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Entertaining Your Dog Indoors

Dogs need to keep busy, it’s in their genes! All breeds had a job at one point. But what to do when the weather is bad or you’re too busy and tired for a long walk? Enter indoor games.

Mental stimulation is important to prevent destructiveness from boredom and hyperactivity. Studies have also shown it reduces brain aging, just like in people. What’s more, playing games with your dog facilitates bonding and builds impulse control.

Here are some of our favorite games to play with the dogs in our care. Grab some tasty treats and get playing!

Doggy Push-ups

Ask your dog for a sit, and then for a down. You’ll be surprised how hard it is for dogs to go from a down back up to a sit. You may need to lure him back up with a treat in your hand. See how many times you can get your dog to “sit, down, sit” in 30 seconds.

Pro version: Ask for sit, down, sit again, and then up on her back legs for a beg.

Red Light, Green Light: This game has great real-world applications. Once your dog learns “stop” you could save him from running into the road, after a squirrel, or even through a mud puddle.

  • Ask your dog for either a sit or a down, whichever helps them stay longer.
  • Next tell her to stay, and take a few steps backward.
  • After no more than a few seconds, enthusiastically call your dog to come to you.
  • Repeat this sequence.
  • Next time, when your dog is running toward you, hold your palm out and yell “stop.” It helps if you lean forward in his direction as you say it. Praise your dog if he slows even a little bit.

As your dog begins to master this, you can make it more difficult by asking for longer stays and distances.

Nose work

A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours. Engage their brains with these fun sniffing games.

Find it: Our favorite, and very easy. Simply toss a treat and encourage your dog to “find it!” Start by tossing the treat a few feet away and work up to longer distances. Make a big deal and praise him when he finds the treat.

Which hand? Put a treat in one of your palms with your hands behind your back. Hold out your two closed fists and ask your dog “which one?” If he guesses correctly the first time, let him have the treat. Ask again until he gets it right.

Three Cup Game: Similar to the above game, let your dog watch you put a treat under a plastic cup and then mix it up with two  empty cups.  

Remember to take frequent breaks and keep it lighthearted so your dog doesn’t get frustrated. If you find she doesn’t understand the game, make it as easy as possible and praise any effort. After all, it should be fun for everyone.

Happy training!

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