Activities For Large Indoor Dogs

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Introduction

There are many reasons why owners may end up with large, indoor dogs or just large dogs, indoors. Whether it's due to inclement weather, non-social personalities, apartment living, or any range of other reasons, large, indoor dogs are not uncommon. But while their combination of size and energy level may seem to limit possibilities, there are plenty of indoor activities owners can get their dogs involved with, activities that may expend a surprising amount of energy or at least create a lot of fun and entertainment in the process. So regardless of whether the weather has your Dane indoors or others have your Bordeaux bored, here are a few small activities for your big dogs.

Hide and Seek

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Free
Easy
5- 30 min
Items needed
Treats
Activity description
If you're not familiar with hide and seek, you may have skipped childhood altogether. It's the cheapest, easiest game you can play, it can last for hours if neither of you get bored, and you need nothing more than a creative mind to play it well. Most dogs love the hunt, so hide and seek is a great way to teach them to sniff around and work through basic logic/problem-solving skills, which will help to tire them out both physically and mentally. It's also perfect for indoors because homes offer plenty of creative places to hide and are usually less distracting than playing outdoors where there are more noises, smells, and moving objects to draw attention away from the game.
Step
1
They stay, you hide
Although this is an incredibly simple game, some owners are still challenged by one main question: How do I get my dog to stay long enough to run and hide?! There's no one right answer for this, so you'll have to figure it out based on your dog individually. Most older or better trained dogs do just fine with a stay command, while others need a small spoonful of peanut butter or a crunchy, breakable treat that takes a minute to eat to stay still. Once you get them to stay, the house is your oyster, but make sure they start in a place you don't want to hide and far enough away that they don't hear or see your hiding spots. If you want to get good at hiding right away, count in your head the number of seconds it takes for them to lose interest, stop staying, or finish eating and use it as a gauge of the amount of time you have to hide.
Step
2
Let the hunt begin
If you're hiding far enough away, you can call or whistle to them to initiate the start of the game. If you're too close or know they'll finish the treat before they care enough to find you, be patient, you can always signal to them when they're in another room where they won't be able to deduce your location based on sound alone. Once they're unable to find you, most quickly figure out that the game is on anyway, and will put their nose and ears to the floor to find you. Most importantly, get creative! It's not only a fun activity, but it can teach them a little critical thinking as well. If they always use their nose, try hiding up on something where they may be less inclined to smell or look. Once they find you, reward them with praise, pets, or treats, but at least give them something! They'll likely be more excited and apt to play the more fun you make it for them.
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Tug of war

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
5 - 20 min
Items needed
Rope or tug toy
Activity description
There seems to be a common misconception that playing tug of war with your dog can be a risk to their behavior or teach them bad habits. But if owners go about it in the right way, it can be a great game that's cheap, easy to play in a small space, can strengthen their ability and desire to listen to you when they're excited, and can last as long or short as you like. Be forewarned that playing it right can be the hardest part. If you have a highly-possessive dog, it may not be a good idea unless you consult a behavior specialist. It should also only be initiated by you, played with dogs that understand basic commands, and played with control - that is, you break up the game every so often to assert control by getting them to release and wait a second, then rewarding them and starting again. If they continuously refuse to listen, stop playing and try again another time. If they enjoy the game, they'll quickly learn the rules you put in place.
Step
1
Initiate the game
To maintain control of the game from the onset, try not to rile them up before the game begins, or you may lose some ground when it comes to getting them to follow your commands. Calmly hide the toy behind your back, then slowly reveal it, making them sit and stay until you give them the OK to grab it. Feel free to use commands they already know to initiate the start, but if they jump in without your go-ahead, use or come up with a consistent word to tell them they made a mistake, then start over again until they get it. Once they do, you're free to start playing.
Step
2
Stop and go
Once you've initiated play, it's pretty simple: just pull hard and make them work for it. You can pull numerous directions and at varying strengths, letting them gain and lose ground as you wish to make it fun. Once you've played for around 30 seconds, stop pulling while still holding onto the toy and give them a drop or release command. It may take a few attempts, but as long as you stay consistent each time you try it, they should get the idea eventually. Be patient, some dogs take forever to figure out that the game needs to stop and start and that sometimes they need to give in and listen before more fun is had. If you need extra incentive, get them to drop the rope for a treat. Make sure you give them positive reinforcement after they drop it, wait a moment, then give them the treat, so they know that dropping the rope is what they're being rewarded for. Once they get the hang of it, repeat and play as long as you like, making sure to be consistent and reinforcing the rules when they are temporarily forgotten.
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Treadmill

