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Three Dog Training Games for Service Dog Puppies

Service dogs play an invaluable role in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities. These remarkable animals are trained to perform tasks that mitigate their handler’s limitations, ensuring greater independence and a higher quality of life. The journey of transforming a young pup into a reliable service dog involves dedication, patience, and effective training techniques. To assist service dog trainers and handlers in this endeavor, we’ve compiled a list of three engaging and effective dog training games specifically tailored for service dog puppies.


1. Scent Discrimination Game

Service dogs often need to differentiate between different scents to perform tasks like alerting to allergens, finding a specific item, or alerting to medical conditions. The scent discrimination game is a playful way to develop your service dog puppy’s olfactory abilities.

How to Play: Place several small containers, each containing a different scent, on the floor. Start with scents that have distinctive characteristics, such as vanilla, cinnamon, and peppermint. Use scent swabs or cotton balls soaked in essential oils. Allow your puppy to sniff each container and provide a treat or praise when they identify the correct scent. Gradually increase the difficulty by using similar scents or introducing distractions.

Why It Works: This game taps into a dog’s incredible sense of smell, honing their ability to differentiate scents. As your puppy becomes proficient, these skills can be applied to tasks such as detecting allergens or alerting to specific medical conditions.


2. Retrieval Challenge

Service dogs often assist their handlers by retrieving items or assisting with mobility tasks. The retrieval challenge game helps build the foundation for these essential tasks while keeping training fun and engaging.

How to Play: Begin by teaching your puppy to retrieve a simple object, like a toy or a cloth. Use positive reinforcement, rewarding them with treats and praise when they successfully bring the item back to you. Gradually increase the complexity by teaching them to pick up different objects by name. Visit for detailed guides on training retrieval skills.

Why It Works: Retrieval tasks are fundamental for service dogs, enabling them to assist with a wide range of tasks from picking up dropped items to fetching important objects. This game fosters a strong bond between the puppy and the handler and lays the groundwork for more advanced training.


3. Task Sequence Puzzle

Service dogs are trained to perform sequences of actions to complete a task. The task sequence puzzle game helps service dog puppies develop the cognitive skills required to understand and execute multi-step tasks.

How to Play: Break down a specific service task into smaller steps. For instance, if training a diabetic alert dog, break down the alerting process into smelling the handler’s breath, alerting by pawing, and fetching a glucose monitor kit. Teach each step individually, and then combine them gradually. Use treats and positive reinforcement to motivate your puppy.

Why It Works: This game mimics real-world tasks, preparing service dog puppies to understand and perform complex sequences of actions. It strengthens their problem-solving skills and reinforces their ability to complete intricate tasks effectively.


Training a service dog puppy requires a blend of structured training methods and engaging activities. Incorporating games like the scent discrimination game, retrieval challenge, and task sequence puzzle not only makes the training process enjoyable for the puppy but also builds the foundation for their future role as a service dog. For comprehensive guidelines and information on service dog training standards, be sure to explore the valuable resources at Service Dog Standards. Remember, the journey of raising a service dog is as rewarding as the difference they make in the lives of their handlers.






The United States Service Dog Registry (USSDR) has been helping Service Dog handlers for over 10 years. Learn more >




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Often, people who suffer from invisible disabilities have trouble advocating for themselves and their canine partners. Service Dog Standards is here to help. Learn more >









  • ramzan283 August 20, 2023

    These training games for service dog puppies are not just fun, but incredibly valuable in shaping the future of these amazing canine companions. Training can be an enjoyable journey for both the pup and the handler, and these games make it all the more rewarding.


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