Being stuck indoors can make exercising your dog a challenge. I’ve tried cuddling on the couch with Laika while watching the Golden Girls all day long, but she wasn’t having any of it. Like most dogs she needs daily exercise, and a cuddle marathon just doesn’t cut it.
The good news is there are some activities and games that you can do to keep your dog physically active indoors. Here’s 10 ways to exercise your dog on a rainy day.
Find The Treats
A fun nose work game, such as find the treats, is a great way to keep your dog active indoors. Find the treats is simple to play; the only thing you need to get started is your dog’s attention and some yummy treats. I use chopped up carrots, but you can use any sort of treat you’ve got on hand.
The purpose of the game is to have your dog sniff out treats you hide around the house. When you’re first starting out you’ll want to make it easy, until your dog gets the hang of it. Have your dog sit in a stay position and place some treats around the room where they can see them. After they’re spread around release your dog give them a cue to “find the treats.” Keep it fun and positive by praising them each time they pick up a new treat.
Once you’re pretty sure your dog has a good grasp of what “find the treats” means you can start hiding them in more challenging spots. Have your dog sit in a stay position and start hiding treats in areas that are out of sight. Repeat the “find the treats” cue and praise as you did previously. After some practice your dog will start to hone in on their natural sniffing abilities, and they’ll start relying on their nose rather than visual cues.
The best part about find the treats is how simple it is. You can play it anywhere as long as you’ve got some treats on hand. And although it seems pretty basic it will give your dog a nice mental workout and keep them active. Here’s a great article on how to teach your dog how to play find the treats.
Tug of War
Tug of war is one of Laika’s favorite games, and as far as indoor games goes it’s pretty physically demanding. Minute for minute tug is one of the most physically & mentally challenging games you can play with your dog. And the best part is you don’t need a ton of room to play, so it’s a great way to exercise your dog on rainy days.
The only thing you need is a tug toy and your dog’s attention. If you don’t have a tug toy you can make your own out of some old t-shirts, towels or fleece.
Tug is a great way to exercise your dog as long as you teach your dog that “the game stops if your teeth touch my hand.” For younger and more rambunctious pups this step might be a bit challenging, but if you’re consistent with letting them know that any teeth touching your hand is unacceptable they’ll start to catch on. In that regard playing tug with your dog is a great way to teach them some basic impulse control and manners.
And contrary to what some people say tug will not make your dog aggressive, nor will letting them win make them more dominant. Letting your dog win just makes the game more fun for your dog, and it will encourage them to play more. Studies have shown that dogs who play tug with their owners tend to be more obedient and exhibit higher confidence.
When it comes to entertaining my dog on rainy days stuffed Kongs are a life saver. They’re easy to prepare, and a frozen one will keep my dog busy for 30+ minutes. I usually use some peanut butter or low sodium broth mixed with veggies and let it freeze overnight. If you’re not sure what to use check out our list of 39 healthy foods you can stuff in a Kong. A stuffed Kong is mentally stimulating, and it’s a simple way to keep your dog entertained indoors.
Using a stuffed Kong is also a great way to keep your dog busy 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 use the classic Kong because it’s nontoxic, indestructible, and dishwasher safe. But if you’re looking for a 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.
Chasing bubbles is a fun way to keep your dog busy on rainy days. Laika loves chasing bubbles; it’s such a simple way to keep my dog happy, entertained & exercised. You can buy bubbles made for dogs, or you can buy any of the bottles at the store since the bubbles the ones made for children are nontoxic.
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. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s physically demanding.
A fun way to exercise your dog on rainy days is to practice some indoor agility. You don’t need any fancy equipment either; you can create your own indoor obstacle course with household items such as brooms, towels and boxes. For those items you can have your dog jump over broom sticks, “go to their towel,” and weave through boxes.
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 broom stick you can them move onto going to their towel. Building on prior tricks like that will help keep your dog mentally stimulated, and it’s a great way to encourage focus. If you’re not sure where to start here’s some ideas for creating your own indoor agility course.
Another fun way to exercise your dog on a rainy day is to do some free shaping. Shaping is the act of building up a particular behavior by using a series of small steps to achieve it. The basic principle of shaping games is encouraging your dog to make their own decisions and try something new.
It’s great mental stimulation for dogs, and it helps them develop new learning behaviors. Still confused? Trust me you’re not alone. It took me awhile to catch on until I saw this excellent video by Dr. Sophia Yin that explains how to do some basic free shaping exercises with your dog.
The great thing about free shaping is that it’s so versatile; you can do it indoors with a variety of objects. If you’re not sure where to begin with free shaping check out 101 things to do with a box for some ideas. And if you’re looking for some exercises that don’t involve a box here’s a video of shape training a dog to crawl under an object.
If you’ve got some extra a nice game of indoor fetch can help keep your dog active on rainy days. My dog and I love playing soccer in the basement with her Jolly ball. When we’re upstairs I stick to plush toys or her lightweight glowball to avoid damaging anything.
Just remember to avoid using any heavy toys around anything that’s fragile or able to be tipped over. And take it from me when I say playing in the kitchen isn’t the best idea. If you’re not a fan of playing fetch indoors you can always turn it into a simple game of catch.
Another fun way to exercise your dog on a rainy day is to do some good old fashioned trick training. If your dog’s a bit rusty you can brush up on the basics such as sit, stay, lay down and come here.
If you’re looking for more advanced tricks weaving through your legs and picking up their toys are pretty impressive; and the best part is they’re not too hard to teach. If you’re not sure where to begin with trick training here’s a list of 52 tricks with instructions that you can work on.
You can also work on teaching your dog some around the house type jobs such as fetching you your slippers. 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.
Another simple way to keep your dog busy on rainy days is by using puzzle toys. They’re mentally stimulating, and they’re an easy way to keep your dog entertained.
There’s a wide variety of dog puzzle toys available, as well as treat dispensing toys such as the Kong Wobbler. And for the crafty types there’s a lot of great DIY toys out there you can make. One of my favorites is the muffin tin game – if you have a muffin tin and some tennis balls you’re ready to play.
Hide & Seek
Playing a game of hide and seek with your dog is a fun way to keep them active on rainy days. Hide and seek is by far one of Laika’s favorite games.
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.