Favorite Training Games: Ping Pong

Favorite Training Games: Ping Pong

by | Sep 1, 2023 | Pet Parent Tips | 0 comments

Welcome to another edition of Favorite Training Games! Today I’ll be sharing the Ping Pong game, which takes the basic elements of the Up-Down game that I shared in my last post (if you missed that one you can read it here) and adds movement for your dog.

This pattern game, like many pattern games, is simple in concept but so valuable to have in your training playbook. Ping Pong helps to build your dog’s engagement with you, reinforces the behavior of orienting and “checking in” with you (which is helpful for other skills like recall and loose leash walking), and is a helpful skill we can use for nervous or reactive dogs.

Like the Up-Down game, all that the Ping Pong game requires to start is a handful of small treats (I like to keep mine in my pocket or in a treat pouch), a clicker or a marker word like “yes”, and your dog, of course.

The game goes likes this:

1. Start by standing or sitting near your dog.

2. Drop or lightly underhand toss (think bowling more than throwing) a treat a few feet to your left.

3. After your dog eats the treat, wait for them to orient back towards you. They don’t need to make eye contact with you, just turn their head or body in your general direction!

4. When they do, say “yes” or click your clicker once, then lightly underhand toss a treat a few feet to your right.

5. Repeat, alternating the direction you toss your treats.


Here is a video example of what the Ping Pong game looks like:

I love this game because it is:

  • An easy pattern for dogs and humans to learn.
  • A way to provide dogs with an option for moving their body while engaging with us. This can be great for anxious or energetic pups who have a hard time staying still!
  • A way to make treats even more fun and enriching because our dogs get to chase the food instead of just taking it from our hand.
  • Easy to adapt for either small spaces or for situations where you have more room to move. You can lightly bowl your treats just a few feet, or do a longer toss if you have the space!


I use this game in a lot of different ways, including:

  • Continuing to boost a dog’s ability to check in with their human. This is a helpful foundation skill for everything from loose leash walking to teaching our dogs to come when called.

  • Reducing jumping on dog guardians or guests – a dog can’t be jumping up and chasing treats that are being tossed away from a person, so we can use games like Ping Pong to shape greetings without jumping if desired.

  • Helping nervous and reactive dogs process scary things from within the safety of a familiar pattern. Having a predictably positive pattern to practice can be a great way of helping dogs feel more comfortable even when strange or slightly scary things are happening around them!
    • As another way of gauging a dog’s comfort in different environments or situations. 
      • I often start with the Up-Down game. If a dog can comfortably opt-in to Up-Down, I’ll try Ping-Pong next.
      • I can then use Ping Pong as a warm up for other skills I might want to practice. If a dog is able to happily engage in the Ping Pong game with me, that tells me that they might be ready for other activities too.
      • I can also use Ping Pong as a management strategy. I have often used this game to help dogs stay occupied and engaged while a trigger they aren’t ready for yet passes by!

    This game can be played with you standing, sitting on a chair or couch, or even sitting on the floor if that’s most comfortable for you. Once your dog gets the hang of the game, you can add variety indoors by practicing in different rooms or across different surfaces like carpet or yoga mats. When you start practicing outside, look for quieter low-distraction moments first so that your pup is most likely to be successful.

    Try out this game at home and let me know what you think!

    Are you looking for more comprehensive and customized training help? We cover games like this and a lot more in our virtual group classes, or you can check out our 1:1 training and behavior programs for in-depth personalized training help and support!


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