The days are getting shorter and the cold and rainy weather is here to stay – at least for the next few months. Yup, winter is well and truly upon us, making the daily doggie walk or outside afternoon romp a rare occasion. This doesn’t mean you should let your dog spiral into a depression induced by boredom. He needs to be challenged mentally and physically to avoid mass destruction around the house, so it’s a great idea to make some time each day to play with and stimulate your dog indoors.
Before You Play Indoors
Here are a few indoor games and activities to keep your pooch busy, fit and happy during the cold months.
Treat Treasure Hunt Think of it as an Easter Egg Hunt for dogs. Hide food around the house – without your dog seeing you doing the hiding of course – and then send your dog to find his treats. To make it more challenging, rub the food against some objects, just leaving the scent behind. This encourages the dog learn to differentiate between the actual treat and just the scent – great for mental stimulation.
Create an obstacle course out of boxes, chairs, brooms and towels. Take your dog through the course a couple of times, using treats at each obstacle as a reward, and then see if he can do it by himself.
Hide and seek
Your dog will need to know the ‘stay’ and ‘come’ command for this one. Tell your dog to ‘stay’ and then go and hide (don’t make it too difficult – and make sure you are accessible). Call ‘Come’ after a few minutes. This is a fun way for your dog to learn discipline as well as keeping him (and you) occupied and entertained!
Tug of war
Tug of war is not for all dogs as it can encourage aggression. But it’s a great game to play when teaching the ‘drop’ command. There are plenty of toys on the market that encourage tug of war games, but an old towel lying around at home, will do the job too. Again, you need enough space for this one! Just don’t attempt it near your Ming vase.
The word game
Who says dogs can’t understand human vocab? Take one or two of your dog’s favourite toys, but keep it simple like ‘rope’ and ‘bear’. Say the word loudly and clearly and then throw it a short distance away and encourage your dog to fetch. Do this repeatedly with the two toys, and your dog will soon learn the difference in the two toys’ names. Once he knows them, introduce more toys to the mix. Soon you’ll be able to impress your friends by saying ‘find bear’, and your pooch will trot off to find it, even when ‘bear’ is out of sight.
Still struggling with your dog learning the basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’? Why not make a game out of it? Using food as the reward, encourage him to do the actions according to the various commands over and over again, switching between them. Once he has the basics down pat, you can move onto more advanced commands: ‘roll over’, ‘paw’ etc.
Making your dog run up and down stairs is a great way to tire him out. But add some discipline to the game, by making sure he ‘sits’ and ‘stays’ at the top or bottom before calling him to ‘come’.
Teach your dog to tidy up his toys. Start by keeping all his toys in a box/crate. Scatter the toys around the room, and then encourage him to pick it up and “drop” it in the toy box. Praise him with rewards when he does it correctly.
While not a game as such, grooming your dog regularly in the winter months, is not only great for his coat, skin and well-being, it also encourages one-on-one time with your pet – deepening the bond between the two of you.
On days when the sun is making an appearance (or even when not), sometimes it’s worth the effort to grab a coat, a pair of wellies, and a leash and brave the elements. Not only will your dog appreciate the fresh air, you will feel invigorated too!