1. Hide and Seek. Use this opportunity of being stuck indoors to build your pup’s recall. If your pup has a good understanding of the “stay” command and will hold the position while you leave the room, you can do this. As you ask your dog to “stay” in one room, go to another room and hide somewhere. Start out easy on your dog at first by hiding just around the corner, crouching down beside a coffee table in the middle of your living room, or sitting at the dining room table. One you are in your hiding spot, enthusiastically call your pup to “come!” He will be on the prowl to find you – let him look around and sniff you out. When he finds you, make a big deal with lots of praise, pets and maybe a tasty treat or two. Once your pup gets the hang of this activity, you can increase the difficulty of your hiding spots – like inside a closet, underneath the bed, or in the bathtub. Be creative! You’ll have fun being a kid again and your dog will enjoy demonstrating his natural desire to track you down! ...
2. Me and My Shadow. Providing mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation goes a long way, and your pup will get to practice his skills in a variety of circumstances – which means these skills will grow stronger. As you go about your time at home, ask your dog to come with you and give him a skill to perform each step of the way. For example, if you move from the kitchen to the laundry room, tell your dog “let’s go” to invite him to walk with you (which he may naturally want to do anyway). When you get to the laundry room, ask your dog to “sit” (and hold this position) while you open the dryer door, take out all the clothes, and fill the laundry basket. Invite him to go with you to the bedroom and ask him to “go place” on his dog bed while you fold/put away the clothes. When you’re done, ask him to “stay” in the bedroom while you walk back to the kitchen, then call him to “come” to you in the kitchen so you can make dinner. This is only one example, but the possibilities are endless!
If your pup doesn’t know many skills yet, you may rely on “sit” or “down” a lot for this game. But the beauty of this game is that you can later apply a whole bunch of other skills and commands that you can teach your dog, or progress these same skills each time you play. If your dog doesn’t succeed at a skill that you ask, you may need to break your request down into smaller pieces, or provide more frequent feedback in the form of praise and reinforcement. For example, if your dog can’t maintain a sit for the entire duration of your taking the clothes out of the dryer and filling the laundry basket, you might ask him to sit, praise while you fold a single piece of laundry, then reward with a tasty treat and release him to get up from his position. You then repeat this process for each piece of laundry, and gradually work your way up to folding two pieces of laundry before a reward and release, then three pieces, etc. Work with your pup where his skills are at and this can still be a fun game for him! It may take you a little longer to do your inside activities, but it’s worth it if you’re not having to take time out of your activities anyway to react to a bored dog who chewed on your table leg!
3. Teach a new skill. You’ve seen videos on YouTube and heard stories of dogs that can do super fun things, like balance a treat on their noses, spin in a circle on their hind legs, or walk backwards (do the Moon Walk). “I wish my dog could do that!,” you may even have said. Well now is the time to take advantage of this bad-weather downtime and teach him! The new skill doesn’t even have to be anything eye-catching that will go viral on social media; it can be a skill that can be applied to everyday life – such as sitting “close” while you sit in a chair or learning to “stay” around things that move (like as you toss a ball up and down or wave a small handkerchief around).
4. Where’s the treat? Dogs have millions of scent receptors in their noses – it’s part of why they like to sniff so much! We can play to your pup’s olfactory sense by creating treat puzzles for them to use their sniffers to track down which receptacle carries the treat.
5. Create a “pup-pen”. It’s similar to your pup’s version of a play-pen – a small area that provides a lot of visual and sensory stimuli to engage your pup’s brain. You can create the pen itself by using baby gates, x-pens or boards in a hallway or to block off a room. Within that space, add some items for your pup to sniff, feel, walk over, listen to, or watch. Some examples: a garden statue, fan, measuring spoons dangling from a rope, a small piece of corrugated roofing from your shed, an animated toy, a CD player with a city soundscape, etc. Be there as passive support as your pup discovers all these interesting new things in his world. Let him explore them at his own pace. You can also add some fun things like a puzzle toy (where he has to use his brain to uncover hidden treats or other toys within this toy).
Now that your pup has some of his pent-up energy out, you'll both be ready to cuddle up under a warm blanket and take a nap! At least that's what I like to do on a day like today :-)
Maria Huntoon, CBCC-KA