*1/02/2017 – Updated this article since this January has been even COLDER! My dogs were going even crazier so I added more things to do inside to sap their energy.
Since January is National Train Your Dog Month AND its winter, it seems appropriate to review some awesome exhausting activities you can do with your pup indoors – the cat can watch or join in if they would like.
These are not just great for winter but year-round, certainly on the rainy days or the times when it’s too dark to get the dog out for a good walk.
Some of these activities will be exhausting to their minds, which can be as tiring as a physical walk. Dogs are thinkers and generally inquisitive by nature. They like to have jobs that challenge their canine brains to figure something out and they absolutely LOVE rewards!
Go Back to Basic Obedience
Chances are your sit and stay may have faded over the years or maybe your pup is entering adolescence. It really doesn’t matter what stage or age your dog is; teaching and reviewing the basics are always a plus. My 1 yr old pups are not the best at holding their sits, their bums pop off the floor almost as soon as I get the treat out. We are working on duration. For my older dog, she will sit forever but her down stay is weak, especially when I move out of her line of sight. These simple obedience tricks require patience, not something that is easy for all dogs – or humans. Remember to train positively and in small increments. If your dog starts to get frustrated, ask them to do something you know they can do successfully, even just a sit, reward, and end on a high note. Never leave a training session without finishing something successfully, it’s not good for your dog or your morale.
This training trick is a useful tool to have in your toolbox. You can start with targets – we use the tops to plastic Tupperware containers – and reward your dog as soon as they touch their nose to the plastic lid/target. This usually happens pretty quickly since most dogs are curious as to what the heck you put on the ground – so they sniff it. Using a clicker can help mark this behavior and make the learning process more clear for your pup. To learn more about clicker training you can do a YouTube search, remember it is to mark or denote the correct behavior, the clicker is not used to get your dog’s attention or as a reward.
Once your dog has mastered touching their nose to the target, you can then give it a name, do not name the trick until they know what the action is. Then you can start moving the target around, holding it up and eventually remove it to use just your hand or any object.
This is a favorite in my household. We play “go find” with humans – yeah I realize that’s just hide and seek. You can play with treats, toys, humans – I wouldn’t recommend using the cat. They tend to move and dogs get a little overzealous in playing with the reward!
Playing go find forces your dog to use their brain and nose to seek out what you want them to find. Starting with treats is a great segue into an activity called nose work. If your dog loves to find things, search for a training facility nearby that has nose work classes. We’re hooked with our pups and even though they physically do not move much in class, they come home exhausted from using their brain and nose. I’ll write another post about what indoor training classes you can take with your dogs, so be on the lookout for that.
The website Why Does My Dog_____? not only provides great video answers to questions we have about our dogs as I mentioned in a previous blog post, but they also provide other informative videos like how to play hide and go seek with your dog.
When you can’t sap their brain energy or they’re just full of beans, run up and down the stairs. This is a great exercise for both but obviously, take caution for you and your dogs. Run up and down them in a controlled fashion. You can even walk several times or using a clicker, teach them how to walk up backward – that is terrific for rear-end awareness.
If you don’t have stairs or even a lot of room you can still play fetch. The ball or toy doesn’t need to be thrown far, the action of catching takes a good bit of coordination. Throwing the object left or right, down lower or higher, generally mixing up the direction will keep your pup on their toes.
Learn to Hold Objects
This is a great activity because it takes the natural behavior of putting things in their mouths, on cue. My dogs love to pick up things I don’t want them to, shoes, the thank you card I had by the door to go in the mailbox, my socks etc. Now I can teach them not only what is appropriate to pick up, but what exactly I want them to pick it up, when I want them to do it and for how long.
In the video below my dog at this stage already knows to open her mouth and hold the wooden spoon. This video shows duration, I wait as long as I think she can, then mark with the clicker and reward. To get to the point I started by holding the spoon and would click and treat her just for sniffing it – then when she put her mouth on it, then gradely we moved up to her grabbing it in her mouth until we got to where we are in the video below.
There are countless tricks you can teach your dog. They can be taught to retrieve a specific object, pick up their toys and put them back in the bin, dance between your legs, give you paw, play dead, roll over I mean the list is ENDLESS! There are tons of online resources, especially good visuals on YouTube to help you get there.
Here is my friend teaching her show Boxer to wave from a distance
Here is Artie who just learned this trick prior to the video, so please pardon my excited voice 🙂
A New Toy
Who doesn’t love a new toy? Sometimes this could mean the toy that has been buried in the bottom of the bin or a new toy you picked up from the store. Most dogs LOVE to play, its a form of interaction with you and entertainment for them – and us! Our friend Aly from Why Does My Dog_____? Has a good video on how to pick out the right toy for your pet.
Or Just Put on a Tutu and Dance!
The point is to have fun with your dogs. There’s an agility judge that before every run she says to the group of exhibitors, “enjoy your dogs, they are not with us long enough”. Go enjoy your dog!