Great Indoor Activities For Bored Dogs
Does inclement winter weather have you and your dog spending more time indoors than either of you would like? Is your dog giving you “the eye,” that look that says: I’m borrrrrrrred. A quick fix—one that doesn’t require donning boots—is to get that mental
#1 The Name Game
Increase your dog’s vocabulary: work with her to teach her the names of her toys. Dr. John W. Pilley, author of Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words shares how to get started: “Start with your dog’s favourite toy and play with that one object while giving it a name. What you are doing is associating the object with play, therefore giving the object value to your dog. Once the object has value, the name of the object will take on value for your dog. We did this with Chaser when she was just two months old, introducing her to “blue” which was a ball. For three days we would play with “blue,” constantly repeating the name. I would have her fetch “blue,” catch “blue,” find “blue.” When I would ask her “where is blue?” it would be the only toy on the floor, making it impossible for her to make a mistake. As we repeated this with lots of toys, she quickly began to catch on, finally having that “aha moment” and understanding that her toys had names.”
Hide & Seek
Hide and Seek is great fun and teaches your dog to look for you and desire your company. This is a great bonding exercise! (See page 60). Simply hide yourself somewhere in your house, such as behind a door or in another room (or at the dog park once you’ve got the indoors down) then call your dog to you. Once she finds you, reward with great excitement, praise, and a treat or two.
The Great Cookie Hunt
This takes but a minute of your time and is always a great success, brightening up a dull afternoon when you’re occupied with computer or housework and your dogs are lying bored at your feet. Ask your dogs to wait in another room (if their “stay” isn’t great, have someone hold on to them), then take tiny dog cookies or liver treats (break them into little pieces if they’re large) and hide throughout your living room—on the baseboards, on the edge of the coffee table, on the window sill, randomly placed on the floor—then release the hounds! Your dogs will have a blast hunting for the treats and seeing them scramble to find the treats will doubtless put a smile on your face.
Teach a New Trick
Dogs love to be challenged and teaching them new tricks is a great way to have fun together, exercise your dog’s mind, and improve your bond—particularly when praise, cuddles, and tasty treats are part of the process. A fun and useful one to try: pick up your toys. If your dog knows the “drop it” command, simply give him a toy then put a bin beneath him. Ask him to “drop it” so that it lands in the bin then immediately give him a treat; repeat until he catches on. Once he’s made the correlation, leave the bin out and ask him to “get a toy;” once he’s grabbed a toy, motion to the bin, wait until he’s over there then ask him to drop it. Praise and reward. Work on this a little every day and soon you’ll have a hand in tidying the house! Another cute one to try: sneeze on command. You’ll have to wait to capture this behaviour—wait until your dog sneezes and then reward. Do this every time she sneezes and she’ll soon catch on. (This one makes a very popular party trick!). A few minutes brushing up on basic obedience is always a good idea, too.
Puzzle It Out
Work that brain while providing a treat. Our dogs like to be challenged and they also (duh) love food. Combine the two and you have a recipe for success! Toys to try that will work that mental muscle and keep your dog busy and engaged:
Any and all of Nina Ottosson’s puzzle toys These awesome toys keep your dog occupied and mentally engaged (see inset photo) and many come in levels so you can start easy and build up to more difficult puzzles.
Any stuffable toy, such as a Kong These low tech toys get the job done, keeping your dog busy trying to get out the goodie (peanut butter, frozen dog food, liver treats) nestled inside.
Required Winter Reading. Dogs are smart. Exhibit A: Chaser, a Border Collie that knows over 1000 words. Amazing, yes, but achievable. Get your dog started on the path to super-genius with a copy of the fascinating Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words. We loved this book and definitely came away inspired.
Nina Ottosson puzzle toy