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Making the Indoors Fun! | Families

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Making the Indoors Fun!

The freezing temperatures have turned long walks with your dog into quick sprints to get in and out of the cold. But being indoors with your pet can be fun too. Here are some alternatives to outdoor exercise that can help keep your dog entertained and keep you inside your cozy, heated house:

o   Hide & Seek

Start by having your dog sit and stay while you leave the room.  Hide just around the corner, behind a wall, or behind a piece of furniture where it will be easy for your dog to find you. Then, call your dog. When he finds you, praise him like crazy and give him a treat. As your dog gets better at the game, you can start hiding in more creative places, making it more challenging for him to find you. If you live in a house with stairs—great! You can really tucker out your dog by having him race up and down the stairs to find you. End the game while your dog is still excited to find you so that he’ll be eager to play the next time. Not only is this game fun, but it’s also a great training exercise because your dog is getting rewarded with treats and excitement from you when you call him.

o   “Find It”

This is similar to Hide and Seek, except your dog is searching for an item instead of searching for you. The item can be anything your dog will “hunt” for, such as food or a favorite toy (although I find that food works best for most dogs). Start with a small treat and hide it somewhere easy for your dog to find, perhaps even just placing the treat a few feet away from your dog. Then say, “find it” and release your dog. Give him lots of praise when he gets the treat. Eventually, as your dog gets the hang of it, you can be more creative about where you hide the treat.

o   Puzzle Toys

At almost any local pet boutique you can find a variety of puzzle toys or food-dispensing toys such as Kongs, Nina Ottosson puzzles, or the Aikiou Food Bowl Puzzle. Some of these toys are designed for your dog to play with on his own and others are interactive games that you can enjoy with your dog.

Also, here is an inexpensive alternative to store-bought puzzle toys:

Place a couple of small treats in each section of a 12-cup muffin pan, then place a tennis ball in each cup. Your dog will need to use his nose or paws to push each ball out of the way and uncover the treats!

o   Training

Learning something new can often be just as exhausting as physical exercise, so training can also be a good energy burner. Refresh your dog’s obedience skills or teach him a new trick. Just remember to keep it fun and rewarding! (Or if you find yourself getting a case of cabin fever, consider enrolling in one of the many fun classes and workshops offered at the Washington Humane Society Behavior & Learning Center!)

o   Laser Pointer/Flashlight

We typically think of cats chasing laser pointers, but some dogs love to chase the light from a laser pointer or flashlight too. This game can really get some dogs racing around, so use caution if your dog gets too worked up, and be careful where you point the light! Also, if played for too long this game can be frustrating for your dog because he never gets to “catch” the light. It can be a lot of fun to play and is a great energy burner, but it should not be a replacement for grabbing a toy and getting down on the floor to play with your dog.

o   Tug-of-War

This game has gotten a bad rap over the years, but if your dog doesn’t have any aggressive tendencies it’s perfectly fine to play and can even be a great confidence-builder for your dog, as long as you follow the rules:

  • Choose the right toy, such as a rope or rubber toy, preferably with a handle and enough distance between your hand and your dog’s mouth.
  • Start and stop the game when you decide.
  • End the game if your dog’s teeth make contact with your hand. His teeth may occasionally come into contact with your hand while playing, but by sticking to this rule initially, it will teach him to be careful about where he puts his mouth.
  • It’s okay to let your dog take turns winning, but you should keep the toy at the end of the game.
  • Teach your dog a “drop it” command so that he’ll release the toy to you when you ask.