33 Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors
Looking for some easy ways to keep your dog busy and entertained?
Keeping your dog entertained can be a challenge. And trying to come up with new ways to keep your dog entertained can be more exhausting than actually getting up and doing it.
To help you out I’ve put together a list of 33 simple ways to keep your dog busy indoors.
The Benefits of Keeping Your Dog Busy
Bored dogs get into trouble. We’re their main source of entertainment, so if we don’t give them stuff to do they’ll come up with activities of their own — and that’s when we end up with chewed up shoes and curtains.
By playing with your dog a few times a day you can decrease the likelihood of them developing destructive habits such as excessive barking or chewing.
There is a growing acceptance among scientists that play is very, very important and the type and frequency of play are a really good indicator of a dog’s quality of life. – Mark Evans, former RSPCA chief veterinarian
33 Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors
With help from my dog Laika we’ve come up with a big list of fun indoor activities for dogs. So if you’re looking for some indoor games to play with your dog you’ve come to the right place. Here’s 33 ways to keep your dog busy indoors.
1. Play a Game of Find The Treats
Nose work games are one of the easiest ways to tire out your dog. When you teach your dog some basic nose work games such as ‘find the treats’ you’re mentally tiring them out and helping them hone in on some of their natural skills. (chopped up carrots are my favorite treat to use for this game)
Grab some treats and have your dog watch as you place them around the room. Give your dog the cue to “find the treats” and encourage your dog to pick them up, remembering to praise them every time they find one. After your confident that your dog understands what “find the treats” means you can making it a bit more challenging. Have them stay in another room as you hide the treats, and start hiding them in spots they have to sniff out such as under a rug.
2. Play the the Shell Game
The shell game is a simple problem solving game for dogs. To play the shell game with your dog let your dog watch as you place a treat under one of three cups. You then shuffle the cups around and encourage them to ‘find the treat.’ The shell game gives your dog plenty of mental stimulation, and helps them work on their problem solving skills.
Don’t let this cat put your dog to shame:
3. Teach Your Dog to Clean Up His Toys
If your dog’s toys are kept in a container you can teach them to put their toys away. I know it sounds weird to teach your dog to clean up after themselves, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Teaching your dog new skills boosts their confidence, and it’s a great way to give them more mental stimulation.
If your dog already knows “drop it” have them pick up a toy and give them their drop it command once they’re standing over the container. Praise them like crazy, then rinse and repeat. Eventually with consistency you’ll have a dog that will be able to clean up after himself.
4. Use a Stuffed Kong to Keep Your Dog Entertained
Stuffed Kongs are my favorite when it comes to relieving dog boredom because they’re so easy to prepare. If you want to keep your dog busy for awhile try stuffing a Kong with some of their favorite treats. You can freeze some peanut butter or broth inside, or just put some treats in there and give your dog something to work for. If you’re not sure what to use here’s a list of 39 healthy treats that are great for Kong stuffing.
Using a stuffed Kong is a great way to keep your dog occupied while you’re at work. Put your stuffed Kong in the freezer overnight and give it to your dog in the morning as you’re leaving. A frozen Kong will last 30+ minutes for most dogs — much longer if your fill it completely.
I love using classic Kong’s because they’re nontoxic, indestructible, and dishwasher safe. If you’re looking for a great Kong alternative that’s just as durable check out the West Paw Toppl toy; they come in large and small sizes, and they’re just as easy to clean as a Kong.
5. Play a Game of Tug of War
Playing a game of tug of war is one of the best ways to engage in meaningful play with our dogs. It’s a great way to mentally and physically exercise your dog. And since it doesn’t require a ton of room you can play it indoors.
And contrary to what some people say playing tug will not make your dog aggressive, and letting them win will not make them dominant. Letting your dog win just makes the game more fun for your dog, and it will encourage them to play more. Dogs that play tug with their owners have been found to be more obedient and have higher confidence.
Tug is a great way to exercise your dog as long as you have your dog follow a few basic rules such as “the game stops if your teeth touch my hand.”
6. Teach Your Dog to Help With Chores
Dogs love having a job to do, even if it’s something as simple as fetching you your slippers. You can make them feel even more useful by teaching them the names of some items you wouldn’t mind having retrieved.
If you want to impress all of your friends teach your dog to fetch you something from the fridge. When teaching your dog to open the fridge tie a towel around the handle so it’s easy for them to pull open the door. And if you’re feeling like a superstar you can teach your dog to help out with daily chores.