Popular
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Any Day
Expensive
Hard
5 - 20 min
Items needed
Treadmill
Treats
Activity description
Many people are under the misconception that you need to have a big indoor space to exercise your big indoor dog but if you're creative, patient, and dedicated enough, there are certainly ways around that. One of those ways is training them to use a treadmill. It may not be easy and it's certainly not cheap if you don't already own one, but if you do or are willing to spend the time and money, it can pay huge dividends to your dog's health and happiness. Plus, because it will be a trained, indoor activity, you can do it in all weather and whenever you and they are feeling up to it.
Step
1
Introduce them
There are varying degrees to which your dog may have comfort with a treadmill. They're big, can be noisy, especially when in use, and have moving parts, all of which can be intimidating to your canine companion. Start by facing the treadmill toward the center of them room (so they don't feel like they may run into a wall when they are finally brave enough to hop on). Then, slowly introduce them by letting them walk and sniff around it while it's off. You may have to use treats or praise to expedite the process, but let them take it at their own pace. If need be, do other activities near it to help normalize it for them (feeding, giving them attention or treats near it) and help them make good associations.
Step
2
Getting to the first walk
Once they've grown comfortable with the treadmill being off, try turning it on so they get familiar with the noise and movement. Continue with encouragement and treats if need be. When they adjust to it, whether the first time or many after, use it yourself, showing them that you are not afraid of it and neither should they. After they've become comfortable with it, turn the machine back off and see if they're comfortable getting near it, and better yet, on it. Gauge their response during the first step, as the turning-on and getting-on steps can be somewhat interchangeable, depending on what they are most comfortable with first.
Step
3
Walk it out
Once they're okay with the noise, use, and standing on it, it's time to try the first stroll. With them standing on the treadmill, turn it on the lowest setting and see if you can direct them to walk towards a treat or other reward you can hold in front of them. If they are immediately nervous, repeat this step numerous times or even take a step back if need be, so they can pace their interaction with it. If they're nervous but not deterred, continue letting them get the feel for it until they are walking with confidence, at which point you can slowly increase the speed within their comfort zone. Make sure to treat them at appropriate times throughout the final steps especially, gauging when and how frequently they're showing reluctance, then taking a step back and administering treats thoroughly to get them through the toughest parts. Once you get to the finish, try to get them on the treadmill with regularity as it will only increase their comfort and desire to use it to burn energy.
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More Fun Ideas...

Photo Shoot

Not everything you do indoors has to be a game. In fact, if you have decent lighting inside, it can create a perfect scenario in which to have a photo shoot. Not only will it be a fun way to practice an art, it will help your dog develop better patience and command when you inevitably have to tell them to sit or stay, and you'll get to walk away with some visual memories as well!

Grooming

While it's considerably less cleanup to groom your dog outdoors, sometimes it's just easier, more comfortable, or just plain more convenient to do so indoors. As long as you're not pulling their hair too hard or holding them down, most dogs enjoy at least some aspect of grooming, so not only is it good for their looks and health, it's another activity to help strengthen your bond.

Training

Whether you're stuck inside due to weather, time or just because you want to be, take advantage of it by working with your dog. While they may not be excited by training itself, pleasing you, spending time with you, and getting treats are all reward enough to get what you want out of them. Work on behaviors you want to improve, especially if they're indoor specific, such as not jumping on the couch without being invited (or at all in some households) or not begging at the dinner table. It's good quality time and the means reward in the end!

Conclusion

While big dogs often also mean big responsibility, they can also mean big fun, both inside and out. Even if you have a limited space to use indoors, a little creativity can go a long way in turning a boring afternoon inside to one filled with fun and beneficial activities for both you and your larger-than-life canine. After all, even if your Saint Bernard isn't a saint on a leash, even if your Newfoundland has a newfound fear of deer, even if your Dane hates the rain, they still deserve to enjoy life and your company, even if it's indoors.