Exercising your dog’s mind and body inside your home
Can’t take your dog outside? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of ways to entertain them. I call these activities “indoor recess” as they remind me of rainy or blizzarding days growing up where we would have to spend recess inside and the (poor) teachers would have to find ways to drain our energy inside the classroom. While exercising your dog outdoors is ideal, when it is not possible there are some great ways to engage their minds and bodies indoors.
Hide and go seek
This is an easy game to play indoors and especially fun to play with multiple members of your human family. Start off by showing your dog what it is you're going to hide like a toy, or even a person! The next step is to put them somewhere they can't see you stashing away the prize like another room. Once the item is hidden, go get your dog and tell them to find it. You can say “go get it” or “where is it?” – Whatever you like, but keep it choose once to keep it consistent. Encourage them as they get closer with praise and a quick "uh oh" when they get off track. Give hints if needed, by pointing or walking toward the hiding place, until your dog really has a grasp of what this game is all about. When they find the hidden object, make a big fuss over the accomplishment. They'll quickly catch on to what the game is about and get faster the more you play.
There’s also a version of this game called “Hot and Cold” where you use a calm, slower tone for when say “cold” your dog is off on the wrong track and get more excited when your dog gets closer to the prize (“hot!”).
Create an Obstacle Course
An obstacle course in your home is a great way to challenge your dog both physically and mentally. Use treats to encourage your dog to weave through and go under chairs, jump on and off of pillows and even do little jumps if their joints have matured. The great thing about an obstacle course is that you can mix it up so that there are endless varieties of the same exciting game.
Guess Which Hand Game
If you’ve been thinking about teaching your dog some scent work games this is a great game to get you started. The only thing you’ll need is some dog treats.
Start by putting a little treat in one of your hands. Close both fists and present them to your dog. Let them choose which hand the treat is in. You can use some verbal guidance by saying “where’s the treat?” or “pick a hand”. When your dog sniffs or paws the correct hand, open it up to reveal a treat and praise verbally. If they don’t pick the right hand, a gentle “uh oh” or “ah ah” will direct them to the other hand eventually where they’ll get a treat and lots of praise.
There are few things cuter than a dog who is fascinated by catching bubbles. You don’t have to go out and buy special bubbles either – the bubbles that are available for children are nontoxic (always check the label). Blow some bubbles in an open room where they can jump a bit and frolic while enjoying the magic of bubbles. This activity is great if you’re tired as it can be done from the comfort of a chair.
When we aren’t able to take our beloved best friend out on a walk, we have to be creative and innovate ways to keep their minds and bodies active indoors. Do you have an “indoor recess” game you like to play with your dog? Tell me about it in the comments below!