Being stuck at home is disappointing for both you and your dog. We all know an active dog is a happy dog, but even if you can’t get out as much as you’d ideally like to over the next few weeks, there’s still plenty you can do at home to help keep your dog stimulated and entertained. Check out our tips below for how you can keep your dog entertained indoors.
Dog Activity Requirements
Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation to stay fit, healthy and happy. Physical exertion comes from walking, running and playing, whilst many different things can provide mental stimulation.
From tracking scents outside, to concentrating hard on obedience training, or attempting to get kibble out of a puzzle toy – tough mental concentration results in a tired, happy dog.
A dog who lacks stimulation (of either the physical or mental type) often ends up letting out her pent-up energy in an undesirable manner, such as chewing her owner’s socks or destroying a piece of furniture. This is why it’s so important to ensure your dog gets plenty of stimulation, both mental and physical.
Ideas to Entertain Your Dog Indoors
1. Practice short bursts of obedience training each day
Training your dog provides great mental stimulation. Using positive reinforcement methods, go over all the commands you’ve taught her previously, or introduce a new one.
Whether you’re just starting out with obedience or your dog is a seasoned pro, it’s useful to spend at least 5-10 minutes on training every day, to ensure all commands are well cemented in your dog’s mind, and she can always recall the correct behavior when needed.
2. Teach your dog a new trick
Try teaching your dog a new trick. Whether it’s shaking a paw, learning the name of a favorite toy, or crawling underneath a chair – the possibilities are endless!
A great trick to try is tidying up. First, teach your dog what “put it away” means, by getting her to pick up one of her dog toys, carry it to a box and drop it. Then you can progress to scattering toys around a room, pointing to them one at a time as she picks them up and puts them away, until eventually she’s able to do it with just the command.
3. Give your dog a stuffed Kong or a food-dispensing puzzle toy
Stuff a Kong or a similar toy with pieces of kibble, mixed in with a tasty treat like a spoonful of peanut butter, canned pumpkin or mashed banana. Pro tip – you can freeze it to make it last longer for your pup!
Puzzle toys and food dispensing toys are great for mental stimulation (as well as dogs who gobble up their meals too fast!) Your dog needs to “solve” the puzzle, by tilting or shaking the puzzle toy to knock the kibble out before she can eat it.
4. Let her watch the world go by
Dogs love to sit by the window. If you can, set up a safe spot for your pup where she can see out of the window, and if you feel comfortable doing so, open the window a crack for her to enjoy the smells and sounds of the outdoors.
5. Rotate your dog’s toys
Just like children, dogs like new things. By rotating your dog’s toys, you can make the toys seem much more interesting!
Stash some of your dog’s toys in a cupboard for a couple of days, and then swap them over to give your dog something new to play with.
Dogs love new things. Hide some toys in a cupboard for a few days, then bring them out again for the novelty factor!
6. Play tug of war
Tug of war is a great indoor game that doesn’t require much space but is incredibly physically demanding, and tires dogs (and humans!) out very quickly.
Other games you can adapt for indoor play include throwing a very lightweight ball in a safe area for your dog to catch or fetch, provided there is nothing breakable around.
7. Play hide and seek
Particularly fun if you have kids – get your dog to sit, stay (give her a human helper if she doesn’t know how to stay yet) and then go and hide. When you’re ready, call her to come and find you.
When she succeeds, make sure to react super enthusiastically and reward her so she knows she did a good job and enjoys the game as much as you did!
8. Find the treats
Your dog’s sense of smell is incredibly stimulating for her, so let her nose do some work. Hide treats around your home and let her sniff them out throughout the day.
If you repeat this over several days, make sure to vary the placement of the treats to keep it interesting for your dog.
9. Play “Guess the hand”
Another smell-related game – with a treat hidden in one hand, hold both hands out in front of you with your fists closed. Get your dog to guess which one holds the treat by touching it with her nose or paw. Only give her the treat if she guesses correctly.
Another variant of this game is the “3 cup game”. Similar to the common trickster game with three cups and a ball hidden under one of them, you hide a treat under one cup, muddle up the cups and let your dog try to guess which cup the treat is under.
10. Create an indoor obstacle course
If you have enough room, why not set up a homemade obstacle course for your pup? Teach your pup the basics of agility, jumping over some small boxes, weaving through stacks of books, and lying down on a blanket at the end.
Another great one to keep kids entertained too, you could even work up to hosting your own dog show with an agility course and obedience category with your kids as dog handlers!
Aim for a balance between physical and mental stimulation
As in humans, dogs need a balance of physical and mental exercise. While it can’t replace their outdoor adventures entirely, we hope this list gives you some inspiration and helps to keep your pups entertained while we’re all cooped up a little more than we’d like over the next few weeks.
Your Small Door team is here for you, and available 24/7 via the app if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s health.