Indoor Dog and Puppy Games to Play
If you’re anything like me, you love summer. Being a Midwest gal, I crave the time when I’m able to shed my long johns, double socks, and the winter coat that makes me look like some kind of monster walking down the street. It’s the time of the year when Dexter and I are able to go outside, smell the flowers, take leisurely strolls, and soak up the summer rays. However, there are those Dog Days of Summer when it’s just too stinking hot to be outside for more than a few minutes. Or there’s 10′ of snow outside! So what’s a gal and her dog to do to keep busy and to stay out of trouble? Here are 5 fun activities you and your dog can do inside.
Scent Work Games: A dog’s nose knows. Scientists aren’t exactly sure just how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is, but the estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000 times more accurate than ours. Dogs are ruled by their noses, so why not put them to good use? One simple scent work game you can teach your dog is to search for his treats, dog food, or dog bones in boxes.
First, pick 5 containers such as cardboard boxes, plastic containers, or anything else you can find around the house that will hold treats but keep them so your dog can get to them easily. In the beginning stages, you want the opening pretty large and the box pretty shallow so your dog can easily retrieve the reward from inside. Place your boxes around in one room with the opening facing up.
Next, you need to find some kind of food or treats your dog goes nuts over. I mean, really nuts. This game may be challenging for some dogs in the beginning, so the reward needs to be worth the effort of going outside his comfort zone. Once you have decided on your dog’s food reward, make sure you have lots of tiny pieces. Let your dog have a big sniff of his rewards. Now that you have his interest, say something like, “find it” and drop 3 treats into one of the boxes. Encourage your dog to get the treats out of the box. Repeat this process with another box. If he’s a bit hesitant, drop a few more inside. If it’s still too challenging, use another container for now, like plates or cookie sheets. Once your dog starts getting the hang of it, you can send him out into another room while you stash a pile of treats in one box, then bring him back to the room and ask him to find it. This will encourage your dog to actually look and sniff for his reward. This game can be modified with a variety of rewards such as bones, toys, or food-stuffed toys.
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Toy Challenge: If your dog has a favorite toy, add a few challenging layers to the game to make it more interesting. Start by getting a pillowcase you don’t care about. Then, get your dog’s attention, run over to his toy pile, and grab his favorite toy. Talk to him in your play voice as you and your dog trot over to an open spot. If he knows how to stay, ask him to stay as you lay the pillowcase flat on the ground and place his toy in the middle and gently flip one end of the pillowcase over to cover the toy. Then tell him something like “get it” and encourage him to dig around the pillowcase until the toy comes out. When he’s successful, play a quick game with the toy, then repeat. As he catches on, start to wrap the toy in the pillowcase, making it harder and harder for your dog to get the toy out. Eventually, toss the toy into the pillowcase and wrap it up. You can increase the toy challenge by placing the toy in other items such as a cardboard box, under a box, in a laundry basket – the sky is the limit. You can also increase the challenge by having your dog out of the room, hiding the toy, and telling him to find it.
Body Awareness Games: Teaching your dog body awareness and core strength isn’t just for performance dogs. These exercises aren’t just great for a dog’s physical health, but for his mind as well. All dogs can benefit from body awareness, but you may need to modify some of these exercises to meet your dog’s physical needs or limitations. Because body awareness games are a type of exercise, you should warm your dog’s muscles up with a little gentle stretching. Behaviors such as sit, down, spin, and stretch are great warm-up exercises.
Where are your feet? One of my favorite exercises for body awareness is teaching a dog he has four feet. Dogs seem to be very aware of their front two, but a bit awkward with the back two. Cavalettis or low jumps are a great way to start to teach your dog about his back two feet. Start with four poles such as PVC pipe, dowel rods, brooms, or pool noodles. Basically, anything long and thin. The distance between each pole should be about the distance of your dog’s height. Measure your dog from his shoulders to the ground for his height, then lay the poles on the floor with that much space between.
Grab a handful of your dog’s favorite treats. Next, you and your dog face the start of the poles, with your dog on one side of you, lined up with the center of the poles. Ask your dog to heel, or slowly start to walk towards the poles. Initially, stop and reward your dog each time he walks over a pole. Don’t worry if he hits the pole with his back feet in the beginning; after a few repetitions, he will start to lift those back feet. As you and your dog get the hang of it, you can reward your dog after the final pole has been crossed. You are going for a slow, steady pace, not a run.
After your dog is a master at the poles on the ground, you can increase the challenge by slightly raising the poles. Two things you will want to know. One, the poles must be able to fall off if your dog hits them with his feet to prevent any injury. Second, keep them only 2-4″ high – this is not agility jumping. To raise your poles, grab eight empty soda cans or water bottles. Crush them, and lay the ends of each pole on the can.
Puppy Playdate: If your dog is social, maybe arrange for another doggie friend to come over. Who doesn’t love a room full of puppy antics? Ok, so you might need to pick up your valuables to ensure that two running dogs don’t knock anything over. 😉 Not dog-friendly, or your room is too small? What about a human playdate? Maybe your dog adores the neighborhood girl next door, so invite her and her mom over for some fun. Kids can usually come up with a lot of fun games to play with dogs. But don’t forget, 100% active supervision.
Positive Dog Training: Dog training and trick training is an excellent way to occupy your dog. Not only can you teach your dog useful behaviors, but training your dog is a great way to bond and burn up some energy. Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish my dog could do x” or “I wish he wouldn’t do x”? Today’s the day to teach him what to do! If you are feeling stumped for ideas, a quick internet search for fun or unusual dog tricks can help your creative juices flow.
So, what are you waiting for, winter? Call your dog and have some fun indoor time.
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