“The weather outside is crappy, and I tell the dogs to be happy, but to all this ice and snow, they just howl and say, “Go away, go away, go away.” It is so slick and nasty, that even the dogs are complaining, and more ice and snow are on the way. “Go away, go away, go away!!!”

Miserable, inclement weather is here, and the forecast doesn’t encourage any of us to get outside, but dogs that are not regularly exercised are likely to develop behavioral problems such as chewing, excessive barking and separation anxiety. It is their cry for help: Hey, I am lonely and bored. I will have to do something to get my human’s attention and any attention is better than none. So what do you do to use up some of your dog’s pent up energy? Playing Frisbee inside the kitchen is probably not the best idea, but there are many creative ways to keep your dog busy indoors, so that he doesn’t chew up shoes, shred newspapers, and damage the furniture.

  • Does your dog know the basic obedience commands? Does she have a reliable recall and sit and stay? Even well trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. All dogs should have a reliable, sit, stay, drop it, and come.
  • If you’ve been thinking about teaching your dog some scent work games, the “Which Hand Game” is a great starter. The only thing you’ll need is some dog treats (we recommend homemade, but some dogs respond to veggies like carrot chips or green beans, and a small bit of cheese is always a winner). Place a treat in one hand. Close your fists and hold them out in front of your dog. Let your dog choose which hand it’s in. When he sniffs or paws he correct hand, open it up, and give him the treat. If he chooses incorrectly don’t discourage him, just try again until he catches on.
  • Another version of the hand game is the “Three Cup Game”. Place a treat under one of three cups and have your dog choose the correct one. Once she gets the hang of it, mix up the cups so she isn’t just relying on visuals.
  • Hide and Seek is a favorite with most dogs. Have your dog sit and wait while you find a hiding spot. Call him when you are hidden, and praise enthusiastically when he finds you. Start with easy places, and gradually find more difficult hiding places.
  • A controlled “Game of Tug” offers the opportunity to get a bit more exercise. Just don’t let the game escalate to an aggressive exchange. Stop the game before she gets overly enthusiastic.
  • Have your dog sit and stay while you hide some smelly treats around the house. Start with easy hiding spots and work your way up once your dog is accustomed to using his nose.
  • With a little patience and persistence, your dog can learn the names of her toys. Start by playing with one specific toy and giving it a name every time you handle it. After some practice and praise, your dog will associate that verbal name with the chosen toy. Once she has learned the names of several specific toys, test her skill by seeing if she can pick out a specific one from among her other toys.
  • When your dog knows the names of some of his toys, teach him the “go find it” game. Put his toys in a pile or container, and tell him to “go find” a specific toy. Keep it fun and reward handsomely! This game will give him a great mental workout.
  • Most of us have enough room for a simple game of fetch. Hallways, stairways, and big living rooms are popular choices. Just be careful to put away any item that could be broken. If you don’t like the idea of playing fetch indoors, turn it into a simple game of catch.
  • If you are too busy to interact with your dog, a stuffed Kong is a great alternative. Stuff with kibble, peanut butter, bits of cheese, or any healthy food. The tighter you stuff it, the longer your dog will be interested in it. Stuff a couple Kongs and put them in the freezer for use when needed.

After an exercise session or game, remember that a dog is a social creature. There’s nothing she will enjoy more than just a relaxing snuggle session with you and a tummy massage is always appreciated when your dog misbehaves. She or he is probably just bored. Get your imagination going and enjoy some winter fun!