3 Starter Games for Puppies - Calm Dog Games

3 Starter Games for Puppies

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “Are these games suitable for puppies?”

Games can be an ideal way to interact and bond with a puppy while teaching them key concepts such as toy sharing, recall, loose leash etc. Using games to help create ‘wins’ for your puppy can really boost their confidence. We know that fear is at the root of aggression, so early confidence-building and gentle exposure to new things is important for raising a happy, self-assured dog.

I chatted with Heather from Puppy School Northants to get her input and pick of 3 starter games for puppies. Here’s what she had to share:

“For a first-time puppy owner (or even if it’s just been a while since you’ve had a young one) the first few weeks and months of welcoming a new puppy into your home can be a bewildering time. In turn exciting and exhausting!

I believe that playing appropriate games with your pup is so important, and can be a real game-changer in raising a puppy.  Games that harness your pupsters natural instincts, games that show them you are where the fun is at and games that demonstrate the behaviours you will reward them for.

Here are my top three games (below) that do just that from the Calm Dog Games deck. They are suitable for pups of any age.”

Puppy School Northants


Good for: Harnessing your puppy’s natural nose skills.

↠ Puzzle category

Equipment: You will need a muffin tin tray and tennis balls.


1. Place a piece of food/treat in each void of the tin and cover with balls.

2. Encourage your puppy to “find it”. They will need to remove each ball to get to the treat.

3. Help young pups if necessary by lifting the balls to show them where the treat is. Praise them when they succeed.

Heather recommends holding the edge of the tray if it is on a slippery surface and reinforces that If they disengage or bark they may be finding it too difficult so be sure to help them work it out. They may just want to play with the tennis balls, which is fine too!

Photo credit: loki_the_rommie_rescue


Good for: Showing your puppy that you are where the fun is at!

↠ Bond category

Setup: You will need some low and high value food/treats and a safe, secure place to play. Low value food is likely what they eat on daily basis, perhaps kibble or some small training treats if you feed raw. High value treats are really motivating, such as pieces of sausage etc. Just be careful when introducing new foods to a puppies diet!


1. Throw a piece of low value food a little bit away from yourself. Heather notes that a very young pup may miss where you throw it so only throw a short distance at first. Let them eat it. Wait, say nothing, they may sniff around but be patient.

2. The moment they turn back to you reward with the high value treat and lots of verbal praise.

3. Then, repeat. I suggest playing 3-5 times as it keeps sessions short, needed for growing brains, and super motivating. 

Photo credit: @scrumpy_lab


Good for: Heather notes that this helps show your puppy how certain behaviours earn rewards. 

↠ Calm category (Please note “Chill Your Beans” was a card from the original deck and is not in the Vol 1 Games & Enrichment deck. It will be making a comeback in Vol 2 Training Exercises when that is released, along with further instructions on helping your dog to settle.)

Setup: You will need a handful of kibble or training treats (15 pieces or so) hidden in pouch or pocket. 


1. Calmly place one treat next to your pup when they are chilling out. 

2. Re-reward if they remain calm. You are essentially rewarding your pup for ‘doing nothing’ and not reacting. If they get up, just wait till they settle down again and reward.

We both want to stress that, with this exercise, it’s so important that your behaviour is calm too. Heather recommends picking your time carefully as you don’t want to rush it.

It’s a very simple activity but can be hugely rewarding, especially for puppies, as they need downtime and to learn that being calm and un-reactive brings rewards!

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