Creative Board Games to keep your Pet Busy & Happy

Puppy Behaviour, last updated 13th, Oct 2020, DogSpot

We love all animals. In our endeavour to bring education to pet parents, we collaborated with Preeti Narayanan and Fatema 'Freya' Rehman, Founders of Happy Tailz to talk about Board games for you and your pet. In conversation with Aishani Mathur, Founder- The Wizard of Dogs, we learned about using board games and how they help channel the active dog minds while having a whole lot of fun. Read on more insights.


What is the story behind Happy Tailz?

Freya – A few years ago we used to regularly have chai sessions over phone calls. This one time, we spoke about how we both have multi-dog households. It was very difficult to play one game with one dog. And as our dogs were getting old, we also realized that a lot of the active games could no longer be played. 

This is where it all started. We asked ourselves how we could enrich their lives, given the shortcomings. We wanted to find a way to spend time with them one on one through appropriate pet-friendly games.

We surveyed the market for toys and games, but could not find anything suitable. We then decided to sit down and make our own game. With materials from the nearby hardware store, we made our first game for them. We tried it with our pets and realized it was as if we were playing board games like ludo or chess with our pets. 

Can cats also play the board games by Happy Tailz?

Freya – Yes, cats can play the game too. We have some clients who have given us a positive feedback. They enjoy playing our games with their cats. The key difference is that when I play with my dog, he participates to please me and there is a strong bond, whereas, when I play with my cat, she looks for ways I am pleasing her.

Of course, cats play the games, and the games are very good for them. The challenge lies in convincing them to play with the right kind of treats. They need to be sold a little more on the idea of playing the game. 

Preeti – We create games so that both, you and your pet can play. We are working in a space where we encourage humans to play these games actively with their pets. We don’t have games that can be given to pets to play with alone.

Cats express themselves differently. Being dog people, we tend to understand and anticipate dogs more than cats. But we also believe that cat people, have a similar understanding of their pets and know how to encourage them the right way. 

All species use their mind to play these games. And every pet will have their barriers, which we need to overcome for them in the right way. 

How can we motivate our dogs to play mental board games? 

Preeti – Our pets are always taking cues from us. We cannot decide for them. If we show them the game with uncertainty and doubt if they will play or not, it will not work. We should not hesitate in presenting the game confidently to our pets. If we appear to be excited about the game, our pets will automatically take cues and be equally open to play with us.

What material is used to build the board games at Happy Tailz?

Preeti – Our games are made of pinewood and beechwood. But of course, these games are not meant to be left alone with the pet. These games are not to be chewed on. Right after you are done playing, please make sure you remove it from their reach. At any cost, prevent your dog from chewing by showing the dog what to really do with the game.

Can you explain the working of any board game and demonstrate how a dog responds?

Preeti – Yes, we have a game called the Lucy game. It has nine wooden pegs. In this game, the dog needs to work a way to remove the pegs and find the treats hidden under it.

Different dogs play the game differently. Some dogs use their nose and some dogs use their paw. This way you start understanding your dog’s behavior more. You can also encourage your dog to start exploring other senses. There are different types of intelligence in dogs like – sniffing and using their paw. Such intelligence can be developed further. 

Pet parents came back to us saying that the way their dog explores the world also changed as a result of playing the board games we have created. 
We realized that this is great for puppies that cannot leave the home, dogs that are suffering from hip dysplasia, and dogs that cannot leave the home during the lockdown. 15 minutes of mental activity is equivalent to 1 hour of physical exercise.

Freya - For senior dogs, we encourage the dog to play it while sitting in a down position. If senior dogs play games that involve standing, it usually strains their hips. We currently have 7 game designs. The Lucy game is our first board game for dogs.

Are the games for a single activity, or do you also have multiple games in one game set?

Preeti – We are in the process of creating multiple activity games. To make them both, interactive and safe, we are developing more games through the process of continuous play. We have introduced an add on for our Lucy game. It takes the shape of a tic tac toe while playing. 

Do you host any board game competitions for dogs?

Preeti – We conduct Happy Tailz Olympics and Happy Tailz Bingo. One takes place in summer and the other takes place in winter. We try to get people excited about playing with their pets. We give out challenges and everybody participates. We also encourage people to come up with game ideas using interesting items from their own homes.

This is our DIY section. We are also in the process of enhancing the existing toys that people already have. 

Should we let the dog win for a positive experience?

Preeti – Yes, absolutely! Always let them win. This board game is not a competition. It is about both of you having fun. Always set them up for success. Every single time. The reason your dog is playing with you is because you get excited and they want to be with you to share joy.

What is the best age for dogs to start playing board games?

Preeti – As early as possible. We have had 42 days old puppy to 17 years old dogs play our board games.

Would you like to share a surprising outcome of the board game shared by your clients?

Preeti – There was one client whose dog refused to eat medicines. So, just for fun, she used the board game. She set up the game by putting treats in most places, and medicines in other places. Her dog got so excited playing the game that he ate the medicines along with the treats without realizing it. Our client was extremely thrilled by this experience. 

Is the board game also good for kids to bond with dogs?

Preeti – Yes! In-fact these board games can play a huge role in increasing interaction and removing any anxiousness that kids may face. We have experiences where kids with special needs were also comfortable around dogs. It was the first time they could interact with the dog without fearing the dog.

We have even seen another mind-boggling event. A 70-year-old man had suffered from a stroke. He went through physical therapy with the help of this board game. He genuinely took interest and eventually ended up having so much fun with the activities involved in setting up the game and watching the dog play. 

Are there any pet parents you discourage from playing the board game with their dog? 

Preeti – Aggressive Dogs must be dealt with differently. Therefore, we don’t advise pet parents who have aggressive dogs to play this game. If the dog displays food or possession aggression, we ask the pet parents to stop playing the game for the time.

We ask pet parents to visit a trained dog behaviorist to sort out the issue of aggression. We are however hoping to create a game to play safely with aggressive dogs too. went live with Preeti Narayanan and Fatema 'Freya' Rehman, Founders of Happy Tailz. Preeti has volunteered at the Bangalore cantonment hospital for dogs, worked as a veterinary nurse, and now runs a grooming salon in Bangalore. Freya has been a hands-on dog mom and spends most of her time working on board games with her dogs and cat. With her key insights about dogs’ behavior, she has made a lot of progress co-designing interactive board games at Happy Tailz.

In conversation with Aishani Mathur, Founder- The Wizard of Dogs, we learned about the many transformations witnessed by pet parents as a result of actively immersing themselves in the game with their beloved pets.

We hope we answered all your queries regarding service animals. In case you have any further questions about the topic, please feel free to leave it in the comments below. An expert will be happy to guide you! 

Transcribed by: Prekshita Patwa

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