I've discovered fun ways to keep my dog entertained while indoors and enjoy sharing tips with fellow dog parents.
Dogs are, in general, social, active creatures that enjoy a lot of stimulation. The great outdoors—whether it be a forest or just your neighborhood—can provide much of that stimulation. But what do you do with your canine buddy if you're both stuck indoors for the day? Or, worse, if your dog can't get out and stretch their legs for several weeks? It happens, and you'll need to find alternate methods for satisfying your dog's thirst for fun.
Here are some suggestions to keep your dog from getting into too much trouble when they're bored:
- Train Your Dog
- Play With Your Dog
- Play Hide-and-Seek
- Use Puzzle Toys
- Create Frozen Treats
1. Train Your Dog
This is perhaps the most obvious activity you can undertake with your dog, and by the same token, it's probably the one the average person is most likely to overlook. Training your dog provides some excellent mental stimulus, and can be just as tiring, or perhaps even more, as the average walk outdoors. Whether you're teaching your dog new tricks or just brushing up on the classics, engaging your dog's brain and forcing them to concentrate on you in exchange for treats is a great way to tire them out. Here are some indoor training techniques that you can practice in your house:
- Shaking a paw
- Touch training
- Leash training, such as heel, come, etc.
- Picking up and dropping objects
- Barking on command (though this can get a bit obnoxious if you're not careful)
Not only will you wear out your dog this way, but you'll also improve their behavioral skills—a win-win for everybody.
2. Play With Your Dog
This is another obvious tip, but engaging one-on-one with your dog will be more stimulating than letting the dog do their own thing. Depending on your range of movement, your options may be limited, but even simple games of fetch shouldn't be too hard to manage.
Wrestling matches and games of keep-away can be particularly effective, as they force your dog to contend against you for control of one of their toys. Most activities can be transformed into games, as well—for example, if you're busy doing laundry and the dog keeps getting in trouble, it's usually not too difficult to chuck a ball down the hallway while you're folding shirts. If you're feeling especially industrious, you can even teach your dog to help you clean.
3. Play Hide-And-Seek
This tip is more effective if you live somewhere large, though it can work in smaller apartments as well. The first implementation of hide-and-seek should be familiar to anyone who grew up with other kids: Get your dog to stay, hide somewhere in your house, then call for them to come find you (your dog finds you . . . rinse and repeat). Dogs have a tendency to look in the same place when playing hide-and-seek, so get creative with your hiding spots. Even throwing a blanket over yourself and hunching over on the ground can be enough to fool a dog for a little while.
I personally find the second method of hide-and-seek more effective, and it works better if your dog eats kibble. Wait until mealtime, have your dog wait inside a closed room for a few minutes, and then spread their food in various spots throughout your home. Let your dog loose. Pretty quickly they'll realize that you've turned the house into a doggy scavenger hunt, and no corner will go unsearched until the dog has found every bit of food there is to find. This one requires a bit of prep time, but it works wonders to engage your dog's nose.
Tip: Don't use kibble? You can still do this with other treats. I find small bits of carrot and cheese work well with my dog. If he knows there's a tiny bit of mozzarella somewhere for him to find, he'll search for ages.
4. Use Puzzle Toys
The average dog will do just about anything for food, and that includes messing with puzzles to get to their treats. There is a huge market for puzzle toys of all kinds that can keep your dog busy, both during mealtime and other moments when you just need some peace and quiet for a few minutes. Puzzle toys can get pretty intricate and expensive, but there are plenty of cheap, effective toys for owners on a budget.
I use the Idepet Dog Balls—not only are they easy to load up and deploy, but they also have the added benefit of cleaning my dog's teeth (just make sure you wash them regularly as they get slobbery).
5. Create Frozen Treats
Dogs derive a great deal of joy from chewing on things, so it's to your benefit to give your dogs chewable items that are not, say, family heirlooms or valuable electronics. There's a massive market for chewable treats that can last dogs for days, though their efficacy varies based on how much your dog likes to chew. Heavy chewers can work through a $10 stick within an hour (not a great investment).
To save money, you may want to consider freezing treats for your dog. I find that carrots, in particular, become quite tough to chew once frozen, though other vegetables can work in a pinch as well. Shove the carrot in another object to prevent the dog from swallowing it all at once. I find the Idepet balls above work well for this, depending on the width of the carrot. This technique allows you to create a nice, cheap project for your dog to work on for a while. Keep an eye on your dog just to make sure they aren't choking on their toy.
Along the same lines, you can also freeze smaller objects in water, such as kibble pellets, and give them to your dog to work on. I find my dog loves working away at iced-over Kong toys like the one listed below. Put the Kong in a cup, pack it with some kibble, and fill it with water. Place a large treat in the middle to further entice your dog if you think it's necessary. Put the whole thing in your freezer for a while, and, bam, you have another project for your dog to work on.
Tip: Anything frozen will thaw and make a mess. You might want to restrict your dog to kitchen floors.
Dogs require a lot of stimulation, it's true, and much of the stimulation you can provide comes from attention. Your dog is a family member, and you need to commit at least a few hours a day to fulfill their emotional desires, indoors or out. By doing so, you'll wind up with a happier, calmer, more well-rounded pooch.