7. Play Interactive Games
To keep my dog busy on rainy days I love using interactive games such as tug, find the treats, puzzle games and fetch. Interactive games are an easy way to give your dog plenty of mental stimulation, and they can help cut down on problem behaviors such as excessive chewing or barking.
But take it from me; if you’re going to play fetch indoors use a lightweight ball to avoid breaking all of the things. (lesson learned) A game of tug is a lot of fun for dogs, and it’s a great way to increase your dogs manners and impulse control. It’s also a pretty good workout. Minute for minute it’s one of the more physically demanding games we play.
8. Make Your Dog Work for His Food
We give our dogs a nice comfy life — they get a warm bed, lots of attention, and all their meals for free. But our dogs were bred to work alongside us, and a lot of our dogs are missing out on some mentally stimulating activities. They’re natural scavengers, so having to work for food isn’t mean or unusual — it’s normal and mentally stimulating for them.
One of the easiest ways to challenge your dog’s mind is by making them work for their meals. You can make your dog perform some tricks before he gets his dinner, or you can have them eat from a food dispensing toy.
9. Teach Your Dog The Names of Their Toys
Have you seen Chaser the Border Collie? She knows over 1,000 words and can pick out any given toy among 800 just by it’s name. We can’t all be overachievers like Chaser, but we can teach our dogs the names of their toys and make some fun games out of it.
Start by playing with one specific toy and giving it a name while you do. After some practice & praise your dog will assign that verbal name with the chosen toy. Once your dog has learned that specific toys name you can test their skills by seeing if they can pick it out among their other toys.
10. Teach Your Dog to “Go Find” Their Toys
Once your dog knows the names of some of their toys teach them the “go find it” game. Have your dogs toys in a pile or container and tell them to “go find” their favorite toy. As your dog gets better at this game you can make it more challenging by increasing the number of toys they have have to sift through.
Keep it fun for them by rewarding them handsomely with a treat or quick game of tug when they succeed. This game will give your dog a great mental workout.
11. Teach Your Dog a New Trick
Does your dog know how to weave through your legs and jump through a hoop? There’s always a new trick you can teach your dog, and trust me when I say teaching your dog how to weave through your legs is a lot easier than it sounds.
To help get you started here’s a handy list of 52 tricks to teach your dog with instructions.
Does your dog already know a bunch of tricks? One of the best things about trick training is that there’s always room to improvise and make it more challenging. Once your dog knows a bunch of tricks you can step it up a notch and combine their learned behaviors into brand new tricks.
12. Work on Some Clicker Training
One of my favorite tips when it comes to dog training is using a clicker. It’s a little box with a lever that makes a noise when you press down on it, and it’s used to mark the exact moment your dog performs a desired behavior. I love using one because it’s an easy way to make sure I’m letting my dog know exactly when she’s doing the right thing.
If you don’t have a clicker I’d recommend picking one up next time you’re at the pet store. When training a dog every second matters; it’s so easy to miss the chance to communicate with our dogs the instant they do the behavior you desire. When you use a clicker you can mark the exact moment your dog made the right choice.
13. Play The Which Hand Game
If you’ve been thinking about teaching your dog some scent work games this is a great game to get you started. The only thing you’ll need is some dog treats, and if don’t any on hand you can use some chopped up fruits & veggies or make your own homemade dog treats.
How to Play the Which Hand Game:
- Place a treat in one of your hands.
- Close your fists and hold them out in front of your dog.
- Let the dog choose which hand it’s in.
- When your dog sniffs or paws the correct hand open it up and give them the treat.
- If he chooses incorrectly don’t discourage him, it takes a few tries to catch on.
- A gentle “touch” command will be helpful.
Tip: Chopped up carrots make excellent treats for scent work games and training. They’re low in calories, easy to prepare, and (most) dogs absolutely love them.
3. Play a Game of Hide & Seek
Playing a game of hide and seek is by far one of Laika’s favorite games. Hide and seek might not seem all that complex or entertaining to us, but a lot of dogs get a real kick out of it.
If your dog doesn’t have a good stay command down you can ask a friend to help by having them distract your dog as you go and hide (or you can practice your “stay” before you get started.)
15. Get Some Puzzle Toys For Your Dog
Keep you dog mentally stimulated by giving them a puzzle to solve. There are a ton of dog puzzle toys available, as well as treat dispensing toys like the Kong Wobbler. There’s also a ton of great DIY toys out there you can make. I love the simple muffin tin game – if you have a muffin tin and some tennis balls you’re ready to play.
