When it’s raining cats and dogs outside these games will keep your big, furry friend exercised mentally and physically without all the muddy mess.
Normally, my mastiff, Midas, is perfectly content sleeping next to me on the couch all day, but it’s usually on the rainiest and muddiest of days that he decides he wants to play. Occasionally, I’ll oblige..hey, if he wants to get wet and muddy, who am I to stop him? But, most of the time, I’m not in the mood to clean up the disaster that follows him back in.
In order to curb the boredom and entertain him inside, I did some research online, but most of the suggested “rainy day” games are for nimble, agillic pups that can weave through homemade obstacle courses. If you own a large breed dog then you know they just aren’t cut out for those games.
However, it didn’t take too long to come up with a few of my own fun activities that successfully nip the whining and boredom in the bud. Some of these might take a little practice with your own pup, but before long, you’ll have some go-to tricks that will rival the Cat and The Hat’s own rainy day entertainment…without all the mess.
1. Hide ‘n Go Seek
This is our household favorite, and it’s easy to teach!
- First, grab some of your dog’s favorite toys or treats. We used cut-up hot dogs to keep his attention, and to give him a reward he really wants.
- Take your dog to one room of the house (we use the bedroom) and give the sit-stay or down-stay command. If you have a friend that can help you, have the friend either hold the dog’s collar or stand beside him to make sure he doesn’t move until you’re ready. If you’re alone, make sure your dog understands the stay command before trying out this game.
- Find a hiding place! For the first time, hide just outside of your dog’s sight so they don’t give up too easily before they catch on to the game. You can increase the level of difficulty of your hiding places after a few successful rounds.
- If you have a friend, instruct them to say “Go find!”. We say, “Go Find, Mommy!”, but you can use any command to indicate that the dog may now go look for you. If you’re alone, call out your dog’s name or say “Find!”.
- When the dog finds you, shower them with praise, treats, and excitement! Make it fun so they learn that “finding you” is rewarding.
Benefits: Exercises the dog mentally and physically while also training them to use their nose to search you out. Reinforces the sit and stay command, and encourages dogs to come when called.
2. Treat in a Box
This one is wonderful if you’re in a particularly lazy (or busy!) mood, and your dog is anything but. It’s the same concept as any of the treat balls you can find at your local pet store, but for foster parents and multi-dog parents sometimes you aren’t keen to invest in toys that will eventually end up destroyed so a box is a great substitute.
- Grab a shoe box or any box you have no affinity for (we use shipping boxes from USPS).
- Fill the box with all of your dog’s favorite treats! I use a mixture of hot dog bites, training treats, pieces of lunch meat, and dog food.
- If you’re using a shoe box, cut an opening in the lid so that there is a way for the treats to fall out. The smaller the opening, the higher the level of difficulty (just don’t cut too small or your dog will give up–too big and it won’t be enough mental stimulation). If you’re using a shipping box, cut the two longer flaps so that when you close it up, there is an opening where the treats can fall out. See picture below:
- Place the box on the floor and let your dog have at it!
Benefits: Mental exercise that teaches your dog problem solving skills. As a bonus, your dog learns how to open up his own Christmas presents!
3. The Stair Master
Confession: We don’t use this game in our home because Midas is prone to hip dysplasia so please consider your dog’s breed before playing this game; however, it’s excellent indoor exercise for more limber breeds. I’ve also provided an alternative below.
- Easy peasy. Stand at the top of a flight of stairs with your dog. Toss the ball down the stairs and have your dog retrieve the ball and bring it back up. If you’re dog is like ours and doesn’t understand the concept of fetch, you can have another person stand at the bottom of the stairs to get the ball back and toss it back up.
Alternative: Ball in the Hall
Instead of tossing the ball down the stairs, we toss the ball down the hall….if that wasn’t already obvious in the title…
Benefits: Great physical exercise that can easily wear your dog out!
4. Criminal Bones
This game is similar to hide n’ go seek except instead of hiding yourself, you’re hiding a bone! Hey, maybe one day your dog will grow up to be a police K9…
- First, grab one of your dog’s most coveted bones. We use either a rawhide roll or bully stick.
- Let your dog smell the bone and get him very excited about it!
- Give the sit-stay or down-stay command.
- Hide the bone! For the first time, hide the bone in plain sight until he learns that in order to get the bone, he has to find it. You can increase the level of difficulty after a few tries.
- Give a release command. We simply say “Go find the bone!”. Use a very excited voice so your dog understands it’s a fun game.
- When your dog finds the bone, give him tons of praise and then let him enjoy his find! If you want the game to continue, let him gnaw on the bone for a bit as a reward, then take the bone back and restart the game.
Advanced Level: Once your dog masters this game, try hiding several pieces of his favorite treats around the house. We hide about 10 cut up hot dogs all around the house, and it keeps him mentally preoccupied for about 10-15 minutes.
Benefits: Mental and physical exercise that trains your dog to use his sense of smell to search, and also reinforces the sit-stay commands.
5. To the Window! To the Wall! Till the drool drops down his jowls…
This game combines a little of everything: training, exercise, and your own personal work out! There are two versions of this game, one for those pet parents who allow their dogs on the furniture (guilty!), and one for those who don’t.
- First, grab a handful of treats. Place a treat on the couch and have your dog jump up on it. We have a blanket on our couch that is Midas’s “place” so we use this spot to reinforce the command.
- Then run to your bedroom and place a treat on your bed so your dog quickly follows you and jumps up to find the treat. I give the command Cuddle time! so he learns that Cuddle Time means to come to bed with us.
- After your dog gets the treat, race to his doggie bed and drop another treat there. When we get here, I say Bed. Now he has learned 3 established places to go: Place (on the couch), Cuddle Time (our bed), and Bed (his dog bed).
- As your dog figures out that each new location will have a treat, increase your speed and alternate the order of the places you go so your dog is racing back and forth! Eventually, you can stand in one spot and command him to each area.
If your dog is not allowed on furniture, simply find 3-4 places in your house to have him race to!
Benefits: Mental and physical exercise while also teaching your dog to go to a place. This will come in handy when you need your dog to calm down or lay down. Just make sure you spend some time reinforcing the stay command once he is in his place so he learns the difference between “time-out” and play time.
If your pup is still bored after exhausting all of these games, consider getting him a furry friend by visiting our adoptable dogs list here!