On many occasions, rain, snow, thunderstorms and even allergies can leave your pooch sequestered to his fluffy nap pillow.
We humans might enjoy cozying up on the couch and drinking a cup of cocoa on days like these, but our wet-nosed pup pal might be wondering why the heck the big, dark clouds outdoors are keeping him from his much-anticipated run around the block.
Get ready for a good scolding from your dog, because his natural instincts tell him he needs at least 30 minutes of daily exercise to get all the wiggly energy out of his system, and guess what? He knows it’s your job to give him that exercise.
Maybe you’re thinking, But, but, but it’s not my fault that we can’t get out of the house! Can’t we just cuddle for the day and take a walk when the bad weather goes away? Sure, you can try to wrestle your pup down into a cuddle session on the couch, but you’ll soon find Fido staring out that window, anxiously awaiting his daily run through the park.
Ultimately, whether or not you want to pull the covers up over your head, ensuring your pet’s physical and emotional health on a daily basis is very important, no matter the conditions outside. So instead of moping around the house, give your pup his own rainy-day treat and make your home an exciting maze of activities that get his heart pumping and tail thumping!
Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant Eugenia Vogel warns, “Pent-up energy can show up in the form of unwanted and unwelcome behaviors like constant attempts to get your attention, unfocused busy-ness (rooting in trash cans, cat litter boxes, etc.), and excessive barking.”
Vogel says, “Exercise needs are individual and are dictated by general health, including level of athleticism, weight, and age.” Even a speedy Greyhound might find satisfaction from an hour-long walk around the block, whereas a petite Chihuahua might fool you into thinking all she needs is a skip around the living room. The truth is that smaller dogs may need just as much exercise as larger dogs (intensity levels vary, so check into your particular breed to find out).
It’s important that every dog gets some exercise even on days like these, so go ahead and bring the happy puppy workout indoors.
Whether small or large, apartment or mansion, any home can become the setting of a full-fledged doggie amusement park. With all of these activities, make sure that all breakables and furniture with sharp edges are safely tucked away. Everyone’s safety is the first priority when playing indoors.
Vogel also recommends that all dogs stretch and warm up before participating in any activity to help prevent physical injuries.
How do you warm up a dog? Vogel says, “Dogs should be walked around the house for a while, focusing on making slow, deliberate turns to help with stretching, working toward making the turns sharper as they warm up. Use a small treat to ‘bend’ them around corners. Slowly walking up stairs helps as well.”
Once you and your dog are all warmed up and stretched out, let the games begin!
The Great Living Room Obstacle Course
What you need: Hula Hoop, bath mats, cardboard boxes and a Kong or puzzle-type dog toy with treats
How you play: Place the items around your living room so that your dog has to go from one obstacle to the next. The cardboard boxes can be linked together to serve as a tunnel. If you have children, they can link their hands and hold up their arms for your pup to leap over. The Hula Hoop is another good leaping obstacle. Line up the bath mats as “stepping stones” so your pooch has to jump from one to the next. Have your dog try to muscle a treat out of his Kong or puzzle toy at the very end. Repeat the course and enjoy watching the workout wags!
Trainer Warning: Vogel recommends that both dogs and children be closely monitored while playing any game. The wrong situation or a misinterpreted movement could trigger your dog’s chasing instinct and lead to unintentional harm, so always err on the side of caution.
Dog Obedience Show (Trainer Suggested!)
What you need: Paper, markers, bath mats or towels, and dog treats
How you play: Create a string of “command” stations, delineated by signs made by you (or your kids) that are posted beside each station. Take your pup from station to station and see if he can do the command – sit, roll-over, down, etc. Give your pooch plenty of time to respond. The objective is for your dog to learn to do the command with only one request. You can also swap between verbal commands and hand-signal cues.
Trainer Tip: Vogel says, “If you want to declare a winner in this game, it should be the person who’s the most fun and enthusiastic with the dog, and gives the command the fewest amount of times.”
What you need: Toy or treat
How you play: Ask your pup to sit at your side in an unobstructed space. Throw his favorite treat or squeaky toy across the room. When your pup hits the ground running, find a good hiding place and call your pooch over to you by name. When he races to you and finds you, reward him with a treat and plenty of praise.
Trainer Wisdom: Vogel says this game can be a great training session that teaches your pup the recall: “He’ll learn that he’s got to keep an eye on you, or you disappear!”
Race for the Treat
What you need: A dog toy or treat, and a helper
How you play: Put a leash on your dog and ask him to sit, while a helper places a treat about 10 feet away from both of you. Tell your dog to “Wait” as you remove his leash, then give the command, “Go.” Race your pup to the treat or toy.
Trainer Tip: Vogel says to make sure to race past the treat or toy – do not try to snatch it up before your pup does, or at all! Otherwise your pup might react with some resource guarding and do whatever he can to protect his treat or toy.
What you need: A flashlight and a spacious empty room
How you play: Turn off the lights, hide the breakables, and bring out the flashlight that’s been hibernating in the closet. Shine the light around the room and have your pet chase the beam of light. Bring the beam back to you and reward your pup with a treat or a belly rub for a job well done.
Trainer Warning: Vogel recommends you direct the beam of light toward the floor in an empty part of the room. She cautions, “Dogs with strong chase instincts will plow into anything to get to the light, and could easily injure themselves.”