Inside and Outside Games for Active Dogs

By Linda Cole

Channeling an active dog’s energy takes some creative thought. It can be challenging to find a good workout for a dog that seems to never run down. Not everyone has the time or desire to run an agility course or participate in other organized dog sports. The good news is there are indoor and outdoor games you can play with your active dog to help him wind down.

It’s not always possible to take your dog outside to run off energy, especially in winter when the cold and snow keeps everyone inside, except for quick duty calls. My dogs have been suffering from cabin fever because of the frigid temps. Active dogs still need exercise to get rid of excess energy, though. Inside games can give your dog a way to use up some energy while you stimulate his mind with some thinking games. You’ll need his favorite CANIDAE treats, and a space where you and your dog can move around without breaking things.

Who’s Got the Treat?

You need at least two people to play this game, and the more the merrier. Show your dog a treat, then start passing it around from one person to the next while he sits and watches. Show him the treat now and then as he follows it around. Don’t get too carried away or your dog will lose interest. After 7 or 8 passes, ask your dog to find the treat. When he discovers who has it, have him sit, lie down or perform any command he knows and give him the treat. If it’s just you and your dog, hide treats around the house for him to find.

Inside Red Light, Green Light

This game can be played with or without music. Move, dance or jump around, encouraging your dog to join in. At some point, freeze in position and give your dog the sit command. Immediately give a treat for complying, then start the game again. Each time you stop, ask him to sit until you start to move again. Instead of jumping around, you can have him follow you around the room or house, walking up and down steps, or anywhere inside or outside until you stop. Treat when he sits, then continue the game.

Learning Game

One of the best ways to increase your dog’s intelligence is to talk to him and teach him what different words mean. Most dogs are capable of learning shapes, names of toys, furniture, rooms, upstairs/downstairs or whatever you want him to learn. This is a game that might take awhile for your pet to master, but as long as you’re consistent and patient, he’ll catch on.

Start slow with one or two names at a time so he doesn’t get confused. Have him follow you upstairs. Then say “upstairs” at the top of the steps. Do the same when going back downstairs. Dogs pay close attention to what we do and what we say, and learn by observing us. They can learn the names of four legged and two legged family members. Mental stimulation can be as tiring as a walk around the block for many dogs. This game can be taken outside when the weather permits.

Outdoor Straw Fun

My dogs love checking out bales of straw. They jump on top and sniff it, dig through it, and roll around in loose straw. Six or eight straw bales can be piled up and arranged in different ways for dogs to climb on, jump over and hide in, but I don’t recommend going any higher than 2 bales for safety reasons. Spread the straw out and hide treats in it for a treasure hunt game. In the fall you can rake it up for mulch for your garden, or spread it in areas where the grass dies off for ground cover.

Doggy Basketball

This simple game can be played inside or outside. Find a container like a large cooking pot, laundry basket or bucket. Weigh it down to keep it from being knocked over. Have your dog sit while you drop a ball inside the container as you say “drop.” After having him watch you drop the ball, give him the ball and say “drop.” When he drops it, give him praise and a treat. It might take some encouragement before he gets the idea. Once he learns what you want, play fetch and have him dunk the ball in the basket, or teach him to pick put his toys and put them in a container.

Indoor/Outdoor Hula Hoop Jump

Teach your dog to jump through a hula hoop. Place it on the ground to start and then hold it higher to make it more challenging.

Don’t force your dog to play a game he isn’t interested in, and stop playing before he gets bored so he’s eager to play a game again. Dogs don’t care if they play inside or outside, as long as their human is playing with them.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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