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Even if the weather outside isn’t ideal, your dog still requires mental and physical exercise. You want to make sure you keep your dog busy indoors on rainy days so you won’t have to deal with destructive behavior.
So have some activities ready for your pup even if the weather’s great.
You may not always have time to take him on a long walk. Or you may get home after dark and can’t play his normal game of fetch outside.
In this blog post, I’ll give you some ideas on indoor activities that your pooch should love on a rainy day.
Why You Should Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors
There are so many benefits to indoor activities. They work your dog’s body and mind.
Even senior dogs should have some activities they’re able to engage in. Being active helps a dog remain healthy.
Working with your dog builds your bond. And the exercises below also help you communicate what behaviors you desire.
Learning new behaviors that we want also helps build a dog’s confidence.
And last, but not least, indoor activities will help tire out your dog. And they’re fun!
I have some really high-drive dogs. My Aussie mix Millie needs to engage in daily activities. Or she wouldn’t be able to settle down.
So I always have some type of activity ready in case we can’t play our regular games of ball outside.
What Dogs Benefit from Indoor Activities?
All healthy dogs can benefit from certain activities. If in doubt, check with your vet regarding which of the activities discussed below would be fine for your dog.
Generally, certain breeds and mixes require more exercise than others.
Herding, sporting, working, hound, and terrier breeds need more exercise than some other types of dogs.
They were bred for certain activities and, if not engaging in what they were bred for, need other physical and mental exercise.
And some nonsporting dogs like Lhasa apso don’t require the amount of physical exercise working-type breeds do.
Of course, all dogs should also have mental stimulation.
You don’t want to overwhelm your dog, so take into consideration your particular dog’s needs when deciding what activities are appropriate for him.
Even play helps alleviate stress and exercises a dog mentally and physically.
Just be sure to take into account any calories from treats in your dog’s overall caloric intake. And treats shouldn’t constitute more than a small portion of your dog’s total caloric intake.
Great Indoor Activities
1. Obedience Training
As a dog trainer, of course I believe that all dogs should have at least basic training.
Knowing what’s expected makes a dog’s world less stressful. And it helps him comprehend it. Training should be part of your schedule with your dog.
So teach various behaviors. And make them fun.
You can even teach your dog the 10 exercises necessary for passing the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test.
2. Teach Fun Tricks
Teaching tricks is really just another form of obedience. But they’re so much fun to teach and to show your friends that they don’t seem like work.
You can teach your pup to speak and be quiet on cue, roll over, wave, crawl, ring a bell, and more.
I just taught my sheltie Murphy to weave through my legs as I walk. It’s entertaining and Murphy enjoys working with me.
Use your imagination! The sky’s the limit!
3. Canine Freestyle
If your dog already knows basic behavior cues, you can teach him some advanced behaviors.
Canine freestyle is a competitive sport where the pet parent “dances” with her dog. You can see examples on YouTube. I’ve done it for fun.
You teach the dog various behaviors that will be useful when put together and performed to music.
Technical heeling, backing up, dancing on hind legs, and weaving through your legs are some of the behaviors that are often used.
4. Use Puzzle Toys
You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a wide variety of puzzle toys.
As long as your dog doesn’t chew paper, you can use a shoe box with upright empty toilet paper rolls with kibble scattered to the bottom of the box.
If your dog doesn’t chew cloth, you can roll up some kibble in a few towels and have your pup have fun finding the food treasure.
5. Use Toys that Require Licking
Licking is soothing to dogs. It also helps tire them out.
I fill them with various mixes, such as a combination of plain pumpkin, no-fat plain Greek yogurt, and baby food sweet potato.
Then I freeze the toys before giving them to my dogs. I call them my “dog-sitters.”
6. Teach Tug and Release
Teaching a dog to tug and release a toy can be a lot of fun.
And make sure that you teach your dog to take the toy (“take it”) and release it on your verbal cue (“give”). When teaching the release, have a great treat ready to do an exchange.
I won’t teach this game to a dog who guards resources though. If your dog guards resources, get professional help to work with the issue.
