With winter in full swing and most of the nation getting snow if not rain, our dogs are spending much more time indoors just as we are. However, please don’t let the wet and cold weather hamper your dog’s fun. Dogs who don’t engage in a lot of play suffer from behavioral issues such as anxiety and aggression. Let’s not allow this to happen with our dogs just because we can’t take them for a walk or have regular play time outside in the Winter.
Have you read about the 2014 studies that found a correlation between interactive play and a dogs well-being?
I have found that winter “indoor play time” is actually a great time to teach your dog (or puppy) a trick or two. Keep your sessions short but fun and have several play/training sessions a day. Five to ten minutes each session seems to be good. Anything beyond this may cause your dog to lose attention. Small, multiple sessions are much more fun and more effective.
Cup game (a.k.a. shell game): Place three upside-down cups in front of your dog. Let her see you put a treat under one of them, than let her tip the cup over to get to the treat. Repeat. Once she’s got the hang of it, put the treat under the cup in a way that’s hidden from your dog’s view, so she has to sniff it out.
Searching or “Find It” game: Hide treats (the more smelly the better to start out with) or a few small favorite toys around the house, then encourage your dog to find them.
Hide and seek: Position yourself and your spouse or room-mate at two different points in your home, preferably with something like a long hallway or staircase between you. Then take turns calling your dog and rewarding him with a treat when he finds you. Each time your dog goes to one person, the other person changes location so your dog has to search for you again.
Tuggie: A quick but “proper” game of tug can be great for teaching your dog some basic impulse control as well as give some good exercise to both of you and your dog!
Here is a video that shows how to train your dog to play tug properly and how to use a game of tug as a reward.
Teach Your Dog The Names of Their Toys: Have you seen Chaser the Border Collie? She knows over 1,000 words and can pick out any given toy among 800 of them, just by it’s name!
Start by playing with one specific toy and using the name of the toy while you play with the toy and your dog. After some practice & praise your dog will begin to recognize that verbal name with the chosen toy . Once your dog has learned that specific toy’s name you can test their skills by seeing if they can pick it out among their other toys.
Work With Your Puppy (or dog) on Clicker Training: If you don’t have a clicker I highly recommend picking one up or ordering one. When training a dog every second matters; so it’s very easy to miss the perfect moment to communicate with our dog the very instant they do the behavior you desire. When you use a clicker you can mark the exact moment your dog made the right choice.
There are many other games and tricks you can teach your dog indoors. Be creative. My best friend and colleague, Dr. Kim Bloomer plays some creative games with her dogs indoors – one of them is the howling game – noisy but fun and it helps her dogs to release tension and relax.