Hey Mighty Paw fam, Barbara here again to share some fun ideas of how to entertain your dog indoors!
After all, it's wintertime here in our Northern Hemisphere and, depending on your geographical location, spending quality time outside with your pups is just not possible right now.
Of course that can be problematic, especially with higher energy dogs who are used to a lot of physical exercise outdoors.
Let's Have Some Fun With Our Pups Inside!
Thankfully, there are several fun options of burning doggie energy indoors.
My favorite mental energy burners are obedience and trick training and offering food puzzles. Great physical boredom busters are games like hide and seek, working out with your dog and improvising obstacle courses.
The cherry on top is that quality time spent with your dog strengthens the bond between you!
Let's talk some training first!
The comfort of our home is actually the perfect setting for this because it's a low distraction environment. There's no other people walking their dogs, no wildlife, no new smells to discover, etc. You can really work with your pup on paying attention to you and creating a solid training foundation.
It's also a great way of getting used to saying a command only once. After all, we want our pups to listen to us the first time around, right?
By the way, if you're worried about you or your pup getting bored with training inside, don't be! The great thing about this is that training sessions don't have to be long in order to be effective. 3-4 daily 5-10 minute sessions is all it takes to teach your dog a new behavior and engage them mentally.
Verbal & Edible Training Rewards
In all your training sessions, rewards are key for your pup. Dogs love to please and want to know that they did a good job. Luckily, we can communicate this in two ways.
First, we can reward the desired behavior in our dogs with verbal praise. For example, something like "Good Boy".
Second, we can underline our verbal praise with a training treat.
Single-ingredient training treats that are a little on the smelly side will really help you teach these commands because they engage a dog's nose and motivate. For example, green tripe or fish treats.
Just make sure to factor them into your pup's daily food allowance to avoid unintentional weight gain!
Our Mighty Paw dog treat pouch is a convenient way of having those training treats readily available. It comes with a belt that you wear around your waist and holds 2 cups of treats. It's by far my favorite dog training accessory, both indoors as well as outdoors.
Obedience commands are a great way of communicating certain rules to our dogs.
For example, that you want him to "sit" politely at the front door instead of jumping on people when guests arrive, or to hold a down-stay while you're eating dinner. They can even be life savers when you can reliably recall your dog to "come" your way in a dangerous situation.
That said, the most common obedience commands are these:
Just in case you're wondering, I'm practicing all of these with my pup Wally, especially when the weather is bad and we're stuck indoors most of the day.
He's really good at the "sit" and the "down" command. However, his "stay" and "come" have some room for improvement, ha!
I frequently use the 30' Mighty Paw Check Cord to practice the "come" command with Wally inside, as well as in my yard when the weather's nice.
In the pictures below, you can see us practicing the recall with the check cord in the kitchen.
Front door training tips
Wally also gets too excited when he hears noises by the front door.
So to work on that, I leash him and open the front door. Then I have him "sit" on my left with the front door open. The moment he sits, I mark his behavior with a "YES" followed by a training treat.
This is perfect to practice with your pup when you're stuck inside due to bad weather!
His next command is the "stay" while I knock on the front door or ring the door bell. If he holds his stay, I mark that behavior with a "YES" followed by a training treat reward.
If he doesn't hold the stay, I correct his behavior with my body. The way I do this is I step right in front of him and block his way. Then I take one or two steps in his direction, which makes him walk backwards. I then ask him to "sit", and we practice again.
Moving on to trick training - this is a fun way of challenging you both.
The sky is the limit as far as what you can achieve together, but most tricks require a combination of basic obedience commands like "sit" and "down".
Fun tricks to work on are:
- Sit pretty
- Roll over
- Play dead
- Take a bow
The "sit pretty" command is fairly easy to teach as long as your dog knows how to sit. All you're asking of him is to lift his front legs and balance on his back legs. However, it's a lot easier for smaller dogs than it is for large and stocky dogs.
To teach it, simply have your dog "sit" and hold a training treat right above his nose, then slowly move it back towards his head. When your pup lifts his legs off the ground, praise and reward with the treat. "Good girl!"
Side note: Of course you can involve your kids in all of these training sessions, too! The picture below features my late pup Missy sitting pretty with a friend's kid. Missy's cheating slightly because she's resting her front legs on the little girl's arm, but that's OK too because it's just stinkin' cute, right?!
Rollover & Play Dead
The "rollover" and "play dead" command both build on the "down" command, and the "rollover" is a continuation of "play dead", so it's easiest to teach "play dead" first.
To do this, ask your dog to lie "down". Then sit in front of your dog, take a treat and hold it right next to his face. Next, slowly move the treat toward his shoulder. Once your pup lies on his side, say "YES", add the command "play dead" and give him the treat.
You can also use the Mighty Paw training clicker to mark the desired behavior. Instead of saying "YES", click to mark the behavior, then say "play dead" followed by giving the treat. The big advantage of using a clicker is that you can time marking the desired behavior more precisely than you can with your words.
To teach "rollover", get your pup into a down position, then hold a training treat next to her face and move it toward her shoulder. Once she's lying down on her side, slowly move the treat over her neck to the other side of her body so that she's following your treat hand with her body. That's the rollover movement!
Once she's completed it, mark the behavior with our clicker or a "YES", say "rollover" and then reward with the treat.
Take A Bow
The easiest way to teach "bow" in my humble opinion is to catch your dog when he naturally bows, say "YES", and then add the command "bow" to it. That training technique is called "capturing".
