We caught up with Margaret MacEwen, dog trainer and founder of Super Fine K9, once again for tips on how to take care of our dogs during the time of quarantine. This week we covered indoor dog activities for keeping both you and your dog entertained when you can’t leave the house. These activities will help you pass the time and only require household objects to set up.
Supplies needed: Toilet paper/Paper towel roll
This indoor activity is easy to set up and puts your empty rolls of cardboard to good use. Take a toilet paper or paper towel roll and fold one of the ends in like a burrito so the hole is closed. Fill the roll with a measured out portion of food for one of your dog’s meals, then fold in the opposite end so that the food is sealed in.
Give the “burrito” to your dog and they’ll get to work trying to get to their food inside. Once they succeed and finish the food, clean up any scraps of cardboard before they can eat those, too. Cardboard isn’t toxic for dogs and shouldn’t do much harm in a small quantity, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.
If your dog enjoys their burrito, you can start saving up empty rolls and fill them with food ahead of time so they’re ready to serve whenever.
For added fun, you can hide the burrito beforehand and send your dog off to search for it. (Read on for more details on playing find it.)
Bobbing for kibble
Supplies needed: Tennis balls, muffin tin
This activity will keep your dog entertained while they eat one of their daily meals. All you need is a muffin tin (preferably an older one you don’t care about) and some tennis balls.
Take your dog’s regular food portion and place a single piece of kibble in each hole of the muffin tin, then cover the holes with tennis balls. If you don’t have enough tennis balls to fill out the whole tin, that’s fine. Just make sure you have one tennis ball for each piece of kibble in the tin. Once the tennis balls are in place, set the tin down in front of your dog.
Your dog will paw at the tennis balls to get to the food underneath. This turns lunchtime into an indoor activity that stimulates your dog’s mind. While they search for each piece, you can get some work done.
Whenever they get through all the kibble, refill the tin one piece at a time. It may take longer to feed them than usual, but this activity will keep your dog entertained and excited to find their food each time they remove one of the tennis balls.
“Go find it!”
Supplies needed: Tennis balls, muffin tin
If your dog has a favorite toy, this classic game is perfect for indoor fun. Margaret says to use a toy instead of food so your dog will tap into their sight as well as smell to locate the hidden object.
To start, have one person hold your dog back gently either by the collar or the shoulders. The other will take their toy and hold it in front of them to get them excited to find it. By holding your dog back you’ll build up their drive to find the object.
Hide the toy only a short distance from your dog’s starting position in the first round. Once it’s hidden, signal for the other person to let your dog go and give them the command “Go find it!” Once they do, celebrate by cheering and giving your dog verbal praise. Take them back to the starting position and repeat with one person holding the dog back and the other holding the toy in front of them. Each time you start a new round, hide the object further from the dog’s starting position.
Margaret notes that it’s important to use the “Go find it!” command after letting your dog go so they know they’re being given a task. Wait to give them the command until after you’ve hidden the toy and returned to them, otherwise they’ll just come straight to you instead of searching for it.
Keep the first few sessions of this indoor activity short so your dog doesn’t get bored of it quickly. As you repeat the activity, build up to hiding the toy around the corner or behind the couch so your dog doesn’t see its location.
Eventually, you can hide the toy in a different room than where you start with your dog. Let your dog sniff the toy before you hide it so they can track its smell. As the activity gets more difficult, listen for your dog sniffing for it. This will tire them out more and give them greater satisfaction when they find it.
If you want more advice on separation anxiety or general training tips, you can reach out to Margaret MacEwen at superfinek9.com or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.