Do you have a game plan when it comes to being stuck inside with your stir crazy dog during a rain storm? Being a California native unfortunately means having very little annual rain but with storms headed in I figured I would post 7 tips on how to deal with a rainy day and still get some fun and exercise in for both you and precious pooch:
1. Scent work with hidden treats: Teaching your dog to discover prizes using only his nose is a great game for the body and mind. While all dogs have a great sense of smell, sometimes they have to be reminded to use it, and this exercise can get your dog excited about solving the problem of the hidden prize. Set up a bunch of boxes or opaque containers (start with at least four or five) upside-down next to each other and, without your dog seeing you hide it, place a prize (a favorite toy, a bone, a treat, whatever works) under one of the containers. Next, encourage your dog to smell the boxes and as he (hopefully) pauses at the one with the prize, lift up the box and enthusiastically congratulate him on his discovery.2. Hide and go seek: If your dog knows that “find it” or a similar command means to go look for something hidden, then hide and go seek is a great indoor game to have fun with that command. To play, just show your dog what it is you’re going to hide — like a favorite toy, or even a person! — and then put him somewhere he can’t see you. Hide the item, then go get your dog and tell him to find it. Give him vocal clues if he needs help, like “gooooood” when she gets closer or “uh ooohhh” when he gets farther afield. Give hints if needed, by pointing or walking toward the hiding place, until your dog really has a grasp of what this game is all about. When he finds the hidden object, make a really big deal out of how brilliant he is.3. Under, over and through: Set up an item like a kitchen chair, a step stool, or some other sturdy object on legs. Next, teach your dog how to crawl under the object and stay there, crawl all the way through the object, walk around the object, and how to jump over it entirely. Clicker training is especially effective for this since your dog has to work out what you’re asking of him, using your click-n-treats as a guide. Once he knows how to go over, under and through, you can ask him to do combinations before he earns his reward.4. Stairway dash: If you have a stairwell, make it a game to run up it and burn some serious energy. To get the most exercise from this game with the least risk to your dog’s joints, start at the bottom of the stairs. Put your dog in a sit-stay and throw the toy up to the top landing. Make it more exciting by keeping your dog in a stay while creating a build up, such as saying “Reeeady…. ready….. GO!” and let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as he can to retrieve the toy. Let your dog come back down the stairs at his own pace, encouraging a slower return since it’s the downhill climb that risks injury. After 10 or so repetitions of this, most dogs will be totally tuckered out.NOTE: This is only for dogs who are more than 1 year old, or after their joints have finished developing. You can cause long-term injury playing this game with younger dogs as their joints aren’t developed enough to take the impact.5. Tag You’re It: I play this game a lot with my dog as it encourages both running and practicing a lightning fast recall, since it makes coming when called a really fun game. You’ll need a partner for this. Each of you gets a pocket full of treats. Start across the room from one another. One person calls the dog and rewards him with a treat, then the next person calls and rewards. Get farther back so that soon you’re calling from different rooms, and then from all the way across the house or apartment.6. Teaching him to help you clean up: Clean-up time can be a lot of fun when your dog knows how to put things away! This game is easy — just scatter the toys all over the house and have your dog find each one and put it away in a basket to earn a reward. Start out by first training your dog to know what “put it away” means. Work on teaching your dog to pick up a toy, carry it to a basket or box, and drop it in the box. This alone will be a fun challenge for both of you if you’re new to this trick. Then to play the game, scatter a bunch of toys in a small area, point to one and say “put it away” until all the toys are back in their basket. Increase the difficulty of the game as your dog gets better at it by scattering the toys farther around the room, scattering them throughout multiple rooms, or even hiding them!7. Obstacle course: If you’re going to do something, go all-in, right? Setting up an obstacle course for your dog and helping teach him how to navigate the obstacles is a lot of fun. A lot of work, sure, but you’re stuck inside on a rainy day so why not! Here are some suggestions for what to use:A sturdy milk crate, stool or other item to balance onA kitchen chair to jump up on or run underneathA box with two open ends that he can crawl throughA basket alongside a pile of toys he has to place in itA pole on two stools or boxes that he can leap overA hula hoop to jump throughA frisbee or ball to catchCreate a few obstacles and guide your dog through each, building up to go faster each time through. Make sure to reward your dog with lots of praise, tug games or other high-value rewards each time she gets through the obstacle course.