Doggie fun and games: Ideas to keep your dog stimulated while at home
Daily walks are of course vital to our dog’s physical health and mental stimulation. But if you are stuck indoors there are lots of fun ways to keep your dog stimulated and most are free! Here are some games I play with my dog Amber. She is a lively little 3 year old terrier cross, and even after an hour-long walk and a quick nap, she is soon up and ready to play again. So here are some of the ways I keep her amused at home, which may give you some ideas to try with your own canine companion.
1) Treat Searches
Dogs explore new places primarily with their noses (unlike humans that explore primarily by sight) and love to sniff & search. So hiding some treats around the house is a great way to give your dog a task. With Amber I usually show her the treats in my hand. I then ask her to wait in the kitchen (behind the door) as I hide the treats around my living room. She now knows what to expect and sits patiently as I set up the search. When I open the door, she immediately begins searching, and has now gotten so good at it, I’m constantly having to find harder hiding places for her to find. This search game can also be done outside in the garden if you have one, or even on walks if you have a safe place to allow your dog off lead.
2) Home ‘obstacle’ course
This is my version of a very basic home ‘agility’ course. I bought online a children’s fold up play tunnel which I set up either in the garden or indoors when the weather is very wet and windy. Coupled with a broom handle placed on two small boxes to create a ‘jump’, I have taught Amber how to run through this obstacle course (using treats as a positive reward when she gets it right). We have had so many laughs doing this, and it keeps Amber amused as well as getting some exercise. One time my cat decided to join in as well! I sometimes pair it with a ball game, so that she runs through the tunnel to catch the ball.
3) Puzzle games
There are a lot of different ones on the market such as the two in the pictures below. Some are unsuitable for bigger dogs, as they can splinter if chewed on. So use your judgement as to what is suitable for your own dog.
If you don’t have money to spend, then making home-made challenges is easy. One simple way I found is using a towel. I place a treat or two on the towel then fold it in layers and place it on the floor. Amber then has to find a way to push apart the folds to get to the treat.
Another one is setting up a search box: fill a large cardboard box with scrunched up newspapers or old rags. Then hide some treats within the box contents and let your dog find them.
Another game I have tried is using an empty egg carton, popping a treat or two inside, then closing the lid. Once on the floor Amber tries figure out how to open the lid to get to the treat. She doesn’t always manage it, and sometimes breaks it open instead – but hey, it still keeps her busy for a while.
I hope these give you some ideas to try and keep both your dog and you amused for a while. If you give these a try, or make up your own games, do let me know how you get on. Stay well and keep safe. Rita x