We get it. After a long day of working and commuting, combined with short days of winter, you're ready to get comfortable on the couch and hibernate. However, your dog has been waiting all day for their best friend to walk through the door. And now, without the stimulation you've had, your dog is ready to play. Try to ignore it, and your dog will bring their favorite toy to you over and over, or maybe get into destructive mischief.
So, let’s look at some fun indoor activities for dogs that can help burn energy:
1 . Learn new commands. A great way to stimulate your dog’s mind as well as bond. Now is a terrific opportunity to work on simple commands or to curb misbehavior such as jumping. If you haven’t mastered Cesar Millan’s 5 Important Commands To Teach Your Dog, this is a great place to start.
2. Learn new tricks. Go to YouTube and type in “how to teach your dog new tricks”. You’ll get a wealth of tips and lessons from professional dog trainers, including step-by-step instructions. Your dog loves to please you and get praise. The challenge of learning new treats and the reward is priceless to them. Check out the SPOT YouTube for tips with pet training and behavior experts.
3. Play games. One of our favorite indoor pet activities is "hide and seek". This is a great way for your dog to challenge their mind with sniffing, listening, and practicing commands. Start in an open area with the command "sit". Then use the command "stay" as you slowly back up in the direction of bedrooms or other rooms of the house. If these are new commands or challenging, you may need to practice first, which is a great activity on its own. Now dash into a room, behind a door, or in a closet while using your release command. Your dog will now race to find their best friend!
4. Create a scavenger hunt with food. This is another great sniffing activity for your dog. Keep your dog in their crate and show them that you have treats or a handful of kibble. Then walk away. Hide the treats throughout different rooms. When done, open your dog's crate and shout "go!". You might need to lead your dog to a treat or two to get them into the hunt for the first few times.
5. Create a scavenger hunt with a favorite toy. You know that favorite toy your dog can retrieve by name? Let’s turn finding it into another fun challenge. With the commands “sit” and “stay” (or in the crate), have your dog wait as you hide the toy. Release your dog and tell them to go find “squirrel”, “ball” or whatever you hid. You might need to guide your dog to within a few feet of the toy until they get the goal of the game.
6. Puzzles. You can find many different puzzles at retailers that are designed specially to challenge your dog. One of our favorites is the snuffle mat. There are always new places to hide food, and it's great fun for your dog. Keep in mind the puzzles don't always work for all dogs, and your dog may start to learn them quickly. Be sure to read the reviews of the puzzles when choosing the best one for your dog.
7. Food dispensers. Similar to puzzles, here is a way for your dog to use their minds to work for a food reward. Find a food dispenser toy you can put your dog's food or treats in so that they must move the toy for the treats to fall out. Kibble, treats, or a mix of the two are great incentives for your dog to bat a food dispenser around playfully.
8. Special food treat. For those very challenging days, you might want to pull out a special treat your dog doesn’t get often. A bully stick, a Kong filled with peanut butter, or some other rich treat. You can also freeze the treat to add a challenge.
9. Invite another dog to play. You’re likely to see two dogs with the zoomies run around your house, but that's half the fun. If you have a friend with a dog, they are probably as frustrated as you are. Invite them over for a playdate, throw some dog toys on the floor and see what happens.
10. Grooming. Some dogs want nothing more than your attention. What a great way to give it to them than through a good brushing. Best to start easy with either a short period of time or an easy brush. Your dog will most likely tell you when they have had enough.
If you are able to brave the outdoors, here are some activities for winter. If your dog loves snow, you can create a scavenger hunt just by throwing some kibble or treats into the snow. Chances are they will bound from place to place trying to find them—what a great way to use that pent-up energy. Be sure to research the tips on keeping your dog safe in winter weather and check out our blog How to Keep Your Pets Warm in Cold Weather.
And of course, we can’t end without adding the possibility to talk a walk. We know this is obvious and may be more difficult than at other times of the year. However, sometimes even a 10-minute walk can make a difference. Your dog thrives on sniffing and "cataloging" smells. We might not think there is anything to sniff and explore but for your dog, it is an adventure. Your neighbor's cooking, a branch that fell, tire tracks, markings from other dogs, a squirrel up in a tree; these are all brain work for your dog. Plus, just the change in scenery is a stimulation after being inside all day.
Indoor Pet Activities for Cats
Cats are just as likely to cause destruction or mischief if not stimulated. You know your cat's personality the best so you can apply some of the tips above you think would work. Cats have their own rules for the commands they will take, but most love treats! A scavenger hunt or food dispenser can be challenging and rewarding to a bored cat. Additionally, grooming can be a great activity for your cat to get your full attention. After all, isn’t that what they walk across your book or computer for?
And remember, pet health doesn’t begin and end at the vet office. Your pet’s daily routine adds up. Not only will daily activity and mental stimulation keep your pet entertained, it can help reduce health risks like obesity and diabetes. Keep on looking for new, fun ways to be a responsible pet parent, and check out our SPOT dog and cat health insurance plans to help protect against future vet bills.