The recent cold temperatures and freezing rain makes it difficult to get your dog outside for exercise and play… especially when he doesn’t even want to go outside to do his “business”! Playtime and exercise is important for the physical, mental and emotional health of pets. It boosts the immune system and helps maintain a healthy weight.
Why not play with your dog indoors? Just a few minutes of play per day makes a huge difference. It is highly rewarding to your dog and can help relieve boredom, reduce anxiety, and may even help resolve some behavioral issues. A dog prone to chewing the couch or digging up the garden will find a much-needed release in play and exercise.
So how can you play with your dog indoors? There are several indoor games that will provide you and your dog with lots of fun and bonding! Be sure to consider your dog’s breed, age, and physical abilities before choosing his games. Always check with your vet before subjecting your older or otherwise immunity compromised dog to any vigorous play activity.
1) “Find It!” is a game that almost every dog loves. They love using their noses and because it requires concentration, it is a great exercise for an overactive dog. You can teach your dog to find almost anything but it’s usually easiest to start with a treat, something the dog really likes. Have your dog sit and stay. If he doesn’t know these commands yet you can have someone gently hold him in position. Show him the treat, then let him watch you put it behind a door or a chair. Then tell him to “Find it”! When he does, give him lots of praise…and of course, he gets to eat the treat! After a couple easy finds, make it harder for him. Put him in the sit/stay, then hide the treat in another room. Come back and tell him to “Find it!” As he gets better and better, make the game even more difficult by putting the treat in unusual places like the bathroom sink. Don’t worry if he takes a long time to find it – you’re doing this to give the dog some work to do, let him do it! Just don’t make it so hard that he becomes frustrated and gives up!
2) Doggie Basketball! Doggie basketball is another easy game that you can play with your dog. Decide what you will use as a basket (maybe a laundry basket or a bucket) and weigh it down. Take your dog to the basket and say the word “drop” as you drop the ball into it. Next try giving the ball to the dog and work at convincing him to dunk it into the basket when you give the “drop” command. Praise him and follow up with a treat as soon as he scores a dunk! Keep going and soon you’ll be playing doggie basketball!
3) Brain Teaser! This game starts with gathering 3 – 4 plastic or paper cups and some treats. Begin by placing the cups face down and placing a treat under one of the cups making sure that your dog knows where it is. Ask your dog to find it and wait until he has given you a sign indicating he knows where the treat is. Lift the cup and let your dog have the treat. Do this a few more times until he understands the game and then make it a challenge by moving or changing the cups around before you ask him to find it.
4) Hide and Seek! Start the game by putting your dog in a sit, climb or down wait. Then hide (watch out..they sometimes peek!). When you are ready, call him. When he finds you, reward him with hugs and laughter! This is good for teaching the dog to wait until called as well as just plain fun for you both!
5) Go Wild and Freeze! There are many ways to play “Go Wild and Freeze”… here’s one. Start by dancing around and acting excited until your dog gets going too. After a minute or so, you all of a sudden stop moving. Ask your dog to sit, or down, or do another behavior he knows well. The moment he does it, start dancing around again; when your dog joins in, stop, ask for that sit or down again, and reward him by re-starting the party! If your dog is super-excitable and likely to mouth you or ricochet off you, start with a pale-vanilla version of “go wild”. Your dog’s introduction to this game can be “Take a Single Step and Freeze.”
“Go Wild and Freeze” is not only fun, it helps teach your dog self-control as he learns to respond to your cues even when excited. End the game clearly, for example by saying “All done!” and sitting down with a book. If you say the same phrase every time, your dog will learn that it signifies the end of play for now.