16. Master the Basics of Obedience Training
Does your dog know all of the basic obedience commands? Does he have a reliable recall and stay? Even well trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. All dogs should have a reliable sit, down, stay, drop it, and come here. A few quick training sessions (5-10 minutes) each day are a great way to help your dog master the basics, and they’ll help keep your dog mentally stimulated.
17. Play a Game of Fetch
Most of us do have some extra room indoors for a simple game of fetch, but if you live on the 5th floor with a St. Bernard you should probably skip this game. When it comes to playing indoor fetch hallways, stairways, and big living rooms are popular choices.
My dog and I love playing soccer in the basement with her Jolly ball. Be careful with heavy toys around anything that’s fragile or able to be tipped over, and it’s probably not a good idea to play fetch inside the kitchen. If you don’t like the idea of playing fetch indoors you could turn it into a simple game of catch.
18. Master The Art of Doggie Massage
Learning how to give a dog massage is enriching for owner and dog alike. A nice massage can help soothe and relax nearly any dog.
And dog massages are great for older dogs or those with arthritis, since it helps soothe sore and achy joints. Giving your dog a massage reduces anxiety, relieves stress, improves circulation, and creates a great bond between you and your dog.
Tip: If your dog has a hard time settling down for a massage you can practice the relaxation protocol.
19. Try Some Free Shaping Games
If you haven’t heard of 101 things to do with a box you’ve been missing out on some fun training opportunities. It’s a great foundation for learning how to practice free shaping techniques, and it only requires a box and a clicker.
The basic principle of shaping games is to encourage our dogs to try something new. They get to make their own decisions and increase their mental and physical flexibility. You start out with a box on the ground and without any cues let your dog investigate and decide what to do.
Shaping can be used with any item, not just a box. Here’s a great video of shape training a dog to crawl under an object.
20. Give Your Dog Regular Grooming Sessions
Although your dog won’t find a grooming session as exciting as a game of tug it is something that needs to be done from time to time. Our dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their teeth brushed, and have their nails trimmed when they start to get long.
Some dogs tolerate grooming better than others, and the more you practice using positive rewards the easier it will become. Don’t be afraid to hand out lots of treats during a grooming session – you want to ensure your dog will associate grooming habits with a positive experience.
21. Play a Game of Tag
Playing tag is a fun interactive game for dogs, but it does require a partner. Each of you will sit or stand at one side of the room with a toy or some treats. Take turns calling the dog over and rewarding them when he comes. Make sure your dog is receiving lots of positive reinforcement each time they obey. This is a simple and fun way to reinforce a reliable recall.
22. Create Your Own Indoor Doggie Obstacle Course
Create your own obstacle course inside your home. Have your dog jump over some towels, weave through his toys, and then lay down on a blanket. Use your imagination and come up with a set of obstacles for your dog to follow. Once your dog has learned how to jump over the towels you then move onto the toy weave. Building on prior tricks will keep your dog mentally stimulated and encourages focus.
23. Teach Your Dog to Chase Bubbles
This is my favorite activity to keep my dog entertained when I’m under the weather. It’s such a simple way to keep my dog happy, entertained & exercised.
I don’t know why but some dogs are fascinated by catching bubbles. There’s even a wide selection of pet bubble making toys on the market. You don’t have to go out and buy special bubbles either – the bubbles that are available for children are nontoxic. If you have a child in the home here’s some proof that babies, dogs and bubbles are the most adorable thing on the planet.
If your dog has no idea what bubbles are here’s a quick guide on how to teach your dog to chase bubbles. And seriously, a few 3-5 minute sessions of chasing bubbles can work wonders for your dog.
24. Buy a New Dog Toy, Make One, or Rotate Them
Studies have found that dogs get bored with their old toys. You can either buy your dog a new toy to get their enthusiasm going or you can rotate their toys. Instead of giving your dog access to all of their toys all the time give them a couple. If you rotate one of their old toys back into the mix after awhile they’ll have some of that original enthusiasm back.
You can always make their toys more exciting by ensuring you’re engaging with them by playing fetch or tug. Toys take on a whole new value once you get involved and start playing with it as well. There’s also a ton of DIY toys you can make from household items such as old t shirts, towels, and denim.
25. Make a Doggie Play Date
Does your dog have some nice dog friends? Invite them over for some play time. It’s so satisfying to see dogs engaging in play with one another, and it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll have one tired dog at the end of the day. You’ll also have a chance to catch up on some chores while the dogs create their own wrestle mania in your living room.
