Playing games with your pet can be a rewarding and bonding experience for both you and your pet! Many games can also be a catalyst for reinforcing your basic training concepts with your pet, as well as providing your pet with much needed mental stimulation and exercise. All of us in Northern Virginia lead busy lives and our pets are very important members of our families. Your pets will love to spend time engaging in creative activities with you or maybe their pet sitter when you are away. Many games that children typically play can be adapted to engage your pooch in some fun time! All dogs need to master some basic commands such as sit, and stay. The game Red light Green light is a great way to “practice” these commands. Ask your dog to sit and stay, walk about 30 paces away and then face toward your pet. Tell your pet a simple command such as “let’s go” and then ask him to stay and keep repeating the commands. Reward your dog with a treat when he/she gets to you. Make sure to use simple and consistent commands. Hide and seek, another childhood classic can be adapted by pet sitters and owners to encourage pets to come when they are called and gives them the fun of using their natural instincts to find you. The pet should be placed somewhere they cannot see which direction you are going in and then hide somewhere easy at first and each time you play you can make your hiding spot a bit more of a challenge for your pet!Some dogs can fetch the same ball time after time but why not kick the fun and challenge up a bit by using several objects. A game of fetch can be made more challenging for your pet if you choose different items for them to fetch. For example, a stuffed animal, Kong and a ball can be thrown and then you tell you’re pet which object to return to you. Praise your dog for following instructions and returning the correct item. Your dog has now engaged in mental and physical activities and has reinforced his/her vocabulary. For an extra special treat, an old fashioned scavenger hunt could be just the thing! Pets love their toys and comfort items such as their favorite bone, their extra snuggly blanket, or their chew toys and stuffed animals. A scavenger hunt could be in your backyard, home or even at one of Northern Virginia’s manyparks or outdoor venues.Choose several of your dog’s favorite items and some small bite-sized treats for your pet and let the adventure begin. Without letting your pet see you hide his belongings, find creative spots to place an item with a treat and then let your pet use his senses to hunt and gather. Bonding time with your pet does not have to be the same walk around the block, varying activities for your pets can be simple and rewarding for everyone. So get out there and think creatively and have fun!