Games for a Winter Day

At least once this winter there will be a week – maybe even longer – when you just can’t get your dog out for enough exercise. Well, there are plenty of things you can do inside to dissipate some doggie energy.

  1. Find Me. Cue your dog to Wait while you go out of sight. Then call your dog and when he finds you, have a party with lots of praise and petting. If your dog doesn’t know Wait or Stay yet, then just wait until he’s not paying attention to you. Hide behind a piece of furniture, around a corner or in the next room then call him. Keep it pretty easy the first few times. Once he understands the game you can increase the challenge and he will love it. The Bonus is that you will be reinforcing your Recall and your Wait cues.
  2. Find It. Scatter pieces of your dog’s kibble on the floor then send her to eat them up. Dogs are born scavengers and this is thrilling for them. Use any cue you want; some people say Go Sniff or Hoover. Dr. Marty Becker, aka America’s Veterinarian, once posted on PetConnection that he feeds his dogs this way.
  3. Hide-and-Find. Okay, so you think you spend too much time vacuuming to throw stuff into the carpet on purpose.
    • Hide-and-Find version 1. Get a metal muffin tin and put some kibble in each muffin well. Cover each well with a tennis ball or a small toy. Let your dog find the kibble by removing the ball. You might have to demonstrate the first time and yes, retriever people, your dog might run off with the tennis ball and leave the kibble. But so what? She’s having fun!
    • Hide-and-Find version 2. Put some kibble in an empty margarine container then cover the container with something larger, like a shoe box. Cue your dog to Find It. Play the game in different rooms. Use two shoe boxes and see if your dog can find the one with the food.
    • Hide-and-Find version 3. Instead of a shoe box, cover the food with a washcloth or towel. Does your dog move the towel or just chew right through it?
    • Hide-and-Find version 4. Use several plastic cups, hide a treat under one then mix them up like the shell game. How long does it take your dog to find the cup with the treat?
  4. Go Wild and Freeze. Remember Freeze Tag or Statues from when you were a kid? Get your dog’s attention and when she looks at you start jumping around, shaking your arms, spinning, anything silly. Once your dog joins in, even if it’s just to bark at you, say Freeze and stop moving. Don’t budge until your dog stops. Then praise and pet him. Start the game again. The Bonus is that your dog will be learning some self-control with the cease and desist cue, Freeze.
  5. The Classics. Fetch and Tug are great exercise. Indoors, try throwing the object up or down a flight of stairs to burn more energy. (Only recommended for dogs that are structurally sound, of course.) Tug is a great game to help your dog learn to play by the rules. If you say Stop or Drop and your dog doesn’t release the tug, leave the room. Once your dog sees that the good stuff (you) goes away, he will become motivated to cooperate.

So this should be enough to get you and your dog through an entire snowed-in weekend.

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