Sometimes the weather may not cooperate with the need to get your dog out for some exercise. Maybe your dog is just as happy being a couch potato but others have more energy to burn and need their daily fix. Whether it’s a dreary rainy day or frigid temperatures that aren’t safe for outside play, these indoor activities are sure to keep your pup exercised and entertained!
1. Hide and Seek
Who doesn’t love a good game of hide and seek? Your dog will certainly enjoy the suspense of waiting for the hunt to begin. Start your dog in a stay while you go find a place to hide in another room (not too difficult the first time) and call your dog’s name. Wait a few seconds and listen for the pitter patter of little paws coming your way. If they seem to be having some trouble honing in on your location call their name again. Remember to make a big deal out of them finding you, that’s half the fun of the game!
Trainer’s tip: This game is a fun way to practice sit/down stay and recalls that doesn’t feel like training. As they get better at finding you pick more difficult hiding spots and only call them once to release them from the stay.
2. Scavenger Hunt
Dogs love to use their amazing sense of smell so why not put their noses to good use. Hide kibble or other yummy treats in various containers around the house for your dog to find. Make it simple to start, placing the containers in plain sight with the food easily accessible. As your dog learns the game, make it more difficult for them to find the containers as well as working to get the food out once they do. This is a great way to have them work for their dinner, they will have a great time and exercise their minds in the process!
Trainer’s tip: Raiding the recycling bin will give you a great variety of containers to fill. Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, tissue or cereal boxes, plastic bottles or other containers will each present their own unique challenges for your dog.
3. Brain Teasers
Dogs enjoy exercising their brain muscles just as much as we do. Challenge your dog by giving them “puzzles” to solve that produce rewards. Place treats in an empty egg carton and close before giving to your dog. Wait and watch them figure out how to get the treats, some dogs will finesse their way in by opening the top while others will destroy the carton in the process (and will have a wonderful time doing so!). Remember to supervise this activity in case they are inclined to destroy and eat the carton so that you may intervene. Other brain teaser ideas like the muffin tin game, snuffle mat, an upturned laundry basket or puzzle toys will provide great entertainment for you dog!
Trainer’s tip: Get creative by thinking outside the box. Dogs are intelligent animals and you will be amazed by what they can figure out. If they have a hard time and lose interest make the game a little easier to solve until they build their confidence.
4. Obstacle Course
You may need to think like a kid again for this next game idea. Use items found around the house to create an obstacle course for your dog. Set up stations and work through the course with your dog testing their different skills as you go. Try to incorporate tasks that require your dog to use their body in different ways going over, under and through the obstacles.
Trainer’s tip: Dogs can quickly learn sequences so to keep them on their toes change up the order of the course. They will have to stay engaged and focused on what you are asking them to do next instead of rushing ahead.
5. Find It
Hide one of your dog’s favorite toys while they are watching and then encourage them to “find it”, you can even refer to the toy by name. Don’t forget to celebrate and praise them for being such a smart doggy when they find their toy. After successfully completing numerous repetitions in different hiding places try hiding the toy while your dog is not watching to test their competency for the cue. Learning the name associations one toy at a time your dog will soon be finding all of their toys by name.
Trainer’s tip: Once they have mastered the find it command pair this behavior with fetch. You can even work towards teaching your dog to return their toys to their toy basket to help you clean up around the house!
A good old fashioned game of tug is always a great way to release some of your dog’s pent up energy. Pair the game with take it and release cues so that you control the game. This will help your dog practice impulse control and keep them motivated and wanting more. If your dog gets a little over zealous with tugging, watch for signs in their body language or vocalizations that they are intensifying and cue the release before they get over the top.
Trainer’s tip: You may have heard not to play tug or not to let your dog win. The key is to keep the game on your terms, you call the shots for when play starts and stops, even if that means letting your dog win sometimes!
7. Create New Tricks
One of my favorite ways to train with my dog is to wait and see what type of behavior she will offer. Present your dog with an object and reward them for any interaction, refrain from giving cues or luring them to act. Once they figure out the basis for the game they will be eager to try new things. You may be surprised what kinds of behaviors they will offer and you may just find your next great trick!
Trainer’s tip: Let your dog call the shots and lead the training session. You can always use the behaviors your dog is naturally disposed to do and shape them into new behaviors in another session.