The winter, rainy days and an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic can make staying indoors seem dreadfully boring and remarkably sad. People in northern states oftentimes ditch the cold for warm, southern sun during winter months to help both their mental and physical health.
While winters are a challenge for humans, they oftentimes can be a challenge for our canine companions as well. A lack of exercise, colder weather and boredom can lead some dogs to be more anxious, depressed or to exhibit destructive behavior. It’s important to help keep our pups entertained throughout the winter and encourage stimulating play, even while indoors.
To help with some ideas, we’ve compiled a list of eight indoor activities to keep your dog active this winter and throughout the pandemic. Feel free to try any or all of them!
Hide-and-seek is a childhood classic your dog will enjoy, too. First, ensure your dog knows basic commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “come.” Lead your dog to a room with an open door and have him sit, then stay. Next, go hide in a separate room and call to your dog to “come.” You can reward him with a treat for finding you.
This allows him to practice following the sound of your voice, which stimulates both his mind and body. Let the fun continue for as long as he’d like.
Puppy Play Dates
Who said playdates are just for kids? Most dogs love playdates with their pals as well. If your dog gets along well with others, consider having some of his friends over for a mini play session. Even a short time together will allow Fido to release pent up energy while roughhousing, and simply being around other canines is stimulating. There’s no doubt about it – he’ll sleep well at night.
You can create an obstacle course using ordinary, at-home objects for a simple, enriching game. For example, stack books that he must jump over. Place chairs in different locations that he must crawl under or through. Create a tunnel using an old cardboard box by opening both ends of the box. The options are endless, and almost any household item can be added to your obstacle course with a little creativity and imagination.
If your pooch enjoys a good game of fetch, you can up the ante by playing fetch on the stairs. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your furry friend sit. Then throw his ball to the top of the stairs so he has to race to get it. Even a few times of doing this might wear him out, so take it easy on him and stop when he’s showing signs of being done. This game is typically recommended for pups older than one year that have more fully developed joints.
Sniffing for Hidden Treasure
A dog’s sense of smell is so powerful, it is often described as their primary means of “seeing” the world. With many more scent receptors than a human, a dog is sure to love any game that involves the use of his nose to sniff for hidden treasure.
All you need is a few cardboard boxes, or any hollow objects you can place things into, and some treats. Scatter a myriad of your boxes or objects around the room and place treats only under a few of them. Next, let your dog “hunt” and sniff out which objects contain the treats. Of course, once he finds them, reward his job well done with the hidden prizes.
You can continue by rearranging the boxes and changing each time where the treats go. This will help keep him on his toes and allow his mind and body to get to work.
Practicing old tricks and learning new ones is a great way to spend any day indoors. Even if it’s just a quick, 15-minute session, obedience training not only reinforces desired behavior, but it engages your dog’s mind as he practices listening to your commands and following through with an action. This is an easy activity that reaps benefits for both of you as it helps strengthen your bond and trust in each other.
If your furry friend is good at commands such as “heel” and staying near you, it might be fun to take a stab at practicing weave poles. Simply line up several chairs, poles or stacks of books in a row, and having your dog stay by your side, lead him to weave in and out of the objects with you.
Change the pace each time you do it so he is staying engaged mentally, following your lead. You can go from walking to running to a light jog to keep him mentally and physically active at the same time.
This game requires two people and some treats. Have your dog start next to one person while the other person tells him to “come.” Once he comes, reward him with a treat. Next, the opposite person will tell him to come and subsequently reward him with a treat. Keep repeating this while putting more distance between you and the other person, so soon, the two of you will be standing on opposite ends of the room with your dog running between the two of you to collect his treat.
Once he gets the idea, you can limit his treat intake and only reward him with the treat every-other time. This too will keep him guessing and help his mind stay focused to listen for his commands to get the treat.
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