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Training & Behavior Last Updated:

How to Entertain Your Dog Indoors

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A Jack Russell Terrier looks at the camera with a brown plush toy in its mouth, surrounded by toys in the shape of a giraffe and a lamb.

Dogs need regular exercise, whether that’s a daily walk or playing with friends at the dog park. But when the weather is too hot or too cold for long walks, it can be challenging to find ways to keep your dog entertained indoors.

A mix of activities your dog can do on their own and games you can play together can keep your dog entertained while exercising both their mind and body. Here are some ideas for how to entertain your dog indoors.

Give your dog a puzzle toy

One of the most common ways to keep your dog entertained indoors is with a puzzle toy, like a treat dispensing ball. These puzzles provide mental stimulation for dogs and can keep them busy for a while.

You can also stuff a KONG toy with peanut butter or canned pumpkin and freeze it to make it last a little longer. A frozen KONG toy will keep your pup entertained and give them the mental exercise they need. Always keep in mind the approximate number of calories that your pup is consuming, especially if they getting less exercise than normal. Excess calories can contribute to obesity in pets. 

Find more puzzle toy recommendations in our vet-approved guide. Pups should be supervised when using puzzle toys, as many have parts that can be pulled away. 

Play hide and seek

Playing hide and seek with your dog is a fun indoor activity to keep your dog entertained and busy. Give them a ball to sniff first, then hide it somewhere in the house. You can gradually progress from easier finds to more challenging ones. “Tough” hide-and-seek games can keep them occupied for 10–15 minutes.

If your dog is very people-motivated, instead of hiding a ball, try hiding yourself. In this version, first tell your dog to stay while you hide. After you hide, call their name while they look for you. This game can be a fun and interactive way to practice “stay” and improve recall with your dog while also giving you a chance to express your inner child. 

Margaret MacEwen, dog trainer and founder of Super Fine K9, shares some more indoor dog games you can play using household objects.

Practice scent training

One way to practice nosework is to hide treats around the house and have your dog search for them. Just make sure you remember where you hid them, so you don’t find a surprise later.

Do you have empty boxes lying around? Create your own puzzle game by arranging a few boxes on the floor and placing treats in some of them. Let your dog search for the ones that have a treat inside. When they paw or nudge at the correct box, reveal the treat and give them lots of praise. 

A muffin tin also works for a DIY puzzle game—just place treats in a couple of the cups and cover them all with tennis balls. Give the puzzle to your dog and have them find which of the muffin cups contain treats. Change the location of the treats each round to keep their brain engaged.

Play fetch indoors

A classic way to keep your dog entertained indoors is to throw a ball around inside and let your dog practice fetching. Just be sure to use a softer ball that won’t break a lamp. 

Practice obedience training

Obedience training is a great way to entertain your dog while also giving them physical and mental exercise. Carrie Weber of Good Dog Training shares some top dog training tips and techniques to help you get started. You could play games that practice “stay,” like “red light, green light” or hide and seek.

If you’re a puppy parent, it’s good practice to start with training indoors before moving outside. Get expert puppy training tips in our New Puppy Parent Guide, including how to practice “sit,” “down,” and “high five.”

Whether or not your dog is ready for the competitive level, Rally obedience training (also known as Rally or Rally-O) is a fun activity you can practice indoors. You can find videos on YouTube about how to train for the common commands.

If your dog has mastered obedience training already, try some more advanced trick training. With a little time and patience, you can even teach your dog to play basketball while stuck indoors.

Just like us, dogs need breaks, too. Aim for 10–20 minutes of training with 5 minutes of fetching or playing with a toy in between.

Play the shell game

You can use the shell game in a few different ways: to practice “stay,” to practice scent work, or to practice some dog brain teasers. All you need are treats (or kibble) and some plastic cups.

To use the shell game to practice “stay,” grab your dog’s favorite treats and the cups. Sit your dog down and tell them to stay. Show them the treat, then place it under one of the plastic cups. Wait a few seconds, then tell them to come get the treat.

To practice scent work, place the treat under one cup when your dog isn’t in the room. Then call them into the room and let them sniff out where the treat is hidden.

Lastly, for a more challenging brain teaser, mix up the cups and see if your dog can find the treat again after the cups have been shuffled around.

Teach your dog “Go find it”

If your dog already knows the names of some of their toys, teach them the “go find it” command. Start with one toy. Show them the toy, then tell them to stay. Go hide the toy, starting with an easily visible hiding spot. Tell them to “go find it” in an excited voice. You can gradually make the hiding places more difficult or branch out to naming and hiding other toys, giving your dog praise every time they retrieve a toy.

Watch a video with your dog

Lastly, if you need a hands-off way to entertain your dog while you get some work done, there are videos for dogs on YouTube that might be stimulating, depending on your dog’s interest. Just be careful to limit TV time and make sure they are getting plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Venturing outside on a cold winter day with your pet? Read our top five winter care tips and these vet-recommended safety tips for dogs and cats.

 

Photo by marieke koenders on Unsplash

Mimi Padmabandu Contributor

Mimi Padmabandu is a scientific writer and Senior Content Strategist at Embark Veterinary. Her career includes a decade of experience writing about science and genomics for leading biotechnology companies, including Illumina, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and more. She holds a bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and a master’s degree from King’s College London.

Read more about Mimi Padmabandu

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