10 Games To Play With Your Golden Retriever To Exercise & Bond With Them

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If your Golden Retriever is like mine, they just want to play all day.

It can be tough to keep them entertained, so here’s a list of 10 games that your Golden Retriever will love!

It contains a mix of games that will mentally stimulate them, physically stimulate them, games with toys involved, and games with no equipment needed.

If your Golden is starting to misbehave and they need an outlet for all their energy, or if you’re just looking for a fun way to bond with them, then you’ll love this list.

They’re sorted by difficulty, with the first few games being perfect for puppies, and the last few being for Goldens a little more advanced.

Plus, at the end, you’ll see four reasons why playing games can help your dog behave better.

Here are the best games to play with your Golden Retriever:

best games for golden retrievers


All puppies love chasing and being chased, so this is a fun way to tire them out.

But here’s the kicker: when they’re chasing you, you’re getting them used to running toward you, which will help a lot when you start to teach them to come when called.

Of course, with young puppies you don’t want to overdo it, so let them dictate when to stop the game.

Treat Toss

Treat toss is another way to get your puppy practice coming to you.

It’s a simple game where you get a handful of your pup’s kibble, sit on the floor with them, and toss one piece across the room.

Your puppy will chase it, then when they see that you have another piece in your hand, they’ll run back to you.

It’s kinda like fetch without a ball.

This is a great game to play to pre-practice recall, get your pup some exercise, and have them learn that good things come from you.

This game obviously requires lots of food, so instead of feeding your puppy their meal in a bowl, you could just play this game.


This is yet another game that will get your puppy practicing running toward you, except this time it’s with a partner.

To play this game, you and your partner each grab a handful of treats (kibble will be fine for young puppies) and sit across the room from each other.

Place your puppy between you and take turns calling them by making kissing sounds, saying their name, and/or showing them the treats.

I call this tennis because you’re volleying your puppy back and forth between you and your partner.

For more fun or more advanced dogs, there are a few ways to mix this game up.

The first is to have multiple people sitting in a room taking turns to call your puppy — they’ll love all the attention and treats they’re getting.

The other option is to take it outside.

This is best with older puppies who are not so distracted and who are good at coming when called.

We play this game with my 3-year-old Golden Retriever all the time in our backyard where we stand on opposite sides of the yard to get him some exercise.

This is a great way to practice recall, plus we’ll have him do some other tricks and commands when he comes to us so he’s getting mental and physical exercise.


Tug is a classic game that you can play with Goldens of any age.

Obviously an 8-week-old Golden Retriever won’t be tugging that hard or for that long, but it’s still fun for both you and your pup.

Once your pup learns how to drop it, you can mix in practicing other commands between sessions of tug.

This makes it a great way to get physical and mental exercise, plus bond with them.

The only equipment you need to play tug is a rope toy like this one from Amazon.


fetch with golden retriever

Fetch is my Golden Retriever’s favorite game.

We play it every day and it’s a great way to get in some physical exercise with your dog.

We play fetch with tennis balls (he likes the Penn tennis balls better than balls made for dogs) or the West Paw Zogoflex Zwig stick.

The Zwig is rubber and it floats, so it’s great for playing fetch in the pool, lake, or ocean, plus you can also play tug with it.

zwig west paw stick for golden retriever

And if you want to make it easy to throw the tennis ball farther, you can get a Chuckit! Launcher to throw the ball like a major league outfielder.

Open Sesame

This is a fun game to mentally challenge your Golden Retriever puppy and teach them some impulse control.

The first step is to grab a treat in your closed fist and hold it out to your pup.

They’ll nip, sniff, lick, and nudge at your hand to get it, but keep your fist closed until they pull away.

The moment they pull away, open your hand and give them the treat.

This will teach them that patience, not pestering, will get them what they want.

Airplane Game

The Airplane Game is a great game to get your puppy to pay attention to you.

To play this game, hold a treat in your hand.

Stretch your arms out to the side (like you’re an airplane) and see what your puppy does.

She’ll most likely stare right at the treat in your hand, completely ignoring you.

She might even jump, bark, or paw at you to get the treat.

Don’t give in to her efforts, and eventually, she’ll realize staring out the treats won’t get her what she wants, so she’ll look you in the eye.

Immediately reward her for doing so.

If your pup can’t break eye contact with your hand at all, make a light kissing noise or sigh to get her to look at you.

I got the idea for this game from Brain Training for Dogs, and you can see my full review of Brain Training For Dogs here.

Muffin Game

muffin game with golden retriever

To play the Muffin Game, take a muffin tin and put treats in it.

Then, put balls or other objects over the treats so your pup has to move them to get the treats.

I like to spice it up by putting extra treats in one tin, special treats in another (like peanut butter), regular kibble in one, and sometimes I’ll leave one empty.

Oliver loves this game and this is another idea I got from Brain Training for Dogs.

Hide & Seek

This childhood classic is actually really fun to play with your dog.

The only requirement is that they either know how to stay or you have a partner to hold them still while you hide.

Once you’re hidden, call their name and celebrate when they’ve found you.

I usually have a few treats to give to Oliver when he finds me, but you could also have a tug toy to play with them as a reward.

This game is great because it helps them practice stay and recall, as well as builds the bond with you two.

You can also play this game with their toys where you hide one of their favorite toys in another room and they have to go find it.

Wrestle Mania

Wrestle Mania is what it sounds like — wrestling with your pup!

This is good ol’ fashioned fun and you’ll be able to sneak in some hugs and kisses as well.

Oliver and I wrestle a few times a week and he loves it.

He does get a little overexcited sometimes, but when that happens I just use his Zwig or Avocado for him to put his teeth on, or I’ll remove myself from the room to let him know he’s being too rough.

4 Reasons To Play Games With Your Golden Retriever

Not only are games fun to play with your dog, but they can be helpful in their learning and development.

Here’s why you should play games with your dog:

Mentally Stimulate Them

Mentally stimulating them with training, nose work, and brain games will do wonders for your dog’s behavior.

They’ll have less pent-up energy and be less bored, so they’re less likely to act out for attention.

Physically Stimulate Them

Like mentally exercising your dog, physically exercising them helps them to behave better because they won’t have pent-up energy.

It’s also helpful for keeping them in good shape, as Golden Retrievers are prone to obesity.

Building A Bond With Them

Having a solid bond with your puppy will help them want to behave and obey you more — not to mention this is the whole reason you got a Golden Retriever!

Playing games, having fun, and exercising with your pup are all ways to have a better relationship with them.

Practicing Good Behavior

Your puppy will learn best through games because they’re motivated to learn.

When I was a kid, the only thing that motivated me to learn math was that I wanted to keep score of basketball games.

Playing games like Open Sesame will help your pup with impulse control, the Airplane Game will help get them to focus on you, and tug interspersed with tricks and commands is a fun way to practice those behaviors.

Your Golden Retriever’s Favorite Game

golden retriever games

If you want to keep your Golden entertained and behaving well, play games with them that mentally and physically challenge them, as well as build a bond between you and them.

What’s your Golden Retriever’s favorite game?

Have any questions about these games?

Let me know down in the comments!

And if you liked this article, you’ll love this post about the best toys for Golden Retrievers.

P.S. Getting a Golden Retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook.

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