Kate Ellam explores different ways of entertaining your dog indoors.
Q: What indoor games can I play with my dog during bad weather to keep him entertained and engaged? Have you any suggestions or recommendations?
Tony Brace, Lancashire.
A: Kate says: You’ll be pleased to know there are lots of different activities and games you can play with your dog to provide him with extra mental stimulation and further enrich his life.
Reward-based trick training can be a great way to work your dog’s brain, while helping to build an even stronger bond between you. This could include anything you and your dog enjoy learning, such as walking through your legs, turning in a circle, picking things up and bringing them to you, and so on. The Dogs Trust Dog School has a useful video about reward-based dog training that can help get you off to a good start.
Providing lots of food games instead of, or as well as, feeding your dog from a bowl can be an easy and fun way to entertain him. There are lots of great food toys and puzzle feeders available to buy, or you can get creative and make your own out of general household recyclables (make sure these are safe though, for instance check things like newspapers for staples and remove anything that could be swallowed such as bottle caps).
Think kibble in empty plastic bottles or egg cartons, or even hidden in scrunched up newspaper inside cardboard boxes. It’s a good idea to supervise your dog with these items to ensure he is using them safely, and that you are there to help if he struggles to get the food out.
Scattering food or laying a trail in one area of the house or garden, and encouraging your dog to search for it, will tap into his amazing sense of smell and is always fun to watch; the more your dog practises this, the better he will get so the harder you can start to make the searches!
You can also buy or make a range of new toys and bring them out on different occasions to provide something new for your dog to engage with, rotating them on a regular basis to make sure they stay interesting. Dogs naturally like to manipulate objects with their mouths and paws, so trying a range of toys of different sizes, shapes, and textures will help you find your dog’s favourites.
Always ensure play sessions are safe; if you feel teeth on your skin/clothes at any point then end the game right away by staying calm, quiet, and moving away. Telling your dog off will only confuse him, as he might think he’s being told off for playing and not want to join in again. After a short break, come back and play again — he’ll soon learn that the fun can continue as long as he keeps his mouth on the toy! It’s also OK to let your dog win sometimes, as making sure you both win will create a balanced play session.
If your dog enjoys interacting with people, then you could try playing hide-and-seek; you just need someone else to play with, someone who you can send to hide while you stay with your dog. Let your dog watch them go and then, once they’ve hidden, get them to shout: ‘Ready’ so your dog can hear roughly whereabouts they are, and release him to go and find the person. You can build it up and make it harder once your dog knows the game, by having your hider remain silent! Whenever your dog finds the hider, he gets a treat, a game with a toy, or a gentle fuss.