All dogs need exercise, even when there is bad weather or you just don’t feel like going outside. Try playing some of these indoor games with your dog to keep him healthy and happy. In addition, playing with your dog, like training him, enhances the bond you share and helps him keep his focus on you!  

You can change these games depending on how your dog is best motivated: praise/belly rubs, favourite toys, items to fetch, or treats. If you do use treats, one way to keep your dog from gaining weight from too many snacks is to use some of his mealtime food to play the games. As with any activity, keep each session short and fun! It’s better to end the game before your dog gets bored or overly excited.



 Start with 3 or 4 buckets (old cups or margarine tubs would work too). Show your dog that you have a treat or a favourite small toy. Put your dog in a SIT or DOWN about 10 feet away and ask him/her to WAIT.  Make sure he/she can see you as you place his/her prize under one of the buckets. Then say “WHERE’S THE TREAT?” and encourage him/her to run to you and smell the buckets—give him/her lots of praise when he/she paws, sits beside, or barks next to the correct bucket, and then lift it up so he/she can claim his reward. You can up the difficulty level by changing the position of the buckets after you place the treat or pretending to put treats under multiple buckets.



 Put your dog in a SIT and ask him/her to WAIT. Show your dog a toy or treat and put it on the floor so your dog can see it. Say ‘FIND IT!’ Naturally, your dog will enthusiastically—and hopefully, easily—find the toy or treat. Make the next prize a bit more difficult to locate, say, behind a chair. Continue to vary treat placement or, for a real challenge, set up a roomful or garden of hidden delights in advance. Watch your dog as he/she searches, and tap your foot and give an OOH or gasp to get him/her excited about the ones he/she’s missed.



 Stand at the bottom of the staircase.  Put your dog in a SIT and ask him/her to WAIT next to you. Throw your dog’s favourite toy to the top of the stairs. Say FETCH or GET IT. After he/she dashes up the stairs and grabs the toy, call your dog to COME, ask him/her to DROP or RELEASE, and repeat as above until your dog slumps to the floor in giddy exhaustion. (Note that this is not a good game for puppies, as their joints are still developing, or dogs prone to injury.)


 Gather a group of toys that are noticeably different (for example, a stuffed duck, pig and a squeaky ball). Hold a toy up for your dog to sniff and see, get him/her excited, and toss it, saying WHERE’S YOUR DUCK? When he/she comes back with it, give him/her lots of praise, and then do the same with the pig, then with the ball, etc. Repeat again and again, and be consistent with your naming. Once he/she has mastered a few names, set out multiple toys and tell him/her which to get. 



 This old standby is still loads of fun for you and your dog. Have your dog WAIT in one room. Go into another room and hide. Call your dog. Try not to give away your location by laughing! Kids love to play this game with the family dog. 



 Remember that dogs use about the same amount of energy when they are challenged mentally as physically! Treat-rewarding puzzles, such as the Wobbler by KONG®, make your dog work for his treats. 



 Enlist a family member to help with this game. Each person grabs a handful of treats. Stand about 5 feet apart. One person calls the dog to COME. When he/she does, he/she receives praise and a treat. Then the other person calls, praise and treat. Both people take two steps backwards. Repeat.  Once your dogs gets the hang of it, every third or fourth time, use praise only. See how far apart you can venture (try different rooms and different floors in the house). For even more fun, have three or more people in different rooms calling your dog!


 Make drop a real fun game for your dog.  Offer your dog one of his/her toys.  Once the toy is in your dog’s mouth, hold a treat up to his/her nose and say “DROP IT”.  As soon as your dog releases the toy, give the treat and lots of praise.  If your dog likes the toy more at first than the treat, try wriggling it and getting excited about the treat, or try another treat or even another toy your dog prefers.  Don’t pull the toy from your dog’s mouth.  This should be a fun game for your dog.  Once your dog gets the idea you can ask him/her to “DROP IT” and give the treat after.  



 Teach your dog to CLEAN UP after playtime by picking up his toys and putting them back in the toy box. Have your dog pick up a toy while you hold the toy box up to him. Tell him to DROP IT. When he does, give him lots of praise. Repeat with the next toy. Once he gets the idea, put the toy box on the floor and guide the dog over to it and say DROP IT. Keep it fun and simple, and use the same words each time for every command.  



 You need 2 identical toys or balls.  Start by concealing the toys and when your dog wanders off call him/her in a high pitched animated voice and wave/squeak the toy to get his/her attention.  Once he/she arrives at your feet simply throw the toy and say FETCH.  If he/she brings it back praise lavishly and offer a treat so he/she drops the toy.  Some dogs don’t come back because they instinctively love possession.  In this case show them the second toy, get excited, squeak it, run backwards and encourage him/her to come to you.  Dogs will almost always want what you have and will drop the toy they have.  It may take a while for them to learn to bring it back!!  Be patient and reward your dog every time.       



 Call your dog to COME, put him/her in a SIT and ask him/her to WAIT, and then move away from him/her. After 20 seconds or so, call your dog to COME again, and repeat. Try to increase the distance you move away and the length of time you wait before calling your dog to you. This game is great for dogs with attention-seeking behaviours, as it teaches them to wait for your commands.  When your dog reliably comes in the house, you can then try it in the garden where there are more distractions. 



 Get a cardboard box and put a favourite toy and some smelly dog treats in it.  Show your dog the box.  Seal it and then puncture the side of the box so he/she can scent what is inside it.  Give your dog the box and encourage him/her to break into it and find what is inside.  There will be lots of torn cardboard and a happy dog at the end of it.  To increase the complexity, put cardboard boxes one inside another with a reward in each one.  


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