Games for Dogs: Don’t Try This at Home

If you search for the term games for dogs on Google you’ll find a plethora of links about simple training games developed by humans to teach your dogs and keep their minds engaged. You’ll also find products invented by humans to challenge your dog’s intellect and perhaps give you a few moments peace so you can finish your coffee. But by far, the most experienced developer of games for dogs are dogs themselves.

Experts hypothesize that dogs have the social cognition skills of a two year old child and I’ve been around them long enough to know that they absolutely have the imagination of one. Get two dogs together of a mind to play and there is no end to the games they will come up with. Gather four or five dogs on a farm with a horse manure pile that’s about seven feet high and you have what my late Aussie, Sundown, viewed as the most awesome game for dogs on the planet— “Queen of the Manure Pile.”

The horse farm Sundown and I lived on was not the most prosperous of farms. The only power equipment we had were a couple of trucks and a lawn mower, everything else was pretty much manually operated. Forty horse stalls were done daily with a pitchfork and wheelbarrow. Once filled, the wheelbarrow was rolled out the barn about a hundred feet or so where it was dumped. Just before planting season we had one huge steaming pile of manure, but soon local farmers would erode the pile for use in their gardens and fields.

It started as a standard game of chase that ranged all around and through the barn. At first, the pile was ran around and not over. But as the game progressed the dogs would run up and over the pile as a shortcut while the rest of the dogs went round. Then, on a day that will go down in the history of games for dogs, Sundown stopped atop the pile and barked her challenge to the rest— “Knock me off if you can!” A legend was born.

My wife and I were against it at first, for odiferous reasons. However, we quickly relented and came to enjoy the game even more than the dogs as we laughed until our sides ached. Our only regret is that we didn’t have one of those IMAX movie cameras to capture the action it all its glory.

A steam cloud hung over the manure in the early morning air (or are those flies?) as the dog atop the mountain barks its challenge. Her breath mingles with the manure vapor as she tenses for the battle. It’s a two pronged attack as one dog attacks from the front, one from the rear. The battle is joined. Flies, manure, slobber, steam, and fur fill the air as teeth flash and bodies collide, each dog trying to knock the other off the summit and over the edge. The losers tumble down the sides and dizzily trot back to their place in line behind the other challengers, odor in tow. The winner stands alone on the summit, barking her victory to the world, covered in glory— and fresh manure.

Sundown invented many games and gave us many memories which we will treasure forever. Little girl we miss your smile, and yes, even your smell.

We’d love to hear your stories about games your dogs have invented; won’t you share them with us?