A well-exercised and mentally stimulated dog is a happy and content pet. Regular outdoor walks are essential, but there are many other options to keep a dog entertained inside. This is particularly true during inclement weather, or if extended outdoor time in the dark evening hours is not feasible. Whether you have a small space or a large home, there are lots of fun things that you can use to bond with your pet.
Organize a treasure hunt
Dogs are natural sniffers and use their nose to navigate through their world. Hide some treats or favorite toys around the house and ask your dog to go find it. As your pet learns the command, the difficulty of each hiding spot can increase. Start by scattering kibble around the room in open spots and progress to hiding them under a coffee table or behind a shoe in the hallway.
A simple game of hide-and-seek can provide fun for both adults and children to play with their dog. Start by asking your dog wait in one place, and go hide in another room or around the corner. Then shout for the dog to come find you. This will get them moving and using their brain. At first, the dog may follow you but will get the hang of it with some practice.
Play the shell game
Playing a game of shells involves hiding a treat or toy under 1 of 3 containers. Ask your dog to sit and stay. Hide the item under one of the containers and quickly change the position of each, then have your dog try to find the treat. Some will know where it is by watching, others will use their nose to sniff it out. This is a great brain exercise for any level of dog training.
Toys with hidden treats
Purchase or find a toy in your house that can be stuffed with dog treats or a dab of peanut butter. Some toys will require the dog to roll it around to access the food. Others will allow your pet to lie with the toy and work at licking out the food inside. This can be used as a distraction when guests visit or as a meal replacement for excessively fast eaters.
Try a treadmill run
If you have access to a treadmill in your home gym, try it for dog walks. This may take some coaxing and training, but over time it can be an effective method of exercising a dog when outdoor conditions do not allow for decent walks. Initially try lots of rewards to make it fun. Alternately, have your dog join you for an online yoga or exercise class and be prepared for lots of wet kisses.
Playing fetch is a great way to interact with your dog and get them some much-needed exercise. Throw the ball up a flight of stairs to give your dog some exercise, or throw a ball down your apartment hallway for some added distance, if your landlord and neighbors are fine with it.
Try a classic came of tug-of-war
Dogs love to play tug of war with their owners. This gives them a chance to show off their strength and chew something at the same time. Many pet parents opt for store-bought tugging ropes, but there are lots of things around the house that can be used to create their own toys. Try knotting old socks or an old t-shirt for an inexpensive and durable option.
Take the opportunity to bathe your dog
This is a double-duty kind of activity. Your pup will get freshened up and burn off oodles of energy at the same time. Not all dogs enjoy water or baths, and in that case, this may become more of a wrestling match than a fun experience. For those that do love it, add a couple of inches of water into the tub and some toys, and your dog will have a blast.
Groom your dog
For many dogs, grooming will not rank high on their list of fun activities. It can, however, be a great opportunity to learn how to behave around groomers and veterinarians. Pets require regular combing, teeth brushing, and nail trimming. Offer rewards to your dog for good behavior so that these uninspiring events may eventually become a fun experience for both of you.
For so many pet owners, work schedules can get in the way of offering dogs the exercise and stimulation they desire. Many towns have indoor doggy daycares that offer an opportunity for pets to socialize with other pups. Some offer full-day programs or short drop-in sessions for them to play together. This is a guaranteed way to ensure your dog will come home ready to nap.