to jump over the object. If your dog is still a puppy, you can find any other object of an appropriate size. Reward your dog every time it does what is expected.

7. Cardio Twist

As the name suggests, the cardio twist is an excellent cardio exercise for golden retrievers that’s simultaneously mentally stimulating. Set up poles in a line and instruct your dog to weave between them, following you.

The poles can be anything – chairs, cones, or toilet plungers. Change your pace from fast to slow. Over time, you can start adding a verbal cue so that your dog learns to do the trick without your help.

8. Follow Your Nose

Golden retrievers have a hunting heritage, so tracking games are an excellent option for these dogs.

Scent games for golden retrievers are especially beneficial if you’re planning to use your dog in hunting and want to teach it basics as a puppy.

However, even family dogs find scent games fun. One option is to take several boxes and put treats in one of them. Then, encourage your dog to search the room and reward it when it finds the treats.

Another game involves spritzing a dog toy with scent spray and dragging it around the room or backyard, leaving the smell behind. Then, the dog should find the toy by following the track.

9. Bubble Chaser

Bubble chaser may not teach your dog new commands or reinforce discipline, but it’s certainly among the most entertaining games for golden retrievers. It’s also super simple – blow some bubbles in the air and watch your dog chase them.

Ideally, choose pet-safe bubbles with mild foaming agents because your dog might eat them and get a stomach upset.

10. Open Sesame

Open sesame is a mentally stimulating game for bored dogs that trains their impulse control. The basic principle is to show your dog that you have a treat, then hold it as your dog tries to get it until it backs down.

You can start with a simple version. Hold a treat in your hand and show it to your dog. Then, close your fist and hold it extended to your dog as it sniffs, licks, nips, and otherwise tries to get it.

When your dog calms down and sits back, reward it by giving it a treat. Over time, you can move on to the next level – hold the treat on your palm rather than in your first.

You can also try practicing this game with a door to teach your dog to remain calm when you open it. Start with your dog seated and open the door. Close it as soon as your dog jumps up and attempts to run out of it.

If your dog remains seated, give it a treat as a reward and allow it to go for a walk.

11. Volleyball

Many goldens are obsessed with balls, so volleyball is excellent entertainment for them. Of course, an actual volleyball is too heavy for a dog because it cannot use its feet.

Instead, play volleyball with an inflatable beach ball and have your dog bounce the ball with its forehead or nose. You can do it on the ground or in the water.