By: Liam Crowe
Bark Busters CEO
For Pets Best Insurance
If the weather outside is still frightful and chilly where you are, you might be looking for ways to keep your dog or cat entertained inside. For those days that you miss your morning walk or just don’t feel like going outside, the following indoor games will help work out your pet both mentally and physically, which is good for overall pet health. And just like training him, playing games with your dog enhances your bond and helps keep him focused on you.
Change these games to reward your dog in the way he is best motivated: praise, belly rubs, favorite toys, balls to fetch, or treats. To keep your dog from gaining weight from too many snacks, use some of his mealtime kibble for the games. Make sure each session is short and fun! It’s better to stop any game before your dog gets overly excited or bored.
Name that Toy
Get a group of your dog’s toys that are noticeably different (for example, a stuffed goose, rabbit and bear). Hold a toy up for your dog to sniff and see, get him excited, and toss it, saying “Where’s your bear?” When he comes back with it, give him lots of praise, then do the same with the rabbit, then with the goose, etc. Repeat over and over, and be consistent with the names you choose. Once he has mastered a few, spread out multiple toys and tell him which to get.
Put your dog in a sit/stay position and show him a toy or treat. Put it on the floor where he can see it, and say “Find it!” Make the next prize a bit more difficult to find by placing it under a table or behind a chair. For a bigger challenge, set up a whole room of hidden rewards. Watch as your dog searches, and tap your foot and give an “Oh” or gasp to help him find the ones he’s missed.
Where’s the Treat?
Start with 3 or 4 plastic cups or old, cleaned out butter tubs. Show your dog a treat or a favorite small toy. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay position about 10 feet away, and make sure he can see you as you place his reward under one of the makeshift buckets. Then say “Where’s the treat?” and encourage him to come smell the buckets. Praise him when he paws, sits beside, or barks next to the right bucket, and then lift it up so he can get to his prize! Make it harder for him by changing the order of the buckets after you place the reward, or pretending to put them under multiple buckets.
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Teach your dog to clean up his toys after playtime. First, have your dog pick up a toy while you hold a box for the toys up to him. Tell him “drop it.” When he does, give him lots of praise. Repeat with the next toy. Once he starts to figure it out, put the toy box on the floor, guide your dog over to it, and repeat “drop it.” Be sure to use the same words each time for every command.
Work for your Dinner
Dogs use about the same amount of energy when they are challenged mentally as physically! Treat-rewarding puzzles, such as the Buster® Food Cube or the Wobbler by KONG®, make your dog work for his treats— you can even use kibble (instead of treats) and feed your dog his entire meal this way.
Remember that basic obedience is the foundation for having fun with your dog—games should be a fun and rewarding bonding experience, not a stressful time, for you and your dog.