And I recommend just a few tugs during the session so that your dog doesn’t become over-stimulated.
7. K9 Nosework
Dogs naturally use their noses to investigate and make sense of the world. So why not put this natural skill to use?
You can teach your dog to find treats or toys that you hide under furniture. Just put the treat or kibble about an inch or two on the floor from the edge of the furniture.
At first, show your dog hiding one. Then tell him “find it.” Praise when he finds the hidden treasure. Do this a few times to be sure that he understands the game.
Eventually, have him out of the room while you hide the objects. You’re creating an indoor sniffari!
Snuffle mats are also great for dogs to find dry treats or kibble. They are cloth with areas to hide the food.
You can use plastic cups and hide a treat under one. After your dog understands the treat is there and can knock the cup over to get it, add more cups without treats under them. Space them a few feet apart.
8. Teach Fetch
In order to do some of the tricks and other exercises I discuss, your dog first needs to fetch on cue. So you need to teach him to take and hold the toy. Then, while holding it, move towards you and come to you. Then to release the item.
9. Teach Names of Toys
Get out a few of your dog’s favorite toys. During the first session, use a one-word name for the toy then play with him. Have him fetch it.
Each time you hold the toy up, use the name. It may take a few sessions until he understands.
Then put the toy on the ground and ask him (naming it) to fetch it. If he doesn’t know how to fetch, teach that separately.
After he understands the name of that toy, do the same with his others–one at a time.
Once he understands a few, you can line them up and ask him to fetch a particular one by name
10. Teach Your Dog To Put Toys Away
After he knows the names of toys, teach him to put them in his toy box. If you don’t have a toy box, use a low cardboard box.
You need to teach him to take the toy, bring it to the box, then drop it in. So there are three steps to teach this useful and impressive skill.
11. Teach Useful Tasks
You can teach your dog to turn lights on and off on cue.
You can teach him to clean his feet on a mat before entering your house. He can learn to put a piece of trash in the trash can. You get the idea.
12. Teach Impulse Control Exercises
All dogs need to have impulse control. There are many ways that you can teach this necessary skill.
Of course, teaching him the stays (sit/stay, down/stay, and wait) are important impulse control exercises.
But you can also teach your dog to go to a bed or mat, eventually adding a sit or down stay while there.
You can teach him a “settle” command so that he calms down on cue.
13. Teach Clicker Exercises
So you need to teach him that a click marks that he performed the correct behavior. The click is always followed by a treat.
You first need to click and treat five times in a row so that he understands that a treat comes immediately after the click. It’s called”loading the clicker.”
So make sure that you have the treat ready. Then, start using it after he performs a desired behavior. Immediately after he sits, click and give the treat to your dog.
14. Do Random Recalls
Random recalls will really help your dog’s reliability in coming when called.
Have great treats (such as small, pea-sized pieces of meat or cheese) ready. Then call your dog. When he comes, praise and give him a few treats in a row (a jackpot).
Hide in another room and call him. Praise and jackpot when he reaches you.
Do round-robin recalls where a few people call him back and forth a few times. Treat and jackpot when he comes.
15. Use an Indoor Obstacle Course
You can purchase a basic course or make one of your own. The goal is just to have fun.
I don’t make the course too difficult or dangerous. So I keep jumps just a few inches off the ground.
You can use a sturdy box as a tunnel, luring him through with a great treat. You have your pup weave around obstacles, such as a row of five plastic laundry jugs.
At first, slowly lure him back and forth using the cue “weave.” In the beginning, give the treat after each back-and-forth time.
After a few sessions, give him his treat after he has to weave a little further. Eventually use your hand motion without a treat lure and reward only at the end of the weave sequence.
You can put a mop pole over two low boxes such as shoe boxes as a jump.
16. Chasing Bubbles
You can purchase dog-safe, nontoxic bubbles. Just like when we were kids, many dogs love to chase the bubbles. It’s fun! The bubbles are new to your canine pal and are often very exciting.
17. Play with a Flirt Pole
A flirt pole is a pole that has a line through it with a toy attached at the end. You can make your own with a PVC pipe and durable cord and a cloth toy. Or you can buy one.
