Activities For Small Indoor Dogs

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Introduction

More often than not, small dogs are the ones who are found indoors for several reasons, from their lack of ability to survive harsh weather, aerial predators like hawks,  or even just being more easily handled by children and the elderly, who can't often be on their own outside for long periods of time. Regardless of the case, none of those factors mean that small dogs are necessarily "stuck" inside, nor does it mean there isn't fun to be had in an indoor environment. For anyone who is creative an industrious enough to attempt them, there are loads of indoor activities that will provide both exercise and entertainment, if not also considerable bonding experiences.

Mini Agility

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Any Day
Free
Normal
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Broom
Books
Boxes
Treats
Activity description
Similar to a race track, it's easy enough to set up a small agility course for your dog inside. It's fantastic exercise, helps them work on commands, learn new things, build confidence, and have fun, making it an all-around good time for the pair of you. Our apologies for the vague supply list, but the benefit is, you can use almost anything in your house, as long as you don't mind the possibility of it tipping over or getting scratched. It's also an activity you can do in all weather, since it's indoors, it's free, since you can use materials already in your house, it's only moderately difficult depending on what you use and your dog's willingness to try, and takes up as much or as little time as you both maintain the patience for it.
Step
1
Analyze their skill set
As long as you've had your dog for more than a few weeks, you probably know their capabilities somewhat well already. Some dogs are better at crawling while others are better at jumping, so make sure to take all of this into consideration when brainstorming your skills course. After all, it's probably not a good idea to force your old dog to jump too much or your puppy to attempt anything that takes too much direction. Isolate the skills they are already good at, then consider what kinds of things you can build for them to work on those skills further.
Step
2
Set up the skills
Once you've figured out their strengths, look around your house for objects to use. If they're good at jumping, you could open several books of different sizes and put them on the floor in a standing triangle for them to jump over. You could find a box and weight it so they have something to jump on. If they're good at crawling, prop a broom up on a couple of bricks, boxes or books (also works to jump over). If they like to run through tunnels, connect several open-ended boxes or use an expandable wire and fabric laundry hamper. Try setting up a long plank for balancing on or a small board on a soup can to act as a see-saw (but make sure it's secure!).
Step
3
Teach and go!
If you've set up more than one skill, take them one at a time, rewarding your dog for getting closer to the desired action you want them to perform. Once they get each one down well enough, try them in succession, turning your individual skills into an obstacle course. Have them jump over a book, crawl under a broom handle, and through some boxes. If they get good enough, you can start timing them and take your fun even further by seeing how quick they can get from start to finish!
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Race Track

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Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Treats
Ropes
Stopwatch
Activity description
While big dogs can still get exercise indoors, small dogs have the advantage - it takes them considerably more energy to cover the same ground! Because of it, even if you have limited floor space, you can still construct some interesting ways to spend your hours indoors. One of which is a race track, which takes only a few items to build, a stopwatch, treats, and a treat-hungry dog. The benefits? It can be done in any weather since it's conducted inside, you can build it out of tons of different materials which makes it free outside of treat cost (which you likely already have), and can be constructed in any room with even just a little bit of floor space. Plus, it's a great way to tire them out!
Step
1
Setup
This step is pretty open-ended overall. The end goal is setting up a raceway for your dog to burn around and it can be done numerous ways. First, define your course by choosing a route, making sure to make room for you to run alongside it if they're not able to sit or stay long enough for you to place a treat, release them, and start the timer. Then find your materials - there are tons to use. For smaller dogs, it could be as simple as tying ropes in a line to create their lane but you can also use books, boxes, anything quick and easy to set up. You'll then need a set a finish point such as a bowl they will recognize and run to, or just a place you plan to have them stop. Once you do, you're ready to get your little racer on the course!
Step
2
Off to the races!
Once you've got the course configured, place them in the course and do a dry run to see if they'll stay within the bounds you've created and run through it properly - use treats as motivation if need be. Once you've got them running through it well, decide whether you're going to have them sit and wait while you place the treat then release them with a command, or if you're going to run next to them, holding a treat. Once you've cemented the method to your madness (and if given the option, we suggest trying it both ways to see which they respond to better), set them up and cut them loose! Time them to see how fast they'll go and whether they'll work harder or faster for specific treats. Don't be afraid to get creative. You can add obstacles, lengthen or shorten the track, or even get friends to set up one similar (or in your own) and see whose dog is fastest!
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Hand Soccer

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Small plush ball
Empty box
Activity description
Most dogs don't have the capacity to handle the intricacies of well-established sports, but that doesn't mean they can't learn or have fun playing a modified version, which is exactly what hand soccer is. In it's simplest form, it's turning your dog into a goalie and you get to be the player shooting the goal. The materials are pretty simple, as all you need is an empty box or other makeshift goal, and a small plush or rubber-type ball that they enjoy playing with. It can be played in all weather indoors (and nice weather outside), costs nothing more than a ball if you don't already have one, is easy to simplify and complicate depending on their skill level and mental capacity, and you can play for as long or short as you like.
Step
1
Set up the goal
Find an empty box or other item to act as the goal or goal-like cavity. It doesn't have to be complex, it just needs to be small enough for them to defend and large enough for you to make a shot once in a while (after all, it's way more fun when you get to win sometimes too!). Boxes are an easy solution because they come in various sizes and are easily found in most households, but could also be as simple as using the legs of a chair.
Step
2
Teach the game
Most dogs won't understand that you're trying to get the ball in the goal, but they will likely take great joy in trying to steal it from you or stop it from rolling past them. If they're not quick to understand that they should guard the goal, start in a smaller space, where it's harder for them not to be in the right vicinity. Figure out what their tendencies are and tailor the game to either their inherent abilities or their potential. If they love to grab the ball and not give it back, try using it as a chance to train them with a drop/give command.
Step
3
Modify accordingly
Some dogs will pick things up quicker than others, and if that's the case, try to modify the game to make it more challenging. If your dog is super fast and agile, enlarge the goal so they have more to protect. If they like to run away with the ball, modify the game so it's more like half-soccer, half-football, where if you shoot and miss, they can run back to their dog bed with the ball and score points against you. Tailor the game so it challenges you both, so you can both get the most out of it.
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More Fun Ideas...

Dog Carrier or Crate Training

It might not be the most fun sounding activity, but it's most certainly useful for those who crate their dogs or put them in a carrier for traveling. Getting them accustomed to using their crate or carrier when travel or bedtime is not imminent will ease the stress for them if it makes them uncomfortable, as you have the time to do other things afterwards. You can do it in little spurts and get them used to it before the time comes when it's actually a necessity. Most dogs will enjoy getting treats even if they have to work for it, plus you'll likely improve their response to commands and work towards a helpful goal in the process.

Make and Test Homemade Treats

Most dogs love treats, so learning how to make treats at home can be a cheap and easy way to kill time, a good way to give your results a test run, and make great gifts for other dog owners in the process.

Make a Costume

People who endlessly love dogs sometimes like to go overboard, and that's okay as long as the dog enjoys it too. Test the waters first, but if your dog cares little about being in costume, spend some time with them crafting one, trying out each piece as you make them. If they do well, it'll be one more thing you'll have in your arsenal of things to do and one you can show off if the costume ends up humorous or entertaining.

Conclusion

Small dogs can have big fun even if it's inside. So if you ever find yourself bored with your Bichon or dull with your Dachshund, don't forget to (Miniature) Pinscher-self and remind yourself that all it takes is a little willpower and creativity to get you working towards having fun even without the sun. After all, it's better to have a tired terrier than a terrorizer!