Baby, it’s cold outside! With temperatures in Connecticut in the single digits over the last couple of days, we have altered our visits to keep pets safe and warm. This includes shortening walks and increasing indoor play time. This post will suggest just a few of the ways you can keep Fido active this winter with indoor games for your dog!
Why play indoor games with your dog?
The winter brings unique challenges to your pup’s usual exercise routine. Salty roads, slippery ice and snow covered trails limit the amount of time you can safely spend outdoors. Despite the temperature drop, your dog still requires both mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Playing indoor games allow you to meet their basic needs in novel ways that are fun for you, your family and your dog. Plus, throwing the tennis ball down the hallway for the 75th time in a row can get a little old!
Considerations when picking indoor games.
You know your dog better than anybody else. His size, personality, energy level and age should all be considered when deciding what activity to engage Fido in this winter. Food motivated? A treat-based game is a great choice! Severe arthritis? Jumping games might not be the best option for your pup.
Indoor Games For Your Dog
Set up mini hurdles in your home with objects laying around the house. A broom, pool noodle, or old PVC pipe make great hurdles! Start low and slow, walking your dog over the obstacle. Eventually you will be able to call them over it and assign a command such as “jump.” With practice, you can have your pup jump multiple hurdles in a set! This video will teach you the basics.
Know your dog’s limits when setting up a hurdle game and never push them if they are feeling anxious. The point of these games are to keep them happy, healthy and mentally stimulated.
Good old fetch. If your pup is full of energy and loves fetch outdoors, he will love it inside too! When moving your game of fetch inside, consider using a soft toy. Tennis balls are more likely to bounce around and break lamps, furniture and electronics. Also consider where your fetch route will be. Try and avoid furniture, glass (such as vases), the top of a stair case and other dangers your crazy pup can run in to.
Build a Tunnel
Another trick from the agility book – build a tunnel! While there are how-to guides to teach you how to make a real agility tunnel, Dogaholics has great suggestions in using a children’s tunnel or covering tables with blankets. What you use will depend on your pup’s size and experience.
You should note that going through a tunnel may be a bit scary at first. Never force your dog to do something! Positive reinforcement, a trail of treats and lots of love will teach your pup this is a fun game much faster than shoving them into a tunnel!
Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek is our mascot, Rocco’s, favorite game to play! It is as easy as it sounds. Put your dog in a sit-stay (or have somebody hold them) and go find a hiding spot. Give them a command (such as “free,” “here” or “find me”) and its off to the races.
Your pup may seem a bit clueless at first but with practice you’ll watch them rely on their nose. You can encourage them with happy, positive feedback as they get closer to you. When he finds you, throw a doggone party with lots of praise and love. Be sure to switch up your hiding spot as they learn your go-to’s quickly!
Similar to Hide and Seek, hiding a treat can be another fun game to play. Depending on how you set this up it can be physically AND mentally stimulating.
Have a pup with a great sniffer and lots of energy? Play this like Hide and Seek. Show Fido the treat, put him in a sit-stay and hide the treat in another room. Tell him to “find it” or whatever command you’d like him to learn. It may take him some time to figure out what you’re asking, but he will get better and better!
For a game full of mental stimulation and less running around, try the cup trick. Get three cups and place a treat under one. Swap them around and tell Fido his release word – “find it,” “free,” etc. and let him use his nose to pick where the treat is hidden!
Kongs are mentally stimulating toys where treats and a sticky substance (peanut butter or spray cheese, for example) are placed inside the toy. Your pup must then use his tongue to get the treats out. This will keep them thinking and concentrated for quite a while! Be sure what you fill the toy with is safe for dogs. Peanut butter containing xylitol, for example, can be life threatening.
Interactive Puzzle Toys
Interactive puzzle toys are also an exercise in metal stimulation. These toys force your dog to work for their treat with more than just their tongue. These toys usually require nudging or dropping the toy to get treats to fall out of a hole. We suggest making sure the puzzle toys you purchase are sturdy and suitable for your dog’s size and age. An overzealous dog can easily break a cheaply made interactive toy which may be a choking hazard.
Work on Commands
Being stuck indoors is the perfect opportunity to practice and then build on basic commands. Training sessions don’t need to be long. Just five minutes a few times a day can do wonders for a dog’s brain and household manners.
Don’t know where to start? A certified dog trainer is an excellent resource. There are also many do-it-yourself websites, Youtube videos and books to give you ideas.
Hire a Pet Care Professional
Did you know our dog walks don’t require a walk at all? If you’d like your pup to keep busy during the day while you’re at work, consider hiring a professional pet sitter in your area to come break up their day. Just the sights, sounds and smells experienced during a potty break with their favorite pet care professional can make their day!
The possibilities are endless when planning indoor games for your dog.
With careful consideration of your dog’s age, physical and mental capabilities and interests (food versus toy rewards, for example), playing indoor games with your pup can be fun and exciting. Enjoy and stay warm!