26. Brush up on Some Old Tricks
Just like us our dogs can benefit from a refresher now and then. When was the last time you asked your dog to roll over or play dead? If it’s been awhile get out your clicker or treats and run through the drill. Have your dog practice all of their commands to make sure they’re not getting rusty. When it comes to training remember to keep it short & sweet; a few 5 minute sessions each day can do wonders.
27. Teach Your Dog the “Go To” Command
Does your dog know how to go to the couch or to his bed? This trick is simple to teach and it’s helpful when you’re making dinner or having guests over. If you tell your dog to go to his spot while you’re making dinner enough times it will become a habit. No dog in the kitchen while cooking means you won’t be finding dog hair in your dinner as often. (but if you do here’s 10 tips for cleaning up dog hair)
28. Teach Your Dog to Grab His Leash
Before we go for a walk I have my dog go and grab her leash, then she has to fetch me my boots and her harness. It’s not asking much, but it’s enough to keep her focused and busy while I’m getting ready. Before I taught her to go grab those items she’d be spinning around, whining, and jumping while I got everything ready. As a bonus teaching your dog to go fetch their leash or harness is a nice way to get in some extra mental stimulation.
29. Teach Your Dog to Turn On/Off Lights
This can come in quite handy when it’s getting late and you find yourself needing some more light and you’re feeling a bit lazy. Instead of having to get up and turn on the light have your dog do it for you. To start with this trick a touch stick or good “touch” it command are handy. If you have a small dog you might have to improvise to make it possible for your dog to reach the light switch. Don’t attempt this trick if the occasional scratch mark on your wall will bother you.
30. Work on Impulse Control For Better Manners
Dogs, like children, have to be taught that they can’t always get what they want right away. From a puppy learning bite inhibition to teaching an adult dog to “wait” on command, impulse control keeps our dogs out of trouble and safe.
Brush up on the basic impulse control commands like leave it, wait, stay, settle, and down. These commands are important if your dog ever gets loose or decides to chase after that squirrel.
31. Make Some Simple Dog Treats
Your dog might not be an active participant in the making of dog treats, but he’ll certainly be reaping the rewards. I love making my own dog treats rather than buying them from the store. It’s nice knowing exactly what goes into what our dogs are eating, plus when you make your own you can control the portion size.
By making your own dog treats you’ll not only have a great supply of training rewards on hand, but you’ll also impress your dog with your excellent culinary expertise.
Tip: Be sure to check out our list of 25 simple dog treat recipes for some great options. They’re all made with 5 ingredients or less, and there’s a few frozen options for those of us who aren’t big on baking.
32. Teach Them To Say Please by Sitting
Does your dog come up to you and nudge your hand when they want something? If you don’t find this behavior desirable teach your dog that sitting politely is the key to gaining your attention. Don’t be afraid to teach your dog how to act – without guidance they develop bad manners.
Our dogs look to us for cues all the time, they like to know what’s expected of them. Reward polite behaviors handsomely, with consistency your dog will get into the habit of asking for things in a polite manner.
33. Snuggle Up & Relax on the Couch
After a nice training session or game there’s nothing better than a little bit of relaxation. We all need time to unwind, and many of our dogs love to lounge around with us. Before bedtime each night I sit on the couch with Laika for a bit. It didn’t start off as anything planned but now when 10:30 rolls around she hops up on the couch and looks at me — waiting for our nightly snuggle before bed.
Keep Your Dog Busy & Happy With Interactive Play
Being indoors doesn’t have to be dull. Play some fun games with your dog or teach them something new. Dogs thrive on interactive play, and it has a big impact on their overall health and well being. To keep your dog busy you don’t need a bunch of fancy toys or access to the outdoors, you just need a little bit of time and dedication.
We might not be able to provide them with the full time job they were bred for – but we can give them something meaningful to do with a few simple games and tricks. And when you look at your dogs happy face after a simple game of tug you’ll know exactly why dogs are mans best friend.
You call to a dog and a dog will break its neck to get to you. Dogs just want to please. Call to a cat and its attitude is, “What’s in it for me?” – Lewis Grizzard
How do you keep your dog entertained indoors? Have you read about the recent studies that found a correlation between interactive play and a dogs well being? Does your dog know the name to all of his toys? Do you make your own doggie treats or toys?
Looking For More Boredom Busters for Your Dog?
Does your dog get bored? If you’re looking for more ways to keep your dog entertained be sure to check out our list of 26 simple ways to relieve dog boredom, how to keep your dog mentally stimulated, 5 quick ways to tire out your dog & 10 fun brain games to play with your dog.
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