How to play hide and seek with your dog in 8 easy steps

Dog running away from woman in the park
(Image credit: Getty Images/Akarawut Lohacharoenvanich)

If you want to play hide and seek with your dog, you've come to the right place. We're going to teach you how to do it in just eight simple steps. 

Hide and seek is a fabulous game for building a bond with your furry friend. It's a fun game that stimulates your dog's mind, engages their problem-solving skills and tires them out mentally and physically. 

As a qualified dog behaviorist, I advocate playing hide and seek with your dog because it teaches them to watch where you are. When training a dog, one of the most challenging aspects is to make an owner more interesting than deer, pheasants, lovely doggy smells and animal droppings. That's no mean feat, as I'm sure you're aware.

Sometimes, the best dog toys and best puppy toys can help our dogs engage with us, and we can use these toys to add extra fun to the hide and seek game.

How to play hide and seek with your dog

Ideally, choose a person who your dog knows and likes. Ask them to hold your furry friend while you find a hiding place. A big part of the game is to get your dog excited about finding you. Your assistant can gee up your dog so they cannot wait to run around looking for you. 

Step 1: The perfect location: The perfect place to start is in the garden or another distraction-free, secure area. The initial objective is to make the exercise easy for your dog so he gets a win the first time. 

Step 2: It can help if you have some yummy treats: Let your dog sniff the best dog treats in your hand so they have a strong scent to follow and know there is a treat to look forward to. If your fluffy pal has a favorite toy, that can also be a great motivator. 

Step 3: Ask your dog to calmly sit and stay: With your assistant holding them on the best dog leash, let your pup see where you hide. Use an excited voice so they know it is fun. Some dogs struggle with a stay command, so this is an excellent training exercise.

Step 4: Use a command: Use a simple command like "Find me". After hiding, shout out "Find me". As your dog watches you hide, they can easily track you. 

Dog looking for something under the bed

(Image credit: Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial)

Step 5: Praise excitedly and reward your dog: That may be a treat or playing with their favorite toy, whatever they love the best. 

Step 6: Gradually make it harder: For the first few times, let your dog see where you hide. After that, increase the distance and ask your assistant to turn the dog away so they cannot see where you hide. Your doggo must use their nose to locate your hiding place. 

If your dog gets it wrong or becomes distracted or anxious, ignore that behavior. It should be fun for them, and they will get it with practice. 

Step 7: Involve your assistant: Once your dog finds you repeatedly, ask your assistant to say "find" excitedly before letting the dog loose. 

Step 8: Get your dog to find someone else: Ask someone your dog knows to hide instead of you, armed with treats or the best durable dog toys. You may have to start from step three, allowing your dog to see the person hiding. 

Give your dog the command "find" and encourage your helper to call the dog and excitedly reward when your dog succeeds. 

Gradually, make the exercise more challenging until your furry friend is a pro search dog. In time, you can hide any item in the garden. Let your dog sniff the item. After that, hide it somewhere without your dog seeing where you put it. Initially, strong-smelling food treats like chopped liver make it easier for your dog. 

 You could also try these eight fun games to play with dogs

Should you play hide and seek with a dog?

There are many benefits to playing the game of hide and seek with your dog. It's a fabulous mental and physical exercise for all dogs but brilliant for excitable dogs with a low attention span. 

Many dog owners don't realize that mental stimulation can be as effective as a walk. If that idea fascinates you, read our feature on mental stimulation for dogs

If the weather is poor, and you don't want to walk your dog, hide and seek is a perfect exercise to tire your dog because it takes problem-solving skills for your furry friend to find you or whatever you've hidden.

Another significant bonus is it teaches your dog to watch you. I train all of my dogs to find me. When they're young, dogs get easily distracted and can lose track of where they are on a walk if they see a squirrel, rabbit or other furry. 

I often hide behind trees and call them. It encourages the dogs not to run so far ahead and to keep an eye on me because I might suddenly disappear. 

Kong Wild Knots Bear Dog Toy

Kong Wild Knots Bear Dog Toy

This soft, cuddly bear toy has a reinforced body, a rope on the inside and a squeaker. It's a fantastic toy for shaking good times for your furry pal. 

Dog and owner playing hide and seek, hiding behind a tree in the park

(Image credit: Getty Images/Jetta Productions/Walter Hodges)

How to play hide and seek with your dog in small spaces

If you don't have a garden or live in a small apartment, don't worry. You can still play hide and seek with your dog. It just takes a bit more imagination. You can place treats or toys in cardboard boxes or hide in a cupboard or behind the bed. 

Alternatively, buy a long line and take the exercise outdoors to a quiet place. It's best to fit a dog harness instead of attaching the line to your dog's collar, as in his excitement, he could race to the end of the line and hurt his neck. 

 Volacopets Treat Dispensing Dog Toy 

 Volacopets Treat Dispensing Dog Toy 

Pups love playing puzzles and engaging their minds. This set is helpful for teething, boredom and keeping your dog occupied with play or chewing activities.  

If you've enjoyed this article and want to discover more fun things to do with your dog, you can try these brain games for dogs. To the most of your playtime, you could create an exciting dog play area. Your pooch might also enjoy a doggy play date.

Jan Barley
Dog Behaviorist & Writer

Jan is a dog behaviorist and writer living in the Cotswolds, UK. She has shared her life with dogs for over fifty years and is fascinated by behavior. She enjoys helping people better understand their dogs to develop a deep bond and enjoy time together. Jan particularly enjoys working with impulsive and reactive dogs as her legacy from helping Poppy, her rescue Weimaraner cross overcome fear reactivity.