Regular walks and playtime are essential for the well-being of owners, dogs, and neighbors. Bad weather, illness, or injury may make it impossible to get outside, but dogs do not have to miss out on exercise. There are many indoor games that can help dogs of all ages stay active.
Try to choose games that challenge dogs mentally as well as physically. Mental focus burns energy, which leads to tired dogs. Indoor games also give owners and dogs the opportunity to play together. This means a stronger bond and a happy, healthy pet.
For humans, obedience training may seem too much like school to be fun. But for dogs, any interaction with their owners is the best way to spend a day. There are various ways to train a dog, so owners can choose the right system for their dog. Learning something new requires a lot of mental focus for dogs, and training reinforces good manners. Start with basics like sit and stay before moving on to complicated commands like playing dead.
Dog owners with enough space can play fetch indoors. A long hallway or large room works well, as long as breakable objects are moved out of the way. Throwing the ball up a staircase can really tire dogs out, but should not be used for dogs younger than one year old as their joints are not fully developed. Fun alternatives to this game including asking the dog to catch the ball or wait in one spot until the ball lands.
This is a game for two people, plus the dog. The participants stand at opposite ends of the room and call the dog one at a time. The dog gets plenty of exercise running across the room. The game even reinforces the come command for dogs learning recall. Over time, the distance between the people can be increased. It is even possible to go into separate rooms and allow the dog to run around the whole house.
The average dog can understand 165 words, and that number rises to 250 with training. This means it is possible to teach them names for all their toys. Start with one toy and name it while playing. With praise and practice, the dog will learn the toy's name. Once they learn the name, ask them to pick the toy out of a pile of other toys or find it in another room. This game has the bonus of also keeping the dog's mind active.
A dog's sense of smell is around 40 times more powerful than a human's, so they love scent-based play. A simple game to test a dog's nose is hiding a treat in the house for them to find. For more interaction, try the cup game. Take three cups and, while the dog looks away, put a treat under one. Ask the dog to choose the right cup for a treat. Some super-sniffers can even be taught to use a scent to find people.
This game can be played with a favorite toy or human, though for some dogs, the search for an owner is too easy. The dog needs to understand the command "find'", so teach that first. Once they know the command, ask them to stay. Hide the object or person, then tell them to find. Give them plenty of praise and affection when they succeed. As they get better, be creative about where objects are hidden to keep it challenging.
Tug of war is an easy indoor game that wears dogs out and challenges them mentally. Research also shows that dogs who play tug of war with their owners are more obedient and confident. Make sure to use a designated toy so the dog does not learn to pull at clothes or blankets. Also ensure they know that the game stops if their teeth touch any fingers. Finally, let the dog win on occasion. This makes it more fun for the dog and encourages them to keep playing.
There are many everyday objects around the house that can be used to set up a doggy obstacle course. An empty cardboard box can become a tunnel. A broom on some books is a hurdle. Dogs can jump over or crawl under chairs. Start small, so that they learn commands for going under or through, and grow the course as they gain experience. If the dog enjoys it, they may also enjoy dog agility training.
There is a wide variety of puzzle toys on the market where dogs slide blocks, lift discs or manipulate balls to reach a treat. They are an excellent way to mentally stimulate dogs and relieve boredom. It is also possible to make simple puzzle games at home. For the muffin tin game, put treats in a muffin tin and place tennis balls over the holes. The dog has to move the balls with their nose or paws to reach the treats.
Dogs like having a purpose, so they love clean up time. Start small, with a few toys close to the toy box. Direct them to place the toys in the box and give praise or a treat when they succeed. When this becomes easy, use more toys and over a wider area. Eventually, they will be able to clean up their toys at the end of the day. Other chores dogs love to help with include carrying mail and fetching the newspaper.
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