Often, when the weather is terrible, the last thing you want to do is brave the that horrible weather with your dog. It can not only be unpleasant for all, BUT in some cases, it can be just plain dangerous to venture into the great outdoors (or your neighborhood). Being a dog trainer, dog owner and of course, an avid dog lover myself, I have had lots of experience with bad weather. Be it thunderstorms, extreme heat, blizzards or even tornado warnings (and the crazy winds that come with it), I have faced it all. With the help of mentally stimulating games and activities, I've been able to keep our four-legged family members happy and tired.
Don't let your dog get bored like this adorable guy featured above. Bored dogs will often find a way to entertain themselves, and that's when your shoes, socks or table legs get chewed up! If you are in a pinch and need ideas for tiring your dog out on those bad weather days, here are a few fun and stimulating options that have worked for me every time!
- Hide and Go Seek: This has to be one of my favourite games by far. This one is not only fun for your dog, but it’s also fun for us as well! The object of the game is simple; you place your dog into a sit or lay down in another room and ask them to wait there (or stay, whatever command you’d prefer), then you quickly find a place to hide somewhere in the house. When you have found your spot yell “OK” or “COME” and wait for your dog to find you. TIP: if this is your first time playing with your dog, I would recommend hiding in easier spots to start out with, then gradually get harder and harder the better your dog gets at finding you!
- Edible Kong: This is an idea I got from a friend of mine and it’s a GENIUS one! For this, you take an apple, take the core out using and apple corer (you want the apple itself to remain mostly intact), BUT you do not want any seeds left in the apple as they can be poisonous. Next, you fill it with delicious, aromatic snacks and other dog friendly fillings. Finally, you put it in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes until mostly frozen, then give it to your dog for a fun completely edible snack, that will get their brain thinking about how to get all the delicious contents out! TIP: fill it with natural peanut butter (no sugar or sweetener added of any kind), bits of cut up carrot, pieces of cucumber or blueberries for a yummy and nutritious snack!
- Search: This one is similar to hide and go seek, however rather than a person hiding, you hide treats or toys around a room. Start by getting your dog to sit and wait or stay in another room, make sure you show them what they are playing for so they know what they are searching for when given the command. Next, leave them in the room waiting and go hide the treats or toys around another room. When you are finished hiding the treats or toys, yell “search” to your dog and watch them use their senses to find the hiding prizes. TIP:if you are hiding treats, be sure to count how many you have put out. That way if your dog doesn’t find them all you can help them out (and make sure you don’t have rotting food anywhere in the house that might have been missed).
- Obstacle Course: This is another super fun activity that everyone in the family will enjoy. This one requires a bit more set up and the understanding that things are going to get a bit crazy, but ridiculously fun! First, you are going to need to set up your “arena” I’d suggest the basement or a wreck room. Use couch cushions, towels, blankets, tables/desks, chairs and anything else you can think of to create your obstacle course. Use whatever you can find and turn it into a fun course that you, and your dog, can climb under, jump on top of, balance on, hide under or even get out of! TIP: get the entire family involved, if you have two dogs create a timed team game. This will keep it fun, stimulating and tiring for everyone!
- Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: this activity is exactly what it sounds like, teach your dog a new trick. Take the time and break a complicated trick into steps. Take your chosen trick one step at a time and really nail each step before you move on to the next step or add steps together. This will not only stimulate your dog, but it will give you both a sense of accomplishment when they finally nail the trick for the first time! TIP: repetition, repetition, and more repetition. Repeat each step multiple times.
Remember, these activities are suppose to be fun, so if you or your dog is not enjoying one, move on to another until you find something that you both love! Don’t forget, all of these activities are completely family friendly. Get the kids to go hide, get them to help make the edible kong and fill them with an array of ingredients. Have them take part in the obstacle course by creating it and also participating in it. Lastly, have them help out with picking the new trick for your dog to learn and breaking down the steps. Make all of these activities a team effort and most importantly, have fun doing it.