Whether you work remotely or aren’t able to get out of the house often (heavy rain, injury or sickness, whatever the reason may be!), finding ways to keep your dog entertained while inside can be tough.
No matter the size of your space, there are several ways to exhaust your pup physically and mentally.
Though there is no replacement for good physical exercise — be that walks or hikes in your neighborhood — these tips and tricks can keep your dog entertained so you can limit the need to go outside when a walk just might not be in the cards.
* Lots of these games require some kind of food as an incentive for your dog. Try having your dog work for its mealtime foods instead of using treats throughout the day. Too many treats can lead to gastrointestinal stress and, if overfed treats, to obesity, lack of interest in treats as an incentive or in their main meal food. 10% of your dog’s daily food intake is the suggested percentage of treats per day.*
TOYS AND GAMES
Brain stimulating toys and puzzles
Puzzle toys are an easy way to keep your dogs entertained and curious, while also tiring them out, when you aren’t able to dedicate time to interactive play. There are tons of options out there — here are a few to get you started, and check out your local pet store for others too:
- Nina Ottosson Dog Smart Beginner Dog Puzzle Toy – This is a great toy for dogs who like to explore with their nose. You can hide treats in the toy, and your dog can have fun trying to find them and get the reward! Dogs will figure out this puzzle very quickly, so it is best for dogs who have not had a lot of nose work experience to date. If you would like to purchase this toy, it is available on Amazon.
- ZippyPaws — Woodland Friends Burrow – This is an excellent toy for dogs that love stuffies! Hide the squirrels in the log and let your dog work to get them out. Once they have removed them, they have the reward of playing with the stuffed animals. This toy is available on Amazon.
- KONG Classic Dog Toy – The classic Kong is a favourite with many dog owners. This toy comes in a variety of sizes, you can choose the most appropriate size for your dog. Fill the Kong with peanut butter and let your dog work to get it all out, or simply use it as a durable chew toy. You can also freeze the Kong with peanut butter and kibble in it and it will take your dog even longer to work it all out. This toy is a must have for busy dogs. The Kong classic is also available on Amazon.
Gather some of your pet’s favourite smelly treats or mealtime kibble, let them sniff them, and then hide them around your space while telling your dog to wait. Once you’ve hidden the treats, let your dog fetch away.
A great option for you to get involved with your dog’s fun! Grab some food or treats once again, and some plastic cups. Start with two cups. Have your dog watch you place a treat under one of the two cups, and then rotate the cups around. Once shuffled, let your dog find the treat (typically by nudging the cup over).
Need to make the game harder? Add more cups, or use food or treats that don’t smell as much.
Alternatively, use a muffin pan and tennis balls to up the ante. Place a treat or piece of kibble in one of the muffin tin holes, and then cover each of the holes in the muffin pan with tennis balls. Then, let your dog find the food — they will need to lift out the tennis balls to get to their hidden treat!
A snuffle mat can be both a fun project for you, and great entertainment for your dog once it’s ready (or purchased, if crafting isn’t for you!).
To make one yourself, you will need to get a hold of a rubber sink mat with holes in it, and some light fleece (about a meter would be plenty!). Cut the fleece into roughly 1.5” x 7” strips, And knot them through the holes in your rubber mat until you have covered the mat. Tada! A snuffle mat.
Once finished, put the mat in front of your dog and hide kibble or treats throughout the fleece ties. From there, tell your dog to find them! They should, hopefully, snuffle through the ties to find their rewards. Alternatively, for dogs who are experts at nosework, put the kibble in the mat before you let your dog see it.
For those of us who aren’t as crafty, you can also buy snuffle mats online.
*This game is best done when you are able to check on your pet! If left too long with the mat (and once all the food has been found) they may start chewing on the fleece which can be tough on your dog’s stomach.*
An inexpensive option that is easy to get a hold of at your local pet food store. From raw bones to chewy treats, keep your dog busy with a long-lasting treat.
Your freezer is your best friend when you need to get some kind of activity put together at home. Take your dogs favourite ball or waterproof toy and freeze it in a container of water. Once the ice block has set, let your dog lick away at it! Want to make it an extra special treat for your pet? Flavour the water with sodium-free broth.
This activity can get messy as the ice melts, so this one would be best to take outside on your deck or in the backyard.
Run or play fetch on the stairs in your home
A set of stairs is all you need to get your dog working and wearing itself out. Either run the stairs with them, or throw a ball up the stairs and have them fetch it for you.
If you live in an apartment, be cognizant and respectful of your neighbours! Find a lesser used staircase, or head outside to a nearby staircase.
Play with bubbles
Fun fact: lots of dogs love bubbles! And they are a great way to keep your dog busy while you are working from home, no matter the age of your dog. With all the chasing, jumping and running, it’s great exercise.
Though bubbles tend to be non-toxic and safe for kids, this does not necessarily mean they are safe for your dog! Check the bottle to be sure there is nothing that is toxic for dogs (even if it is safe for humans).
That said, there are some bubbles out there that are made specifically for your pup: they are non-toxic and taste good to your pet. Even better? They can be delivered to your door when getting out of the house just isn’t an option. For example, the Bubbletastic Dog Bubbles (peanut butter flavoured).
Most dogs won’t experience any side-effects from bubbles, but watch out for diarrhea or vomiting afterwards — it could indicate they are ingesting too many.
Teach your dog some new tricks
Being stuck indoors is the perfect opportunity to teach your dog new tricks. Practice the ones your dog already knows, or look up some fun ones to add to your pet’s repertoire.
Try an online training program
If you aren’t able to get to your usual training classes, take a look at what options there are online. Browse the web for a course that fits what you want your dog to learn, and how long you want to dedicate to training. There are courses available for free, on YouTube, or at a cost — whatever you prefer!