When it’s raining cats and dogs, chances are your pooch gets a little stir crazy without the option of a long walk, playing outside, or otherwise getting some Mother Nature time worked into the day. Falling temperatures also means less outdoor time, and dog parents need to get creative to keep mutts from becoming, well, monsters.
Here are five fun rainy-day activities to keep dogs active — and behavior manageable — indoors:
By far, this is my favorite indoor game. I play this year-round with Dexter and it has served me well when traveling in a car and making overnight stops at hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Generally, this game is more fun if two humans partake. I break up several dog treats into pieces and set them on a table outside my dog’s reach. A family member stays in a room with Dexter and gives him the “sit, stay” command. She rewards Dexter with a treat and stands over him, as if ready to release him at the start of a race. I hide in a separate part of the house with a treat in my hand. I let out a “woot woot” or some other funky noise, and my family member says, “go find Mommy!”
If you could see those little Cocker legs go from room to room with the nose to the ground, searching for me and the treat (probably more of the latter) — what a delight! If your dog cannot find you initially, occasionally let out a “woot woot” or shout out his or her name. If you have the space to do this, go for it. You can up the bar and shout out any verbal cues. Keep any ceramics or valuables that could break out of harm’s way.
Whether traveling or stuck indoors, there are human-style exercises that can be modified doggie style.
Canine Fitness Trainer Gail Miller Bisher shares that a dog should be getting at least 20 to 60 minutes of exercise daily in order to maintain a healthy fitness level or to lose weight. Of course, these exercises and the nature of them should be modified according to age, size, and goals.
Bisher recommends “sit ups” for dogs. Sitting up to beg for 10 repetitions is a fun way to strengthen core muscles while also helping with stability and balance. If your dog can roll over, this is also another great way to strengthen muscles.
Shaking hands is a great workout for shoulder muscles — five to 10 repetitions from the left paw, and then ditto for the right paw. Always reward for good behavior, even if the reward is verbal praise, the toss of a ball, or a healthy snack.
Have you seen some of the “brain” games to hit the marketplace? Dexter digs some of these and completely turns his nose up at others, so assess which you think might intrigue your dog. The Nina Ottosson Collection of games fires up dogs’ brain cells while keeping them physically on the go. Dogs can try pushing blocks, moving pieces, and turning discs in some of the games. Treats (or kibble) are hidden beneath, and a series of one or more movements is required to reveal the hidden treasure. Bonus: Dexter and his friends are a hoot when they search together.
I wish I had a dime for every time someone said, “That is the cutest thing ever” when Dexter plays with his Kong Genius toys. I also wish I had invented this toy. The Genius line is my favorite because they are rubbery and easy on the teeth for dogs to pick up, toss, and bite into. By now, most pet parents know how the Kong toys work: Insert treats; dogs roll, rock, or tumble the Kong; treats are dispensed. So as not to pack on the pooch pounds, kibble or crunchy carrot pieces are a great alternative snacks. By the way, treats should never be too large as to cause mental anguish to the dog in an effort to get them loose.
While walking through the grounds of a pet expo this year, I came across a group of dogs who had colored paws and watched as they traipsed across construction paper. In the name of fundraising, these dogs were paining a masterpiece for their moms and dads. If you mix cornstarch with flour, water, and food coloring to desired consistency, voilà: Paint by the paw. You can also use a nontoxic acrylic paint. Just put paint on art paper, place plastic wrap on top of it, and allow the dog to walk across it. Remove the plastic wrap, allow to air dry, and you’ve got instant refrigerator art.
What’s your favorite indoor doggie game? Let us know in the comments!