Posted by Dan Hinds on December 09, 2016
When winter rolls around, we often find ourselves getting outside with our dogs less and less. Walking the dog is the gold standard when it comes to canine exercise, but we aren’t always able to get out of the house when we’d like to. Maybe it’s ice, maybe it’s a blizzard, or maybe you just hate the cold and need to hunker down for a while. Whatever the reason, sometimes we need to keep our dogs busy indoors. This is important for both your dog's physical and mental health. Here are a few different games you can play to keep it fun and interesting for both of you.
This is the classic in dog games. It does not get easier than playing fetch with your dog. We know that mom always said not to play ball in the house, but if you’re careful and you clear a little room, there’s no reason you can’t throw the ball a little bit, especially if your dog is on the smaller side. If you’re a little pinched for space, just throw something soft that won't roll far.
This is a great fetch alternative for when you just don't have the space. You show your dog a treat or a piece of kibble and then have him sit and stay while you hide it in another room. As you know, dogs rarely get bored of hunting for and eating food, so this game is guaranteed to keep him occupied for quite a while. Start with easy hiding spots and then gradually increase the difficulty. If your dog is a breed that has an especially powerful nose, you can get pretty creative with the hiding spots. Just make sure you remember where the different pieces are hidden so you aren't finding random food under the couch cushions weeks later.
TUG OF WAR
Another great fetch alternative, tug of war is always a fun way to play with your dog. Just make sure you play safe and don’t hurt yourself or your dog! Make sure to set some ground rules for your dog - firstly, you should be in control. Your dog should start tugging on your cue, and drop it when you give him a command; this is a great way to both keep your dog entertained as well as let him practice basic commands. Secondly, if your dog gets too rough (e.g. teeth on skin), end the game. It is easy for dogs to get carried away when they think they are in control, so if this happens, end the game so the dog knows it is not okay to bite.
HIDE AND SEEK
The traditional childhood favorite, the dog version functions much like Find It. Have your dog sit and stay and then go hide in another room and call him to you. Once he finds you, give him a little treat and go hide again. Keep treats in a treat bag for easy access and no crumbs in your pockets!
MUFFIN TIN GAME
This game is exhausting both mentally and physically for your pups. You take a deep muffin tin and place a small treat in some of the cups. Then, you take tennis balls (or whatever ball for dogs you have) and place them in all of the cups. Your dog will have to wrestle with the tray and the balls to find the treats. Some dogs will pull out the balls one at a time, others will use their nose, and some will just flip the whole tray and send everything flying, so be prepared for all eventualities (read: hide nearby breakables) if you decide to play this game with a big dog.
GO WILD AND FREEZE
Go Wild and Freeze is a great game that also helps with training your pup. Basically, you want to start getting your dog a little riled up and then quickly stop and have them sit. Once they sit and calm a bit, say the command (usually “go wild”) and start dancing again, followed by saying “freeze” and stopping. Wait a different amount of time for each step and your dog should start to learn the commands. This will be useful for training your dog to obey even when they’re excited. If you’re playing right, when you say “freeze,” they should be sitting or laying down, but still probably shaking with anticipation!
This one isn’t necessarily so fun, but it will use some energy and it’s certainly productive. Give your dog the full spa treatment. Start with the brush and then follow up with a bath and finish with the nails. Some dogs love a little pampering and some hate it, but they can all benefit from a little cleaning up once in a while.
If you have a puppy, indoor time is a great opportunity to cover some of the training basics. Commands like sit, stay, lie down, and roll over can all be learned in the comfort of your living room and will quickly physically and mentally exhaust your energetic pup. Additionally, spice things up for dogs who already know these commands - if your dog already knows "shake" or "paw," teach him "high five." If he knows "roll over," teach him to play dead. These will keep you and your dog entertained for hours - the only hard part is keeping him interested!