Dogs with prey drive love to play. It’s a great way to exercise your pup. And it gives shy dogs and puppies confidence.
As is true of any toy, make sure that you don’t wave the toy around too high so that he doesn’t get hurt. And your dog must know a release cue so that he readily gives the toy up.
18. Teach Targeting
Targeting is a very useful skill. It can teach a dog to pay attention, to stay low and not jump, and to be gentle with hands as well as not hand shy.
You can also teach a dog where you want him to be instead of luring with a treat.
I start with nose targeting. As long as your dog isn’t hand shy or aggressive, you can put the flat palm of your hand right in front of his nose, perpendicular to the floor. Tell him to “touch.”
When his nose touches your palm, mark the behavior by saying “yes” and give him a treat from the other hand.
You can also teach him to target to a bell, push buttons, and much more. You can also teach him to target items with a paw.
19. Teach Fun and Default Sits
The sit exercise doesn’t have to be boring. You can make it a game. As long as your dog knows how to sit on cue, have some treats ready. Tell him to sit and praise and reward.
Move to another place and have him sit. The point is to get him to sit quickly. Always praise and treat after the sit.
Just do five or six per session. After each sit, release him to do the next one.Tell him “let’s go,” and move a few feet away each time.
You want the game to be fun. So be upbeat and even a little silly. You can wave your arms around and use a high-pitched voice eventually as a distraction after he understands the game. But don’t get too excited if your dog still jumps.
20. Free-Shaping Exercises
In free shaping, you teach a behavior in gradual steps. You reward each step that approximates the final behavior.
As is true in rewarding any behavior, you need to praise and reward at the exact time time after he performs the desired action.
So, for example, if you want to use shaping instead of luring to teach a dog to go to a mat, you can praise and reward when he steps towards it. Eventually rewarding when he walks closer, and eventually onto the mat.
It takes a lot of time to accomplish some behaviors using shaping. But it’s also very rewarding.
You can also use free shaping to broaden your dog’s adventures. Most people start with a cardboard box cut down low enough that the dog can easily step.
And the box should be large enough that he can sit in it. So each time he does something you desire like walking toward the box, sniffing it, putting a foot in, or getting in, praise (or click) and reward.
If your pup isn’t interested, end the exercise. And even if he’s interested in investigating the box, end the exercise after about five minutes max and while he’s still interested.
You don’t want to use a box if your dog chews on paper.
21. Take it on the Road
If it’s too hot, cold, or rainy but the conditions still are safe to drive, you can take your pup to an enriching indoor adventure. This can be in a pet store or mall where dogs are permitted.
Or even to swim at an indoor pool that allows dogs. Or have an indoor play date with a compatible dog at your house or your friend’s.
My dog gets bored easily. What can I do to occupy him when indoors?
Try various activities listed above. Mix up what you do each day to keep things interesting.
I have a beagle who is always sniffing the ground. How can I occupy him indoors?
You can do canine nosework with him and use puzzle toys indoors. But make sure to do other activities too so that he learns to pay attention to you.
Teach him some obedience exercises and tricks. Teach him to target to your hand as well as impulse control exercises.
I also recommend teaching him a “sniff” cue to let him know when he can sniff and when he can’t so that his genes don’t take over and so that he doesn’t compulsively sniff everything.
My friend trained her dog with a clicker. Does it really help a dog learn?
Yes! First you have to teach the dog that a click marks the desired behavior and that a treat immediately follows.
Your timing must be precise to mark and reward what he did correctly. I’ve successfully clicker-trained my dogs.
It’s always a good idea to have fun ways to keep your dog busy indoors for rainy days or any other time you can’t bring your dog outdoors. Think about the scorching 110+ degree heat in Arizona and across the country happening right now.
We tend to forget that we can both mentally and physically exercise our pups in the house without stepping foot outside.
If you haven’t already be sure and bookmark this page so you have plenty of ideas to keep your dog busy indoors just in case the weather outside is foul.
What do you do to keep your dog entertained indoors?
Do you have a favorite game you play?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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