Rainy days, harsh weather long winter months, or those long work days can sometimes keep us from taking our beloved dogs on their daily walks. Below are some games and activities to help drain energy as well as engage your dog’s mind for much needed mental exercise! Remember with all games there should be a clear start and stop initiated by you!
Keeping your dog busy and energy drained will help prevent destructive or bad behaviors!
Hide and Seek
This is a game where you can either hide a favorite toy, a person (will need a second person), or yummy treats around the house. Start out by throwing the treat or toy near your dog and say “Find it”. Once your dog has gotten the hang of going to get the object, you can start hiding them in easy spots and eventually harder spots. Confine your dog to a room if hiding treats or toys while you hide them. Walk around the house with your dog and use a key word such as “find it”. If you’re hiding a person, have one hold onto the dog so the other has a chance to hide and call out to the dog. To incorporate more fun training into the game, have your dog sit-stay while you hide objects or yourself around the house!
To “amp up” this game even more, hide certain objects and have your dog find them only (i.e. “find keys”, “find ball”, “find remote” etc).
You can create a mini agility course in a living room or basement if you’re able. Just creating a mini jump for your dog to use in smaller spaces is great. Check with your veterinarian if jumping is appropriate for your dog first though!
Go Wild and Freeze
A wonderful game is “Go Wild and Freeze,” first developed by the trainer September Morn. There are many ways to play “Go Wild and Freeze”- here’s one. Start by dancing around and acting excited until your dog gets going too. After a minute or so, you all of a sudden stop moving and at this time ask your dog to sit, or down, or do another calm behavior your dog knows well. The moment she/he does it, start dancing around again; when your dog joins in, stop and ask for the same command again and reward her by re-starting the party.
Mix things up by varying what behaviors you ask for and how long you wait before re-starting the game. If your dog is super-excitable and likely to mouth you or ricochet off you, start with a watered down version of “going wild”-your dog’s introduction to this game can be “Take a Single Step and Freeze” and gradually work up to “Go Wild”. Do not play this game if you can not play safely!
“Go Wild and Freeze” is not only fun but it also teaches your dog self-control as he learns to respond to your cues when excited. End the game clearly-for example by saying “All done!” and sitting down with a book. If you say the same phrase every time, your dog will learn that it signifies the end of play for now. Ignore any attempts to reel you back in otherwise she’ll be pestering you non-stop until you give it.
A stairway is a great place to give your dog a physical challenge. You need two people, one at the top and one at the bottom of the stairs. Each person alternates calling the dog and then rewarding him. It’s important with this game that your dog understands when the game is over. You don’t want your dog to associate the stairway with excitement or it can lead to accidents down the road. If you need help, contact a local professional.
Practice Calmness with Basic Commands
Your dog’s physical needs aren’t the only aspect of him that requires fulfilling. He has psychological needs, too! One activity that doesn’t demand a lot of room to move is the practice of basic training commands. Giving your dog a psychological challenge that forces him to focus and keeps his attention can be a very effective way to drain his energy and strengthen the bond that you share. Remember to keep a bag of his favorite treats on hand as a reward for calm behavior.
Toys and Games
Another tool to add to your mental stimulation “toolbox” is using toys specifically designed for getting your dog to use his brain. Premier makes a ton of great toys for different levels of play ability and different play preferences-whether your dog is able to work out higher level of puzzles to get food and treats out or is more of a rough player who likes to bat toys around. We sell a selection of Premier toys here at the office!
The Muffin Tin Game
Take a 6-muffin tin and put a treat in each cup. Place tennis balls in about half the cups. After your dog has found the easy uncovered treats he will then start knocking the tennis balls off to reveal the remaining treats. As your dog gains experience, you can start hiding treats under only some of the tennis balls and using a 12-muffin or 24-muffin tin. Some dogs love to smack the muffin tin and send all the balls and treats flying — which you could go with, assuming your breakables are somewhere else. Or you could screw the muffin tin to a large piece of plywood. The plan is to keep your dog hard at work figuring out the game! Many pet stores sell similar muffin tin toys which are already assembled if you are looking for something easier to use!
Petsmart sells similar muffin tin toys which are already assembled if you are looking for something easier to use!
The treadmill is a fantastic and very convenient way for your dog to get the exercise from the all-important walk without leaving home. Although not a full-time replacement for the walk, the treadmill can be used to supplement daily exercise, or, in the case of bad weather, substitute it for a short period. Remember to take it slow and allow your dog to get accustomed to the treadmill before leaping right into a running regimen. Once your dog has the hang of it, don’t be surprised if you enter the room one morning to find him sitting expectantly, waiting to be allowed to play with it! Click here for detailed instructions on how to properly acclumate your dog to using the treadmill.
Using a laser pointer can be great exercise for your dog. Be careful not to shine it directly in your pets eyes while play. Some pets may develop an obsession with the laser light and can start chasing light reflections or continually look for the light. Make sure to clearly end the game with a key phrase such as “all done!” and give the pet something else to play with.
Tug of War
Playing tug with your dog can provide a wonderful outlet for her natural canine urges to grab and pull on things with her mouth. You can also use this game to exercise your dog and teach her important lessons, such as how to listen to you when she’s excited. ASPCA has a great article on how to properly introduce tug of war, rules for proper/safe play and signs to look out for in your pet which indicate that you should not play this game.