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Indoor Games to Play with your Dog

Written by Anna Hollisey


dog playing with his inside toys

Let’s face it: we can’t always walk our dogs as much as they’d like. But a cooped-up dog is a touchpaper for disaster. If you’re stuck indoors today, here are some ideas for burning their energy – and keeping your own sanity.

Develop Your Dog’s Obedience

Yes, you could do a refresher course in the basics, but do you want to know what’s even more fun? Teach your dog a new trick. If your dog is the type who loves to please, they’ll enjoy the challenge of understanding and mastering a fun trick. Here are three of our favorite tricks to try:

  1. Through the hoop! You’ll need to have a hula-hoop lying around that’s big enough for your dog to jump through. This one will make you feel like half of a circus duo. 
  2. Shake Hands! You may have to touch their paw to start off, and progress to holding out your hand for them to touch. We reckon that smart dogs can suss this out in an afternoon. Progress to a High Five when you’re ready.

3. Play Dead! If your dog can already lie down on command, teach them to play dead and impress guests. The AKC has a simple video tutorial here.

Don’t Want to Get Off Your Armchair?

No judgment… there are days when we all feel run-down, but our dogs still have the same energy to burn. What’s the best compromise? Tug of War! 

Tips for successful Tug of War games:

  1. If you don’t have a rope, no problem… rip up an old pair of jeans or an unwanted tea-towel into 3 strips about the same length and braid to create a strong pull-toy. 
  2. If your dog gets over-stimulated and starts to growl, let go immediately – they’ll learn to inhibit the aggression and play for fun.
  3. It’s a great idea to have TWO ropes in play. Occasionally, let one go ‘dead’ and get the other one jumping. Your dog will learn to drop one and pick up the other, which encourages them not to become possessive.

Ready To See How Smart Your Dog Can Be?

There are some simple brain games that you can play without any equipment. First up, Hunt the Treat. Ask your dog to stay in another room and then hide their favorite treats in tricky places around the home. If they’re new to the game, start with a trail in an obvious place – your dog will get the idea and sniff around for the rest.

You could also play Hide and Seek using people, since dogs are usually great at sniffing out their favorite humans – so they catch on fast.

How about the Cup Game? You just need three cups (robust plastic is best). Let your dog watch the first time as you place a treat under one of the upturned cups. When you cover it up and they put their nose or paw on the cup, lift it up and give them the treat. Next time, move the cup around a little bit. You can use more cups and trickery to test your dog’s powers of observation!

Dog Toys for Indoor Play

Although your dog’s favorite playmate is probably you, there will be times when you want them to entertain themselves. 

And sure, you could pay a visit to your pet store and pick up some challenging mental games that will keep your dog busy. Or you could DIY your own from stuff lying around the house…

Make an Octopus Dog Toy using this tutorial from Pasadena Humane:

Got a muffin tray and some tennis balls? Make the Muffin Tray Challenge!