Cabin Fever! Make Time For Play

photoAll pooches need to exercise, even when the weather isn’t agreeable or you don’t feel like heading outside. Indoor games, such as the ones listed below, will keep your dog healthy and happy. And just like training, playing with him strengthens your bond and helps him keep his focus on you.

You can modify these games depending on how your pet is best motivated – favorite toys, treats, items to fetch, praise, or belly rubs. If you opt to use treats, you can keep your dog from gaining weight by using some of his mealtime kibble to play the games. Remember to keep each session brief and fun. It’s better to end the activity before your dog becomes uninterested or too excited.

Name the Toy

Have a bunch of toys that are clearly different, e.g. a stuffed chicken, sheep, and snake. Hold one up for your pooch to smell and see, then toss it, saying, “Where’s your chicken?” Give him plenty of praise when he fetches it. Repeat the process with the sheep and snake toys. Do this several times, and be consistent with your naming. Once your dog has mastered the names, set out multiple toys and tell him which one to get.

Find It

Tell your pet to sit and stay. Show him a toy or treat and place it on the floor so he can see it. Now say, “Find it!” After your dog has found the first toy or treat, increase the difficulty level by placing the next item in a more challenging location, such as behind a chair. Vary the position of the prizes. You can also set up a roomful of hidden rewards beforehand for a real challenge.

Brain Workouts

Your dog uses approximately the same amount of energy when he’s challenged mentally as when he’s challenged physically. Puzzle toys such as Canine Genius, Buster Food Cube, and Kong Wobbler make your dog work for his treats in a really enjoyable way!

Where’s the Treat?

You will need three to four buckets (or old margarine tubs or cups). Show your dog that you have a treat or favorite toy. Tell him to sit and stay about ten feet away, then place the prize under one of the buckets (make sure he sees you doing this). Next, say, “Where’s the treat?” and encourage him to sniff the buckets. Praise him when he paws, sits beside, or barks at the correct bucket, then lift it up so he can get his reward. You can make the game more difficult by changing the position of the buckets or pretending to place treats under more than one bucket.

Clean Up

Teach your pooch to clean up after playing by picking up his toys and returning them to the toy box. Then have him pick up a toy as you hold the box up to him. Say, “Drop it,” and give him lots of praise when he does. Repeat until your dog gets the idea, at which point you can just put the toy box on the floor and guide him over to it.

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