Play Indoors with Your Dog

Although we usually think of playing games with our dog in the great outdoors, there are times when neither you nor your dog want to be outdoors. Think 90-degree days, lightning and thunder or below-zero Winter days.

No problem, there are games you can play together inside in comfort.

1. Food - Thank goodness for treats. Put something soft (peanut butter, cheese spreads or canine tooth paste) in a Kong toy and then hide the toy.

Your dog's sense of smell should lead him to find the toy. If he isn't getting the idea, show him the treat-filled Kong Biscuit Ball Small Dog Toy and then hide it.

If you want to challenge your dog even more, there is an expensive line of toys such as Nina Ottosson's Best Quality Dog Brick Puzzle Toy, Wood (not plastic) with also teach problem solving ability.

To save money, you can create your own version of the pricey toy. Use a muffin pan and place a treat inside some of depressions. Place a ball or other cover on all the muffin pan depressions and then let your dog sniff out which ones have the treats inside. Expect to see balls flying through the air.

You also could use something like an old toilet paper or kitchen towel roll and fold it over like an envelope with a treat inside. If your dog is really smart, try hiding treats in a plastic (non-breakable) bottle or jar and see if he can get the treats out.

2. Track games - Teach your dog to follow a trail to a reward (such as dinner) by placing a line of small dog treats such as Zuke's Mini Naturals Dog Treats Fresh Peanut Butter (less than 3 calories a treat) that he follows to dinner or a favorite toy.

Say the 'Find It' command before you start him on his trail so s/he begins to understand that command starts his effort. Change 'It' to whatever object you are having the dog find; i.e., dinner or toy, etc.

Once he gets good at finding dinner, try other things such as favorite toys or even another pet or family member. Vary the game by spreading the treats out farther and farther to make it harder for your dog.

Two cautions: One, don't use dinner as the Find It goal if your dog has any type of eating problem such as overweight, allergies or guarding issues. In that case, start with Find It for a favorite toy or other object.

Two, don't make the Find It object something like your car keys or the TV remote that your dog might start Finding even when you don't want him to play the game!

3. Fetch - It only requires a minimum amount of space with a small dog.

Use a ball or a favorite dog toy and say 'Fetch' before throwing the toy. Let your dog retrieve it and bring it to you. Then do it over and over until your dog loses interest.

Hallways make a perfect Fetch playground. If you have a basement, that's even better.

4. Training - Don't overlook the need to keep training your dog.

There's no reason you can't practice commands such as Sit, Stay, Come, Down in your house. I put my Toy Poodle puppy on my couch, and we practice the Sit and Down commands there.

No law says you have to work hard at training. It should be enjoyable for you both and doing it on a couch in an air-conditioned room will make it that way.

Regardless of the weather, dogs need mental stimulation and physical activity and these games will accomplish both. HAVE FUN.

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