We’ve experienced a pandemic, wildfire smoke affecting air quality, and hot days that make long dog walk impossible. As a result, many dog owners are faced with finding ways to keep their four-legged friend(s) happy while staying indoors. Unable to run off-leash at beaches or dog parks or meet up with friends on walks can be ruff for our furry friends who require social interaction to blow off steam.
More time indoors with a dog can be especially difficult for those who live in apartments or don’t have their own backyard. A bored dog can become stressed, destructive, and even depressed. Here are a few things you can try to help keep your best fur friend active and engaged, even when you’re indoors.
Hide-a-treat & burrowing toys
Most owners have already invested in some kind of hide-a-treat toy. There are even treat puzzles that will keep your friend occupied while they exercise their problem-solving skills. These types of toys can keep your dog busy for a good amount of time as they figure out ways to extract the yummy goodies hidden inside. You can simply drop a few treats into the toy and let them have at it, or get fancy with some scrumptious stuffing recipes!
Burrowing toys are another great way to keep your dog(s) active (especially if you have a feisty terrier!) There’s a great selection of toys (get this) with other toys hidden inside them! Just like the hide-a-treat variety, these types of toys are a wonderful way for your pet to activate their thinking caps and have fun on their own!
No toy to hide stuff in? Hide treats or toys around your home and send those furballs on a scavenger hunt!
Practice commands or try teaching new tricks
Dogs love to make their humans happy. They thrive when they know they’re pleasing us and can make us proclaim their favorite phrase, “good girl/boy!” Practicing commands as basic as sit and stay, or teaching a new trick can be a great way to spend some time each day with your dog. This keeps them stimulated, and both of you benefit from the activity. Arm yourself with bite-sized treats and use a reward-based system to encourage them. If you’re not too keen on giving too many treats, try switching between positive reinforcement and treats to mix things up.
Don’t feel discouraged if your dog gets distracted or stops paying attention. Take that as a cue to take a break or end the activity for the day.
Have a Hallway? How about some indoor fetch? Of course you don’t need a hallway to play, but we suggest using a light ball or soft toy. Make sure you have a wide enough path for your dog to run, and throw the ball/toy low if you want to avoid hitting objects of great value like that Ming Dynasty vase precariously showcased in the middle of your living room on a marble pedestal. Though let’s face it, I think we all agreed we couldn’t have nice things when we decided to get a dog.
Hide and seek
You’re never too old for a game of hide and seek, especially if your dog is doing the seeking. Get crafty and see how long it takes for your best friend to find you. Extra points if you use diversion tactics to throw them off your trail!
Dental chews, bully sticks or any type of treat safe for your pup to gnaw on can keep them tied up for quite some time. Always make sure the chew is an appropriate size for your dog.
Tug o’ war!
Most dogs love a good old-fashioned game of tug o’ war. Rope toys or any type of toy you can use to pull are a fun way to engage with your fur children. This activity helps them get their energy out while strengthening their bond with you through collaborative play. This type of play also increases your dog’s confidence and helps to clean their teeth!
You might be thinking “My dog hates to be groomed”, but this could be the perfect opportunity to build trust and get them used to being bathed, brushed, and having their nails trimmed. Experiment with different techniques and find out what your dog is most comfortable with. If your dog is especially scared of being groomed, be patient with them and don’t force anything on them the first time. Are they afraid of the clippers? Try placing the clippers down and letting them sniff and investigate them for a while. Do they hate being brushed? Like the clippers, let them spend some time “getting to know” the tool, and make sure you are using the appropriate comb/brush for your dog’s hair. Using the wrong type of tool can hurt them, and that could be the reason they run and hide when they see you coming with it.
Grooming can be a great bonding experience once you figure out what works for you and your dog.
Indoor obstacle course
If you have the space and time, try creating an indoor obstacle course! If you’ve got some agility equipment already, kudos to you, but you don’t need to own anything official to have fun with this. Got some boxes or books and a broom? Try making a bar jump/hurdle! Hula hoop in storage getting dusty? Now you have a “tire” jump! Children’s soccer cones can be used for weaving, and pop up hampers can be refashioned into tunnels! An ottoman or sturdy box can be used as a pause table, and something as simple as blanket, towel or pieces from a child’s playmat can be used as contact zones to practice commands such as sit, wait, and touch. Get creative with it!