There are many reasons why you might have no choice but to temporarily exercise your dog inside – weather issues, your own health issues, global pandemic…
A stimulated dog is a happy dog. It is our job to ensure our dogs are stimulated, especially when we can’t get out much. Regular playtime helps to reinforce basic commands and strengthen the relationship between you and your dog, as well as tire them out. Not forgetting of course, people benefit from interactions with their pets too!
Whatever you chose to do, ensure the activity suits the individual needs of your dog.
Here are just a few ideas of what you might do to make your dog’s time indoors fun and enriching.
Agility Course – Agility courses are a great way to exercise both your dog’s mind and body. We love them as they can be adapted specifically to each dogs individual needs. Both Buzz and Sprinkles have joint issues, so we don’t set up anything too onerous. Have a look at the video below to see them complete their own agility challenge.
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 Home agility challenges are great because you can use any objects and apparatus that you have laying around the house. Just use your imaginations, be creative and I’m sure you will be able to come up with something fantastic. The important thing is to start off small, challenge wise. Focus on one obstacle at a time, completing the training on each one before putting them together to eventually create a larger course. Take your time to set your dog up to succeed, you won’t regret it! Once your dog has mastered the course, wait a while then set it up again or set up something slightly different. Ideas to start you off might include jumping over or winding round chairs, taping across doorways to jump over or go under, and crawling under tables. The only limits are your imagination…and patience…and your dog’s willingness to complete the task, which can be entertaining in itself!
Indoor running – Running up and down stairs is a great way to get your dog, and yourself if you chose to join them, some exercise. You could run up and down with your dog or stand at the top and play fetch. You could even station one person at the top and one at the bottom, calling alternately to your dog, and providing treats/praise when they respond. An added level of difficulty involves training your dog to touch something eg a target at the bottom of the stairs, to obtain a treat. You would need to work up to this, of course, by starting at close quarters then gradually moving the target further away, with it eventually ending up at the bottom of the stairs. The idea being that your dog would touch the target then return to you at the top of the stairs for a treat. This exercise works well to tire your dog out, both mentally and physically. Important note: - If your dog has health issues, arthritis or joint problems, or you have hard or slippery floors, stair running is not for you.
If you don’t have stairs you could do similar activities in the garden or in the longest part of your house.
Nose work/scent training– This is basically training your dog to hunt for treats when you say “find it”. It is a great way to tire out your dog. Mental stimulation is just as much more physically exhausting as the same amount of time doing moderate exercise, so ensure that your exercise your dog’s brain whenever you think about entertaining them. You and your dog could have a lot of fun with nose work, just remember not to give too many treats. We recommend using part of your dog’s dry food dinner. This means they’d still get the stimulation and the reward without getting any extra and unnecessary calories. Nose work takes time to get right so those occasions when you are stuck indoors for long periods can be a great time to practice. Another aspect of scent games is to play hide and seek with your dog. Train them to stay (or simply wait until they are distracted), whilst you hide somewhere then have them find you. Call to them in an excited voice, shouting “come” and wait to be set upon by a very excited dog. Often, finding you and covering you with kisses is reward in itself and you will not need to provide treats for this activity.
Toys - provide different stimuli for your dog by rotating their toys. Put some away for a while then swap them around. Your dog will be much more interested in playing with toys that are new to them. You might even make some new toys yourself. It’s possible to make a tug of war rope from an old towel, denim, or other strong fabric. A crinkly water bottle inside a soft sock can also provide hours of fun for your dog. Whatever you do, remember to supervise your dog with new toys.
A fun training activity can be to name your dogs toys and provide rewards when you ask your dog to bring you a certain toy. This works best when your dogs toys are noticeably different eg ball, rope and duck, for example. Present one toy at a time, building up your dog’s excitement and throw it saying “where is your …” When he/she returns it reward them with lots of praise and maybe a small treat. Do the same with your dog’s other toys, ensuring you are consistent in your naming of them then present your dog with all three and tell them what one to look for.
In summary, it’s easy to find things to do that will tire your dog out when you are stuck in the house. We just need to follow some simple guidelines.
· Find an activity that is the right fit for your dog,
· Supervise with toys,
· Give lots of praise when your dog does what you want, and
· Make it fun
cover image Ethan Richardson