Whether impeded by rain or snow, or by location, sometimes it’s just not possible to take your dog outside for their much needed exercise. However, there are lots of fun games you can play with your dog indoors to help keep her mentally challenged and physically fit. It is also a great way to bond with your dog and spend quality time together. The restrictions of indoor space are a perfect place to work on behavior and obedience too.
Like people, dogs can get restless and bored being indoors. Dogs love physical games that burn off energy, but they also enjoy mental challenges that keep them alert and focused.
Hiding games encourage dogs to use all their senses and give them something to strive for. If your dog is learning the “stay” command or has already mastered it, a simple game of hide-and-seek will be fun for her. If she has not mastered the “stay” command and there is another human in the house, have that person hold the dog and repeat the word “stay” while you hide in another part of the house. Then have them say the release word and “Find Mommy,” “Find Daddy” or your name if that is how they know you. For dogs that will stay on command, give them the command, go hide and then call them with your release word and tell them to find you. To challenge your dog, repeat the game and change your hiding places.
Gather some different sized boxes and confine your dog in another room while you hide some objects under them. You can hide your dog’s favorite toys, some CANIDAE PURE Treats, a tasty chew bone, or any other object that motivates your dog. Spread the boxes around the house or around the room.
To help teach your dog the specific words for their toys, be consistent in what you call each item, such as “tennis ball,” “dolly,” “string toy” and so forth. Over time and with practice your dog will learn to associate the correct word with the matching toy. To challenge her knowledge, hide the items under the boxes and tell her to find a specific item. Praise and reward for the correct solution helps her learn to discriminate between her search choices. This game not only challenges your dog’s mind, it helps train her to listen to specific commands. If you train with a clicker and need to help your dog understand the game, use the reward signal when she gets the search correct.
“Work for Your Supper” Game
Usually we just feed our dogs at the appropriate time. If you are stuck indoors, you can make her work for her supper. Create an obstacle course around the room or house just before meal time. Use a large box and open both ends for a crawling tube for your dog to go through. Put a chair that is high enough for her to crawl under on the course. Use a low ottoman or low box for her to jump over. Use your imagination to come up with a variety of obstacles for her to maneuver around, under or over. For each successful maneuver, praise her or offer a treat. Practice the run of obstacles repeatedly to help her understand. At the end of the last run, place her filled dinner bowl as a reward for a job well done. If you have never done this with your dog, be patient and encouraging. Once you play it enough times, your dog will start to associate the game with meal time and happily join in to get her reward.
Cardio, Coordination and Muscles
Like children, dogs need to burn off energy to keep entertained and out of mischief. That boundless energy needs to find some release even when you are unable to play outside or go for a walk.
If you have steps in your home, use them to your advantage. A simple game of fetch played on the stairs is excellent cardio exercise. It also gives your dog an opportunity to stretch and use her muscles. Do it repeatedly for an extended period of time to ensure she gets plenty of exercise running up and down the steps.
If your home doesn’t have stairs, push furniture to the side to create an open area, or play in a large room. Buy or make simple non-toxic bubbles for your dog to chase. If you show excitement in the game, she will quickly join in to respond to the tone of your voice. If she is slow to get the idea, praise her when she gets a bubble. Once she sees how fun it is to chase the bubbles and play with you, it may become a favorite activity.
Play team tag with another family member. Have someone stay with your dog and only let her go when they give her the command “Go get Mommy.” Have the other person do the same in return once the dog catches them. If you have the energy, play it repeatedly.
Tug of war is a favorite of some dogs. You can use a favorite tug toy, or create one by cutting up an old t-shirt and tying large knots in it to make it easier for you to grip. Use a release word to help train your dog to let go on command. Practice using it until she begins to get the idea. If she is small and you can easily get the toy way from her, let her win on occasion.
Bonus: Massage and Snuggle
Quiet time indoors with your dog is the perfect way to pamper her. Use the time to catch up on grooming and trimming. During or after a warm bath, massage her legs and back, stomach, neck and head gently .For dogs with stiff or sore joints, the added attention will help them move more easily and relieve some pain. The warmth and attention is also calming and bonding.
Time spent indoors with your dog does not have to be boring or limited. Try any of these activities with your dog or create others based on her preferences or need for specific training. The point is to make confinement indoors pleasant and entertaining. Like the Cat in the Hat said, “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch