If you live anywhere along the east coast, you might be continuing to deal with some of the fallout from winter storm Jonas. While we were nowhere near snowed in, the sudden drop in temperatures sent our little family into hibernation mode. Topher included! Considering how quickly a few days without walks can turn even our couch-potato of a dog into a whirling dervish, we’re quite lucky not to be trapped in our house or digging our yard out of a mountain of snow. For those of you who are stuck, or waiting for your dog to end their next poop strike, today we’re bringing you a bunch more indoor activities for dogs to ease your boredom.
1. Tug of War
While the game of tug of war is a hotly debated one, when played safely it can still act as a fun game for you and your dog. Playing safely means only you get to initiate tug of war: it should never begin because your dog is refusing to release a toy. The game should also be ended at your own discretion, by telling your dog to drop the toy. Use a toy designed for pulling: one that keeps your hand far away from your dog’s mouth.
A final note: don’t let your dog take over the game. If they start growling or become agitated, the game ends and they don’t get to play anymore. Dogs that already have issues with resource guarding are also not great candidates for playing tug.
2. Tag or “Go Touch”
Our most recent indoor pastime: playing games of tag! It’s a great way to encourage quick recall while tiring out your dog. To play, you’ll need a partner and a pocketful of treats for each of you. Start at opposite ends of a room or at opposite ends of a hallway. One person calls the dog then rewards them with a treat, then the other calls and rewards, rinse and repeat. Eventually, you and your partner can move farther apart, until your dog is traveling the entire length of the house to get to the other person. The more distance your dog covers, the better! The game of tag also works great outdoors for strengthening recall, so keep it in mind the next time you’re at a park where you can (legally) let your dog run free.
We use the game of tag to strengthen Topher’s greeting cue, “go touch.” His goal: to go and touch the other person’s open palm. This is a great command to teach any dog—it requires control on the dog’s part (they must only go to the person when told) and teaches calm greeting behavior.
3. Clean Up
Ever get jealous of the amazing dogs on YouTube that seem to know one hundred commands all geared towards making their humans’ lives easier? Us too. So, why not try teaching just one of those tricks at home? Teaching a dog to put their own toys away is a challenge both of you can sink your teeth into. Start by teaching your dog to “pick up” and “hold” toys. Once they have these two commands and the “drop it” command learned, you can start linking them together to teach your dog to “put it away.” Considering the number of dog toys we have, this little game could keep our dog occupied for hours!
4. Shell Game
Feeling lucky? Teach your dog to play a simple shell game, and within a few minutes you’ll either be heartily impressed at their powers of deduction, or perhaps wondering if they are just a simple dog. Place a treat under three cups, shuffle them around, and have your dog choose the correct one.
5. Dog Massage
Ahh, who doesn’t like a good massage? Even a short five minute rubdown will relax your pet, and even reduce their stress and anxiety. A daily massage can also help senior dogs or pets with arthritis by soothing those achy joints and sore legs. Here is a primer to get you started, along with a few specific massage techniques you can try at home.
6. Shape Training
Free shaping, or shape training, is a dog training technique geared towards promoting our dog’s innate problem-solving abilities. They get to make their own decisions, without direct verbal or physical input, to learn new tricks or investigate new things. Here’s a great video introduction to free shaping. Pick out a command you think you can shape with your dog, and get started!
7. Blow Bubbles
We learned very quickly that Topher is fascinated by bubbles. Your dog might be too! Don’t worry too much about going out and buying dog-safe bubbles—the bubbles currently on the market for children are also nontoxic and safe for your pet. Spend a few minutes blowing bubbles through your house and you’ll end up with one tired pup.
8. Rotate Toys
Like toddlers, dogs that have access to all their toys are less likely to pick them up and play with them. When you rotate their toys, you create a little more of a scarcity effect, and older toys feel new again after your dog hasn’t seen or interacted with them for a time. Rotating dog toys is also a great way to inspect toys, throwing away any that are too worn, and can help keep your toys cleaner, giving your more opportunities to wash them and put them away.
9. Change the View
Just like people, dogs can get stuck in routines, day in and day out. Maybe they’re used to looking out the same windows, or going out to do the same activities at the same times of day. Change up your dog’s routine or the locations of their favorite pillows, and see if that boosts your dog’s energy or mood. Or if you’re feeling really bold, change the view for the both of you by rearranging some furniture or changing up your decor!
10. Take A Nap
Topher can never resist a good snuggle and a nap on the couch. And sometimes when you’re snowed in, that’s the best kind of activity to pursue.