Activities For Keeping Dogs Stimulated Indoors

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Introduction

It's too cold! It's too hot! It's too rainy! It's too muddy! It's storming! Chances are, at one point or another, one of these conditions has kept you and your dog from getting outside, but that doesn't mean you can't still have some fun indoors. After all, unless you work outside, it's probably where you spend much of your time anyway. Learning to take advantage of it can prove to be truly beneficial for both you and your dog, mentally and physically, as Mother Nature can often be unpredictable and change an entire day's worth of plans. So here are a few ideas you can run with should you ever find yourself trapped (or purposely) indoors.

Treat Finder

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0 Votes
Any Day
Cheap
Easy
5-10 minutes per round
Items needed
Dog Treats
Activity description
Treat finder is a game where you get to be creative and your dog gets rewarded for having a good nose. It's as simple as picking a room, placing treats, and watching them go. The cost? Well, if you already have treats, it's technically free, but we're calling it cheap since they cost you money in the first place. Of course, this activity can be conducted most anywhere, but it is certainly best-suited for being inside, as it not only gives you move objects to use, but usually provides greater variance in height and depth, allowing you to be more creative with your placement. Plus, playing outside or in areas without well-defined borders can often lead to aimless meandering, as dogs will often continue searching for treats even if you explain that they're all gone. Playing in open areas also means that dogs with noses that may not be as strong may quickly lose interest if they don't find their treasure within the measures of their patience, making indoor, confined spaces where smells won't waft as much, considerably more ideal.
Step
1
Pick a room
Picking a room is pretty much as simple as it sounds, but there are a few things to keep in mind. You should try to pick a room with few or no easily-breakable objects, as your dog may get too excited about treat finding and may not pay attention to what they are running around or in to. It's also a good idea to choose a room with objects appropriate for your pet's height. For instance, it makes little sense to use a room with high shelves and levels for your small dog, or a room with few places to hide treats not on the floor for a larger dog. You want to make it a challenge; not too simple, but also not impossible.
Step
2
Place the treats
Make sure your dog is isolated from view. It's not much of a challenge if they see where you place everything! We recommend using low-calorie treats if you plan to place many or go several rounds. You can also break up bigger treats into smaller bits to make sure you're not overfeeding them. Depending on the treat size, room size, and caloric value, we recommend starting with 4 to 8 and change the number based on their patience and skill level. Once you've broken up the treats, place them around the room within the bounds of your dog's height. Don't be afraid to mix up the height and depth so they have to work to find it. Just try not to encourage them to go sniffing places you may not want them in the first place. If there aren't enough suitable objects for the number of treats you want to place, bring in their toys and other things you can place them behind or underneath to add some difficulty.
Step
3
Let them in
If they are on the other side of a gate or door, feel free to let them into the area in which you've placed the treats. Some like to encourage their dogs when they are close to finding one, but if you want them to really work for it, stay quiet while they search throughout the area, until they come back asking for help, or go too long without finding the remaining treats. If they happen to find everything, which most are dedicated enough to attempt, reward them with lots of pets and attention for doing such a good job. You can also pick a phrase they already know or one you plan to reuse, such as "All done!" or "All gone!" so as you continue to play in the future, they learn to stop looking.
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Teach Them Not To Beg

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Any Day
Free
Normal
5-20 minutes
Items needed
Treats
Activity description
As long as you have treats, it's easy to train your dog most anywhere. And while many dogs are already good at following directions (or at least enough to get a reward in return), numerous others could still use some work, especially inside the household, which gives you a perfect opportunity to capitalize on your time inside by working on indoor-specific behaviors. There is certainly a lot to choose from if you have a dog that often misbehaves, "forgets" their manners, or is early in the training process to begin with, but one of the most common types of misbehavior is begging. Since it's cheap, flexible time-wise, and can be done nearly any time you are indoors, it's a great activity that will benefit you and keep them at least somewhat mentally stimulated throughout the learning and training process.
Step
1
Find the specific behavior
Finding the appropriate behaviors to work on can be immediate, if you already have some in mind, or could take several hours or even days, but most people already know where, when, and in what scenarios their dogs are most likely to beg, but for those who don't, it's not a tough process. Try sitting down to eat at the table, then standing, then anywhere else you may eat, such as the couch. Take mental notes of where they are better-behaved and where they're more likely to misbehave, not listen or get far too close.
Step
2
Replicate the behavior
Once you've found when and where they beg, choose one to start with (likely at the table), and either prepare or fake preparing food, then take a seat at the table, and see if they take the bait. If they do, you've set yourself up for an opportunity to correct it. If they don't, try it again in a different way until they decide to get involved. If they still don't, well, consider yourself lucky, as they may not need as much training as you think!
Step
3
Correct the behavior
There are two effective ways to help correct begging. The first is to establish an acceptable place for them to go. If they understand commands like "go lay down" or "go ___" where they know where to retreat to, feel free to use that. If they are early in training or don't know those commands, keep it simple by getting up and walking them or carrying them to the place you want them to be, then use a command they know, such as sit or stay. You may have to repeat it numerous times to get the desired effect (or on several different occasions entirely for some). In the meantime, ignore them! Giving them scraps, pets, eye contact, or even just words that aren't a command positively reinforces their behavior. It may be a short and (sometimes) not so sweet activity, but it will surely pay off in the long run and give you both some food for thought.
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Brain Games

