7 Indoor Games to Play with Your Pet

When the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, some dogs and their owners greet the change less than enthusiastically. They dread the end of outdoor fun for the season. But neither rain nor sleet nor blizzard should prevent you and your dog from engaging in daily play and exercise. There are plenty of ways to keep your dog entertained inside.

So on those days when it’s not conducive to go outside, the following indoor games will benefit your pet both mentally and physically, which is good for overall pet health. And just like training him, playing games with your dog enhances your bond and helps keep him focused on you.

You can change these games to reward your dog in the way he is best motivated:

  • Praise
  • Belly rubs
  • Favorite toys
  • Balls to fetch
  • Treats

To keep your dog from gaining weight from too many snacks, use some of his mealtime kibble for the games. Make sure each session is short and fun! It’s better to stop a game before your dog gets overly excited or bored.

1. Name That Toy

Get a group of your dog’s toys that are noticeably different (for example, a stuffed goose, rabbit, and bear). Hold a toy up for your dog to sniff and see, get him excited, and toss it, saying “Where’s your bear?” When he comes back with it, give him lots of praise, then do the same with the rabbit, then with the goose, etc. Repeat over and over, and be consistent with the names you choose. Once he has mastered a few, spread out multiple toys and tell him which to get.

2. Find It!

Put your dog in a sit/stay position and show him a toy or treat. Put it on the floor where he can see it, and say “Find it!” Make the next prize a bit more difficult to find by placing it under a table or behind a chair. For a bigger challenge, set up a whole room of hidden rewards. Watch as your dog searches, and tap your foot and give an “Oh” or gasp to help him find the ones he’s missed. A Snuffle Mat—which can be bought at pet stores or made from scratch—is also great for hiding treats and keeping your dog stimulated and occupied for long stretches of time.

3. Where’s the Treat?

Start with 3 or 4 plastic cups or old, cleaned out butter tubs. Show your dog a treat or a favorite small toy. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay position about 10 feet away, and make sure he can see you as you place his reward under one of the makeshift buckets. Then say “Where’s the treat?” and encourage him to come smell the buckets. Praise him when he paws, sits beside, or barks next to the right bucket, and then lift it up so he can get his prize. Make it harder for him by changing the order of the buckets after you place the reward, or pretending to put them under multiple buckets.

4. Clean Up!

Teach your dog to clean up his toys after playtime. First, have your dog pick up a toy while you hold a box for the toys up to him. Tell him “drop it.” When he drops the toy in the box, give him lots of praise. Repeat with the next toy. Once he starts to figure it out, put the toy box on the floor, guide your dog over to it, and repeat “drop it.” Be sure to use the same words each time for every command.

5. Work for Your Dinner

Dogs use about the same amount of energy when they are challenged mentally as physically. Treat-rewarding puzzles, such as the Buster® Food Cube or the Wobbler by KONG®, make your dog work for his treats. You can even use kibble instead of treats and feed your dog his entire meal this way.

6. Hide-And-Seek

This game reinforces the all-important recall cue for your dog. Start by having your dog stay in a room. Then you leave and hide in another room. In an upbeat tone, call out his name and tell him to come and find you. Be sure to heap on praise and treats each time he finds you so he enjoys a great payoff for complying.

7. Hallway Fetch

Do you have a fetch-obsessed dog? When the weather is bad, shift your game of fetch indoors. Position your dog in a sit at your side at one end of the hall. Then toss the ball to the other end of the hall and release him by saying, “Fetch!” Shower him with kudos and occasional treats when he snags the ball in mid-air and brings it back to you. For senior dogs or ones with some mobility issues, tone down the fetch game by rolling the ball down the hall.

It turns out there are many ways to cure the wintertime blues that your dog and you might suffer. If you use your imagination, the options for new indoor games are endless. So next time the weather outside is frightful, fill your day with a fun, stimulating indoor game that will keep your dog busy and teach him a new thing or two.

As with outdoor activities, dogs can be prone to accidents while playing inside. If you already have a Pets Best insurance policy for your four-legged friend, you know how much easier it is to care for your pet’s health needs. If not, did you know that Pets Best covers up to 90% of your pet’s unexpected veterinary costs? With a pet health insurance policy from Pets Best you can focus on getting the best care for your pet without worrying about the financial burden.

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