When you and your pets are stuck at home, it's time to get creative about staying active together! We've put together some fun activities that don't require any special equipment and are easy on your wallet. Here are six ways to get exercise and mental stimulation for your dog and you, even when you can't leave the house.
1. Engage your dog’s brain
Puzzles are your dog's best friend while stuck inside. It helps keep your pup entertained and gives you a project to work on together! Start with simple DIY puzzles, like cutting a small slit in a tennis ball and putting a few treats inside. You want the slit to be small enough that the treats won't fall out on their own, but large enough that your pup will be able to nudge or chew to get them out. You can also try a similar trick with empty plastic bottles – just clean them thoroughly, remove any labels and the plastic ring below the cap, and leave the cap off so your dog can nose it around to jostle the treats loose.
Create an obstacle course
You can also create games for your dog on a larger scale. Would your pup appreciate a sheet fort they have to find you in, or a game of hide-and-seek? Can you rearrange some chairs and pillows to make an indoor obstacle course? Reward your dog for following certain steps or meeting certain goals and train him to do obstacles in a sequence! For example, crawl under the table, then put front paws up on a particular chair, then sit. Think of it like an agility course without the running! Even if you can't move much furniture around, you can create a little course around your living room and reward your dog when he gets it right.
Introduce new sports
Teaching your dog the basics of some competitive canine sports can help set a solid training foundation and give you something to look forward to doing once you can get outside again! Practice scent work, work on a choreographed freestyle routine, or teach your pup a few rally stations.
2. Play chef
Now is a great time to learn a few dog-friendly recipes you can cook at home. Your pup can even lick the bowl! There are many human foods that are safe for your dog to eat and that can serve as extra-special treats during an otherwise boring time. No matter how you combine the ingredients, they can be stuffed into Kong toys, used as exciting food toppers, or doled out as little ice cubes as a tasty reward.
Pumpkin pie bites
Cooked pumpkin and cottage cheese can be layered into an ice cube tray, then frozen to make little bites of "pumpkin pie." You can also freeze some food into the center of a large ice cube, so that once your pup chews into it, they get a tasty reward! To make these, just fill a large ice cube mold one-third full of water and freeze it. Once it's solid, add a small ball of prepared food (about 1 Tbsp) on top and freeze again. Once the food has set, fill the ice cube mold the rest of the way and wait until the whole ice cube has frozen solid. Voila! Your treat-in-the-middle ice ball is ready! This will also help keep your pal occupied for a longer amount of time than a regular treat, particularly if you need to get any work done while they snack.
If you want to cook for your pup, be sure to use only dog safe foods. A few good examples of foods you can share with your dog include:
- Green beans
- Greek yogurt
- Sweet potato
- Cottage cheese
- Peanut butter
Please remember to only give treats in moderation and bear in mind that large amounts of oil or dairy can cause diarrhea. When in doubt, start with a small amount to make sure your dog can digest their newly discovered tasty foods! Make sure peanut butter is not sugar-free and does not contain Xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs.
3. Polish those manners!
One of the most important things in dog training is consistency. With you at home for long stretches of time, this is a great opportunity to look for teachable moments! First, learn how to be a good dog trainer, then begin to work with your pup! When a delivery comes to the door, does your dog bark or jump? Does your pal bother your cats or get too mouthy at times? Many dogs also struggle with "counter surfing" when there is really tempting food in the kitchen.
Decide what you'd like to work on, then check out our training blogs for some helpful dog training and fitness tips. Right now, you are in total control of your dog's environment, so it's a good chance to really tackle some training! Even if your dog is a perfectly well-behaved angel, reviewing and reinforcing good manners is always worthwhile.
4. Open a window on the world
Keep an eye out through a window
Does your dog have a dedicated window seat? Providing them a place to sit and watch the world go by can help with mental stimulation. You can have a good time setting up a special window spot full of blankets, pillows, toys, and maybe an old shirt that smells like you. If you're feeling artistic, you can add wall decorations or paint their name above their cozy spot. Set it up near where you spend the most time during the day so you can get in some extra snuggles!
Introduce dog TV
If a window seat is not an option for your dog or your space, consider playing TV for dogs on a nearby TV or computer screen. A quick internet search brings up several options, and a little mental stimulation goes a long way in any form!
Keep walking your pup
Even though it’s recommended that humans stay inside, most states are allowing dog owners to get outside and walk their dogs at least once a day. Follow the social distancing requirements and try to keep to streets with no crowds. If you don’t feel comfortable taking your dog for a walk, try just going out in the backyard to play a few times a day so your dog and you both get fresh air and can burn off some energy.
5. Start a toy rotation
You can also try a toy rotation to keep things fresh. Sometimes a toy is exciting for a day or two but becomes ignored or forgotten as its presence becomes routine. Try keeping a basket of your pup's toys out of sight and only having two to three out at a time. Select a time each day that one toy goes back into the basket, and a new one takes its place. This has the added bonus of following a routine, which is comforting for dogs! If your dog's toy supply is running low, you can make some toys at home using old t-shirts, spare tennis balls, empty plastic bottles with holes for treats, or even drying a few thick slices of sweet potato. As always, be sure to monitor your dog's playtime with any toy for safety.
6. Get musical
Find a favorite song
Try finding what music your pup responds to the most! This could mean creating a playlist from all different genres or singing along with songs to see if your pup will join in. Freya the German Shepherd, for example, adores the blues and always howls along! Even if your dog doesn't sing with you, just singing to them can be entertaining and comforting.
Throw a dance party
You can also throw a living room dance party! It will get you both moving and help burn some of your dog's pent-up energy. Create a short playlist, about half an hour long to start. Open with fast-paced, exciting songs to get the ball rolling, then transition to calmer songs with slower beats once you're ready to settle down. If this type of exercise is a good fit for your pup, look into musical canine freestyle! It's a fun and exciting sport that many dogs and their owners enjoy.
Keep positive for your pet!
It can be hard being stuck indoors day after day. Staying active together and keeping up your dog's mental stimulation are challenging goals, but vitally important. All these strategies will help promote your dog's physical and emotional health and help you both get through this difficult time. Dogs who have too much energy may become destructive or act out in ways that might cause an injury at home. Consider enrolling in pet insurance to help ease your worries about unexpected vet bills. Get a quote today.