Now that the cold, wet weather has arrived, I thought it would be a good time to share my favourite games to play inside with my dog. These are great alternatives when the nasty weather makes long walks outside impractical.
All three of these games help tire your dog by engaging their brain to work out problems or listen and respond to commands. They also help to strengthen that very important trust relationship between owner and dog. Most importantly they're FUN!
If you follow the rules of tug play your dog will learn to go from over-excited to calm and collected quickly - great for dogs who have problems calming down, especially young dogs. If Rufus always seems to operate in hyper overdrive then this is the perfect game for him. Not all dogs enjoy tug and if your dog is one of them then don't force the issue. Try one of the other games.
Ask your dog for a "sit". Present the tug toy and say "ok let's play". Now the fun begins! Pull, push, high low, in circles and even mimic the noises your dog makes. After a few minutes of play gather as much of the toy up in your hands as you can and then stand up straight (or as straight as possible if your dog is small) and get really boring. Even look at the ceiling. You'll notice your dog will calm down quickly because the fun is over. If your dog has a well-established 'drop', ask for the drop. If not, put a treat right on his noise and he will naturally drop the tug toy to eat the treat.
Repeat as many times as you like making sure you ask for a nice polite 'sit' before each play.
Unlike humans who explore the world primarily with our eyes, dogs explore the world with their noses. Scientists have recently discovered that dogs can tell time using their sense of smell! Games that engage their nose also engages their brain which is another excellent way to tire your dog out.
If your dog already has an excellent 'sit, stay', then ask your dog for one. If not, use a partner to keep Rufus in his spot or tether him to a piece of furniture (a couch works great) using his leash. Drop some treats in front of him if he seems distressed that you are leaving him. Your job is to hide treats all around the house, some in obvious spots and some in more difficult spots. I like to pair them together - one just inside a room and then one behind the door for example. Go back to Rufus, ask for a 'sit' and then release him with a 'go find' command. Let him do his thing but if he needs a little help point him in the right direction.
Using kibble in a treat ball instead of treats is a fantastic trick I tell all my puppy clients about. If Rufus tends to gobble up his food too fast this will slow him down. It also makes your dog work hard at rolling the ball around the floor to get those tricky last pieces out. For dogs with energy to spare, especially puppies, or seem to be glued to your side, this is a perfect solution that doesn't add calories to their diet and keeps them busy while you're getting ready for work or making dinner.
Perhaps the hardest part of this game is keeping your pup calm as you load the treat ball. Ask for a 'sit, stay' and always ask for a 'sit' before you deliver the treat ball.
These are my favourite games. What's your favourite game to play inside with your pup?
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