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Moderate
Normal
5-20 minutes
Items needed
A brain-stimulating toy
Treats
Activity description
Many dogs are considerably smarter than most of us even know, which is why giving them a mentally-stimulating toy is a great way to figure out where your dog's brain power really stands. There are plenty of toys on the market you can buy (or make, if you have the right materials and know-how) that will help your test their abilities, most of which are treat-based, so the better they do, the more they are rewarded. These are best reserved for indoor time when they may be more limited in space to run and may not be able to get a full amount of exercise, so having them concentrate on these types of toys will not only eat up some time, but will also at least tire them out mentally, all while making it fun for them. Most brain-based toys run at a moderate expense of $10 to $20, so they're not super expensive, but if they're complicated enough, can take up a significant amount of time, allowing you to either watch or plan for other activities.
Step
1
Pick a toy
If you've had your dog for any length of time, you probably have a pretty good idea of what they're able to do, which should make selecting the right toy a bit easier. Most toys focus on manipulating parts of the toy or the orientation of the dog or toy, but many dogs may prefer either stationary toys or those that reward them for moving them around, although many couldn't care less as long as they are getting treats in the end. Most pet and department stores carry at least a few options, so pick something that relates to items they already enjoy, such as picking a rolling puzzle if they enjoy playing with balls. If you think they're up for a challenge, choose something they're completely unfamiliar with, as they may surprise you with their efforts and intelligence.
Step
2
Load and test the toy
This step is pretty straight forward as all you need to do is select the proper treats and fill the toy. If the toy can handle a lot of treats, try to aim for low-calorie treats so you're not overfeeding your dog if they figure it out quickly. The size and shape of the treats can often be quite important, such as in the case of puzzle and maze balls, as larger treats won't move as easily and may get stuck, which could eventually deter them from being interested if they can't get any or enough rewards. Certain shapes can also be problematic if they do not move easily enough within the toy. Try a few different treats and see if you can control the difficulty that way, testing it yourself to make sure it's not denying them their rewards or providing endless amounts with almost no effort.
Step
3
Watch them go
This is the easiest and most fun part of the process. After you've tested the toy by selecting a proper treat and testing it out, you can set it down for them and let them go. While many owners will idly watch, know that there is a level of interactivity for you too. You can take notes on what they do well and what they have trouble with so as to better select the next toy, or even time them to see how quickly they can figure out how to get the first treat, and how long it takes to get to the last. Once you've done it a few times, either on separate days or separate rounds, you can keep a stat sheet, see if they can beat their fastest score or even just cheer them on!
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More Fun Ideas...

Throw a ball

If you have a basement, attic, or room with enough space to move, don't hesitate to play fetch with them inside the house to help burn off some energy. If they're careful, it will teach them extra agility as they dodge objects in the room. If they're not, best of luck and don't send us the bill!

Cuddle up

Especially if you've gone through any of the other activities listed above and spent some energy, sitting down to cuddle up is a great way to get some personal time with your dog. If they're not allowed on the furniture, camp out on the floor. They'll love it even more, on the floor or not, if you make a fort for the pair of you, as dogs are often comfortable in den-like settings.

Stepping up and down

While some owners may not have the availability to do so, others will find great joy and exercise in taking their dogs up and down the steps. Find the most suitable staircase in the house and have them run up and down for exercise. If you're able-bodied, you can join in and get a workout yourself, or if not, you can train them to wait and come on command, which can tire them out both mentally and physically.

Conclusion

While many dogs prefer to spend their time outside, having fun inside can be just as rewarding. If they tend to get stuck there while you and your family are at work, school, or engaging in other activities without them, it's also a great way to add some positivity to a space that can sometimes get lonesome. Those good associations can also help motivate them to come inside when they may be reluctant to otherwise. If you do it right, they may be just as excited when you say "let's go inside" as they do when you say "let's go outside". Or at least one can only hope.