Simple ways to entertain your dog indoors
Spring is within reach, folks, and with it, comes the end of long evenings and dark, winter dog walks. So, to help us, dog owners, see the bad weather and dreary evenings through, we’ve compiled a list of the best and most simple ways to entertain your dog indoors. Your dog will always need a good, daily walk but sometimes some indoor games will also help brush away the cobwebs, keep your pup’s mind sharp and help you see each other through the dark evenings.
1. The Which Hand Game
This is where you take a tasty treat, give your dog a chance to have a smell then place the treat in one of your hands, close your fist and hold them in front of your dog so they can choose one. If they get it wrong, don’t discourage them, let them keep trying until they get it right. When they pick the right hand, let them have a treat and try again. Assign, the command ‘touch,’ every time your dog gets it right as it will be helpful for future training.
Our dogs have excellent noses but they need to learn to utilize them. Just like us they’re used to relying on visual cues in their normal day to day activities. Simple nose work games help hone in their natural sniffing ability, and it’s a nice mental workout. It’s also a fun game for us too.
2. Stuffed Kong and K9 connectables
Rubber Kongs and other mental stimulation toys are the active dog owner’s best friend. Make sure whatever stimulation toy you get it is of high quality and won’t break apart when your dog uses their powerful jaws to work away at them. Fill them up with all kind of doggy-favorite treats. For example, try oily sardines, natural greek yoghurt, peanut butter, biscuit treats, carrot and apple slices, coconut oil, chicken pieces or mixing different kinds of varieties together. Try freezing the toys the night before you plan on using them so that they last extra long when you give them to your pup. Top Tip: Try feeding your dog his meals in a Kong so that they have to work for their food and meal times last longer, it also helps to slow down hasty eaters.
3. Make a scavenger hunt or play ‘find the treats’
These kind of games are brilliant ways of keeping your dog busy. Make sure you use extra smelly treats like cubes of cheese or bacon pieces and start off with easy places your dog will work out straight away and work up to more complicated places. You can even assign a command to your dog finding things for you like, ‘Go Find,’ or ‘Search’ and make sure you give them lots of praise when they find the treats. Before you start playing, get your dog accustomed to using his nose by dragging the treat along the ground so they can pick up the scent. All breeds will enjoy this kind of game, but hound dogs like beagles, basset hounds, retrievers etc. will go crazy for this kind of nose challenge.
4. Teach your dog the names of their toys
Many dogs are great at picking up the names of their treats, toys or different times of the day. How often has your dog reacted to words you’ve said around them that you never intentionally taught them. For example, Louis, a rescue American Bulldog and former PAWS dog gets excited when anyone ever asks ‘are you hungry?’ around him. Here’s how you teach him the names of his individual toys. Start off by playing with one specific toy and giving it a name while you do, like teddy or ball. After some practice & praise your dog will assign that verbal name with the chosen toy . Once your dog has learned that specific toy’s name you can test their skills by seeing if they can pick it out among their other toys. This is a game that can be played over and over, and expanded every time. Your dog will love pleasing you every time he gets it right and will enjoy showing off his smarts for you.
5. Master the basics of obedience training
Does your dog know the basic obedience commands like Sit, Stay and Come on command? Either way, the boring winter nights may just be the ideal time to perfect them. These commands can be more than just good to know for trick training but a good Stay can be very helpful at several times throughout the day, like getting in the car or feeding time, and can help teach your dog to have patience. Also, a good recall or Come command could save your dog from sticky situations like approaching something he shouldn’t, such as a reactive dog in the park or livestock. Even well trained dogs need a refresher course every now and then to help keep them sharp. There are lots of good dog training tutorials on YouTube such as Victoria Stillwell.
6. Play a game of Tug of Way with your dog
Tug of war is extremely tiring, both mentally and physically. The good news is you don’t need a ton of room to play so it can be done indoors. Make sure your dog has a good “drop it” or “leave it” command and have some fun with it. It can also be a good workout for you too!
7. Enjoy a good grooming session
Although your dog won’t find a grooming session as exciting as a game of tug it is something that needs to be done from time to time. Our dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their teeth brushed, and have their nails trimmed when they start to get long.
Some dogs tolerate grooming better than others, and the more you practice using positive rewards the easier it will become. Don’t be afraid to hand out lots of treats during a grooming session – you want to ensure your dog will associate grooming habits with a positive experience. It can also be a great session of bonding time for you and your dog.
8. Create an indoor obstacle course for your dog
Sounds messy but it doesn’t have to be. Have your dog jump over some towels, cardboard boxes, weave in and out of their toys and finish by lying down on a towel. Use your imagination and take your time getting your dog to perfect his way through each obstacle with lots of treats. You never know by the Summer, you could be entering agility trials but for now your dog will just relish getting your appraisal by doing something fun for both them and you.
After a nice training, mental stimulation session or a winter walk make sure to include some relaxation time but cuddling up on the couch with your pup. We all need to unwind and your dog will love lounging around with you after some training or mental stimulation just as much as you will. After all, that’s what winter nights are for!