Indoor Games—Rain or Shine

Excerpt from Healthy Dog: The Ultimate Fitness Guide for You and Your Dog

Miserable weather shouldn’t cancel playtime with your dog. Just move your fun indoors. The advantage of being inside is that your dog is less apt to be distracted (unless you have squirrels scurrying in your living room). Use this uninterrupted time to reinforce basic commands and introduce new tricks.

Dogs don’t have a long attention span. Think of them as fidgety elementary school students and spend no more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time teaching each trick. Administer plenty of praise and some healthy food treats to encourage them, and practice, practice, practice so that these tricks become part of your pet’s daily routine. Following are a few fun indoor games that also add spice to some basic commands:

Flip the switch. Did you forget to turn off the kitchen light and now you’re snuggled in bed? Show your dog how to save on utility bills. First, teach him to put his paws on the wall. Pat the wall and say, "up.” Now teach him the paw command by pointing at the light switch and pawing it with your hand. Then position him right under the light switch, point to the switch, and say, "paw it.” Assist your dog by gently directing his paw to turn the switch off. Praise each success. Eventually, let him go solo without your help. Finally, tap the wall and say, "up, lights out” followed by "paw it, lights out.” (For short-legged dogs, place a chair against the wall, tap the seat cushion, and tell your dog, "up.”)

Sing the doggie blues. Turn your yapping dog into a canine crooner. Play some soulful tunes, toss your head back, and unleash a good howl. When your dog joins in, praise him, but keep on howling. Who knows? The two of you may become the next Donny and Marie!

Flip and catch. Does your dog constantly hound you for food scraps? Make him work for his treats! Balance a small treat on your dog’s nose. Say, "okay” as you glide the treat from your dog’s nose to his mouth. Do this several times. Then offer praise only when he tries to flip the treat into his mouth. Finally, balance the treat and the stay command. Take a few steps back, pause, and then say, "okay” for the flip and catch. With each successful snare, lavish praise on your dog.

I hide, you seek. Put your dog in a sit, stay position as you hide elsewhere in the house. If necessary, have someone hold your puppy while you hide. Then call your dog by using his name and saying, "come.” You may need to repeat his name a few times until he reaches you. Make a big fuss when he finds you. This game reinforces the come command. The purpose behind this game: when you say come, your dog will want to stop whatever he is doing to come to you.

Doggy jumping jacks. If your dog adores tennis balls, try this fun game. Tell your dog to sit in front of you. Then hold a tennis ball about a foot directly above his nose. You want to lure him up on his hind feet to sniff and paw for the ball. Keep him on his hind feet for a couple seconds. Then lower the tennis ball to the floor so that he gets back on all four feet. Repeat a few times and finish by tossing the ball for him to fetch.

Even More Fun. Add some energetic zip to treat time with these two terrific games offered by professional dog trainer Liz Palika of Oceanside, California. For both games, you will need a handful of dry kibble or a biscuit broken up into small pieces.

The Come Game. Put a few pieces of treats in two plastic containers with sturdy lids. You take one container to one end of the living room while a partner takes the second container to the other end of the room. Take turns vigorously rattling the container and calling your dog. When he comes to you, offer him one piece of food. Then have your partner call for your dog and give him a treat when he comes. Have your dog go back and forth until the treats are gone. You are reinforcing the come command.

The Shell Game. Take three small bowls of the same size. Sit on the floor and slip a piece of biscuit under one of these upside-down bowls. Tell your dog to find the biscuit and praise him and give him the treat as soon as he finds the correct bowl. Repeat this a few times, but each time move the bowls around so your dog needs to sniff each one to find the tasty treasure.


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