We all know that our dogs need exercise and often think of this just being their daily walks, but dogs need play and fun interactions with us as well. Some of these we can incorporate into our out and about time, but there are lots of other things you can do in the house.
Some days, when the weather outside is less than perfect, or when you’d rather just not leave the house (or for some reason, can’t leave the house), it’s important to have plenty of indoor activities to keep your canine friend entertained and provide enrichment and bonding opportunities. That’s where indoor games for dogs come in, and while the sky is the limit when it comes to play opportunities – and it depends what your dog enjoys - we can think of quite a few fun ones to get you started.
We put together a list of eight fun indoor games for dogs that you can both enjoy to help improve your dog’s focus on you and strengthen the bond between you. Check them out!
1. Hide and Seek
A classic game that can be adapted for dogs! Start by having your furry friend wait in one room while you run and hide in another. Then, call out to them and see if they can find you. Start by making it really simple so they get the hang of it – and always reward them when they find you.
Once your dog gets the hang of this and finds you immediately, you make it more challenging by hiding in different spots each time and using different rooms. This will help keep them focused on you and it will also help your recall.
NOTE: Do not do this if you have slippery floors or if your dog has separation anxiety.
Just because you're inside doesn't mean you can't play fetch! Find a soft ball or toy that won’t damage your furniture, get your dog interested in it, and then throw it a short distance. Most dogs will chase it. When they do, let them get hold of it before you encourage them to come back to you. If they do, reward them with a treat (which will also encourage them to give the object back to you, and then repeat. If they don’t want to give it back to you, have two toys and once they have the first, you can make the other one more interesting than the one they have by playing with it. Then when they come and see what you have you can throw it again and get the original one ready to repeat.
If your dog doesn’t bring it back, you can try running away from them and see if they will follow with the toy – but be aware that some dogs are never going to be retrievers – but they still enjoy playing with you and chasing the toy.
3. Scent Work
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so why not put it to the test?
Start by putting treats somewhere that is easy for your dog to find. Having a bunched up (old!) bath towel on the floor can be a good starting point. Put treats in the folds and creases and encourage your dog to find them. Some they will locate by sight, others they will need to use their nose. This can be a fun game for beginners or expert sniffers alike.
Once your dog has got the hang on sniffing out treats, you can make the games harder.
Hide treats or toys around the house and encourage your dog to find them using their nose. You can also put together different boxes and hide treats in some of them. Your dog will do their best to open the box and get the treat out – just make sure there are no staples or packing tape on the boxes.
Some dogs (especially terriers) love ripping and tearing, and so treats inside a small, thin box with the ends folded down can double up as a scent game and an outlet for this natural behaviour.
4. Treat Dispensing Puzzle Toys
These toys are designed to challenge your dog's brain and are for the expert puzzle solvers. Simply fill the toy with your dog's favourite treats and encourage them as they try to figure out how to get them out. If you don’t have these specific toys, don’t worry, it also works with plastic cups that you can hang on a string or plastic bottles with holes in. Your dog will have to push these around until it rolls about, and the treat falls out.
Watch out for your dog getting frustrated, however. These games are meant to be enjoyable and achievable.
5. Find the Toy
Same thing as with hide and seek, but with toys! Hide your dog's favourite toy somewhere in the house and see if they can find it. Show them the toy first so that they know what to look for and get them interested and excited in it first – so they are keen to find it.
Start with easy visible hiding spots and gradually make it more challenging.
6. Tug of War
Some dogs (especially terriers and those who are mouth-driven) really love playing tuggy games and it’s a game that we can enjoy too! Find a toy that your dog likes that is either long and thin or on a rope, and get your dog interested and keen to play. Hold on to one end and see what they do!
Some will straightaway try and tug at it – and if that’s the case, you know this game is going to be a winner with your dog! Others might start off less confident and take some time to get the hang of this. Dragging the toy back and forward along the floor ‘like a snake’ can often encourage them to get hold of it and give it a tug.
While you can move it around side to side, and encourage your dog, keep your tugging gentle and let your dog dictate how much tugging this game involves. Some will really pull hard and try and ‘kill’ the toy, others will be more genteel about it – but enjoy it just as much. Only pull backwards and side to side – never upwards.
Alternate who ‘wins’. This is a game, not a battle that you must win at all costs!
NOTE: Do not play tuggy games on slippery floors, or with young puppies or older dogs as there is a risk of injury.
7. DIY Agility Course
Set up a DIY agility course around the house using normal household items like chairs, boxes, and blankets. Create obstacles like jumps (for adult dogs), tunnels, and things to weave around, and then using treats and encouragement, help your dog negotiate each ‘obstacle’. This is a really good game to help encourage confidence in puppies as they learn to go under things and through things, and it as much fun for you as it is for them. The ‘slippery floor’ caveat applies here too.
8. Magic Cups
Get three plastic cups and a tennis ball or any other kind of small ball that fits under the cups and that is not too small (something that’s not a choking hazard). Place the ball under one of the cups and shuffle them around in front of your dog. Their task will be to guess where the ball is. This works perfectly with treats as well if your dog isn’t ball oriented.
Another ball variation is to have a muffin tin and put treats in some of the delves with a tennis ball on top. Your dog’s job is to sniff out the ones that have treats under them, and then remove the ball with either their mouth or paw to get at them. This works better with foodies than ball maniacs – for obvious reasons!
Remember that mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise and indoor games for dogs are a great way to get both. They can also be a fun bonding experience for you and your furry friend so find a safe and clear space to play in and enjoy the fun!
Now that you have an idea of how to keep your dog entertained indoors, learn how to train your dog by reading this article on the 5 Cool Tricks to Teach Your Dog next.