Dogs naturally bow when they stretch or try to initiate playtime!
Otherwise, have your dog stand, hold out one of your arms under his lower belly, and grab a treat with your other hand. Next, hold the treat hand right under your dog's nose and slowly move it towards the ground. Once your pup follows your treat hand, he'll naturally end up in the bow position since your other arm gently supports it. Say "YES" or mark the behavior with the clicker, add the word "bow", and reward with the treat!
Just like teaching the "bow" command, the easiest way to teach "speak" is to add the command when your dog naturally speaks! So when he barks, say "YES" or click to mark the desired behavior, add the command "speak" and reward with a training treat from your treat pouch.
Food Puzzles For Dogs
Moving on to food puzzles!
There are several ways of incorporating dog food puzzles into your dog's indoor life. One option is to use them as an alternative to training treats. Our Mighty Paw Dog Lick Pad is perfect for this!
Here's how it works: Put the mat on a flat surface like a tile or wood floor and smear a little peanut butter, pumpkin purée or similar consistency food onto the "Easy" quadrant. There's four total quadrants, and each one increases in puzzle difficulty.
Once your pup's performed your desired trick or behavior, you can reward her by letting her lick the food off the "Easy"quadrant. That one's quick to lick, so it works very well as a fast training reward.
You can also use the dog lick mat just for fun (5-10 minutes of entertainment), or for anxiety relief (10-15 minutes) and distraction purposes (15-30 minutes).
On a crappy day when you're stuck inside, go ahead and smear some peanut butter on the distraction quadrant since it engages your pup for the longest amount of time. Once you're done using it, you can either hand wash it or stick it into the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning!
The picture below features Wally with his Mighty Paw Lick Pad. I smeared a homemade dog food topper on it.
Tip: If you're expecting guests, you can also use our mat to distract your pup by or from the front door!
Playing Hide & Seek With Your Dog
This is my personal all-time favorite game to play with my pups! I used to play it with my previous Boxer mixes Missy & Buzz, and now Wally loves it just as much.
Here's how it works: I grab some treats, ask Wally to lie "down" and "stay" somewhere in the house, then I leave that area and hide somewhere else.
For example, in the bathtub, behind a curtain, inside a walk-in closet, or anywhere else really. Sometimes I'll lie down on the couch and "hide" under a blanket or I'll crawl into his crate!
Next, I'll call him to "come find me" or say "Wally, where's Mommy?". Once he finds me, I reward him with a verbal "Good boy" and a training treat.
This is such a great boredom buster and I really can't recommend playing it enough! Even if you don't have a big home, you can still play it as long as you get creative with hiding spots. It engages your dog on a mental level and burns a lot of energy!
It's also very interesting to see him go into work mode. I can almost see his brain telling him "gotta find her, gotta find her, gotta find her - found her!!" His face gets this really cute expression once he DOES find me, and his entire body wiggles with excitement, as if he hadn't seen me in weeks!
Isn't it amazing how honest and easily entertained our pups are?!
Working Out With Your Dog
Here's another fun one: How about working out with your dog?!
Do pushups together
All you have to do is get down on all fours and have a little pushup challenge with your furry best friend! Ideally, you'll want to do this on a yoga mat or a carpeted floor, but obviously anywhere you can drop down works.
Grab a treat or a favorite toy; essentially whatever motivates your dog to "work out". Next, ask your dog to "sit", then take the treat or the toy and move it down to the ground so your dog lies down. Then move it back up so your dog finds himself sitting again. That's one doggie pushup!
Once your dog did his push up, ask him to "stay", then do your pushup. Repeat a few times!
Run carpeted stairs together
If your home is on several levels and you have carpeted stairs, you can also run up-and downstairs with your pup if his joints are up for it.
I wouldn't recommend doing it on hardwood floor or tiled stairs because of the risk of slipping and hurting yourselves. But on carpet (and without socks for you!) this gets your heart rates up and will definitely burn some energy and calories!
Toss tennis balls or treats down carpeted stairs
The same concept applies to tennis balls and treats - if your pup likes to fetch and is physically up for it, toss some toys and treats down carpeted stairs, then call him back up to come see you for a repeat!
Unfortunately, I don't have stairs in my current home so I can't play this game with Wally. But in my old home, I played it all the time with my Boxer pups whenever it was too cold (or too hot for that matter!) to exercise outside.
Below you'll see Buzz (left) and Missy (right) posing for a picture on our carpeted stairs.
Run An Obstacle Course
Last but not least, you can set up a little obstacle course for your pup. Obstacle ideas are agility tunnels or homemade book stacks that you connect with a broom, golf club, or similar long item, then have your pup hop over or crawl under/through it.
The first picture below shows Missy jumping over the tunnel, the second one shows Buzz crawling through it.
Alternative For Stretching Your Dog's Legs Inside
If you feel like your pup really needs to stretch his or her legs and you don't have the space required in your home, consider taking him to doggie day care once or twice a week. You could take him on a Monday and a Thursday, that way his physical exercise is equally distributed throughout the week.
Another alternative is to sign him up for agility classes. Just hop on Google and do a search for "dog agility training near me". It'll happen inside during the colder months!
Now have fun entertaining your dog indoors!
Barbara Rivers writes regularly for Mighty Paw. She is a blogger, raw feeder, former dog walker and maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee.
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