Dr. Jack Stephens
Neither rain nor sleet nor blizzard should prevent your dog from engaging in daily play and exercise. When the weather is anything but fetching, play indoors.
The beauty of regular playtime with your canine pal is that it can occur anytime, anywhere. And you both reap many benefits. You get to use this time to reinforce basic obedience cues in a fun setting. Your dog gets a daily dose of activities that enrich him mentally and physically. And the power of purposeful play – indoors and outdoors – bolsters your friendship bond.
Here are four of my favorite dog-people indoor games that unleash fun and fitness:
1. K9 Treasure Hunt. Introduce your dog to a fun canine treasure hunt by first putting him in a sit-stay and showing him a healthy treat. Then place the treat behind a chair while your dog watches you. Go back to him and say, “Find the treasure.” Once your dog understands the concept, pretend to stash treats in several places in a room, but leave the treasure in only one location. Then tell him to “find the treasure.” Praise him when he discovers his tasty prize.
2. I Hide You Seek. This game reinforces the all-important recall cue in your dog. Start by having your dog stay in a room. Then you leave and hide in another room. In an upbeat tone, call out his name and tell him to come and find you. Be sure to heap on praise and treats each time he finds you so he enjoys a great payoff for complying.
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3. Hallway fetch. Got a fetch-focused dog? When the weather is bad, shift the fetch indoors. Position your dog in a sit at your side at one end of the hall. Have him stay and toss the ball at the end of the hall and release him by saying, “Fetch!” Shower him with kudos and occasional treats when he snags the ball in mid-air and brings it quickly back to you. For senior dogs or ones with some mobility issues, tone down the fetch game by rolling the ball down the hall.
4. Canine Willpower. Dogs naturally gravitate to the kitchen whenever you head in that direction. For this indoor game, you need two types of treats in small one-bite pieces: what I call A-level and B-level (A, of course, ranks as your dog’s No. 1 favorite). Hold a B-level treat in front of his nose and tell him leave it. When he does, reward him with an A-level treat you have hidden in your other hand behind your back. Strive to extend the time between compliance and handing him the better treat with the goal of having him wait at least 30 seconds. This game reinforces the leave it command.
In general, dogs love and love to show off their new talents. When the weather is rough, you can still teach your dog a new trick indoors during a fun, engaging canine tutor time.