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Indoor Games for Dogs

A woman plays with a Jack Russell Terrier as it sits in a cardboard box in a living room

Why play games indoors instead of outdoors?

There are many reasons why indoor games may be a better and safer choice than heading outside for a walk, a romp in the yard, or heading to the dog park. Some of the reasons why it's good to keep some fun indoor games in mind for your dog are:

  • Although new to 2020, COVID-19 is an excellent reason to keep playtime indoors. This global pandemic has affected both humans and animals. Though we are still learning about this virus every day, we know it can make our dogs sick and, in rare cases, result in death.
  • Rain can end outdoor activities for the day, but a dog still needs exercise, so indoor games are the next best thing. And, though a little rain isn’t a big deal, it is safest to stay indoors during thunderstorms. Even dogs who do not regularly have issues with thunder may become fearful outside during a storm.
  • Even more dangerous than rain is extreme heat, which can lead to dogs being unable to play outside without risk of heatstroke and damage to the pads of their feet.
  • Cold weather can also make playtime outdoors impossible, especially with bitter cold when there is a danger of frostbite from spending too much time outside. Plus, walking in the winter without boots can harm your dog’s paws, especially from chemicals that melt the ice.

Indoor Games For Dogs

Hidden Treasure

This game engages your dog’s sense of smell and brain. The game is easily set up and can be played in a couple of different ways.

  • First, you can hide treats at your dog's level throughout the house. Remember, it needs to be easily accessible to your dog. Additionally, you don't want to teach bad habits like counter surfing, so keep treats at or below eye level.
  • Once all the treats are hidden, then tell them to "Find It!" If this your dog's first time playing, then after giving them the command, lead them to the area of a treat. Repeat the command, and when they find the treat, praise them and repeat the process, until they begin to figure things out.  
  • A more interactive way to play this game is by using the shell game method. The shell game is also a great way to introduce your dog to the hidden treasure game since it helps teach the command “Find It.” The game is played much like what you see on the boardwalk, use plastic cups or small bowls hide a treat while your dog is watching, then mix up the containers and let them find the treat.

Though both methods work well, the first game, where you hide things all over the house, will tire your pup out since it requires more physical activity, and dogs generally get pretty excited when playing.

However, it is essential to end the game with a command and redirection, so your dog doesn’t search the house over for non-existent treats. Allowing your dog to think a treat is still around when there isn’t can cause destructive behavior as they become more frantic and frustrated in their search.

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This is a great game but may require two people; one to hold the dog and the other to hide. Hide-and-seek engages the brain, sense of smell, hearing, and gives them a bit of exercise. Additionally, hide-and-seek can divert your dog’s attention from noises, like thunderstorms or fireworks, that may elicit fear or anxiety.

  • Have one person hold the dog, unless your pup has a reliable stay command. Then hide, call the dog, and have them hunt for you. 
  • Once your dog finds you be sure to praise and even give them a treat. Then start the game over and hide again.  

Another great aspect of playing hide-and-seek is that it is an excellent way to reinforce your dog’s recall skills.

Clicker Training

Whether or not you use a clicker, this is a great way to engage your dog’s mind. Dogs love the training game because it combines treats and spending time with you. And even the best-behaved dogs can still benefit from learning new tricks or just brushing up on old ones. The training game helps keep your dog focused and stimulates their brains, plus it is a great way to tire your dog out.

Some great obedience behaviors you can work on inside include:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Lay Down
  • Off
  • Look
  • Heel

  If you want to teach your pup, some fun tricks here are some great ideas:

  • Shake
  • Touch - which can later evolve into them learning to use light switches
  • Retrieve
  • Rollover
  • Speak
  • Wave

When playing the training game, you will want to have tiny training treats and a clicker if you use one.  

Obstacle Course

Though that may sound crazy if you have a smaller house, they are easy and fun to set up and you don’t need a ton of room.  However, you will need a few things treats, obstacles which can be household items such as furniture to create your course.  But if you want you may always invest in an in-home set most are under $75. 

What you will need to create an obstacle course:

  • set in a line far enough apart to walk through like weave poles
  • A couch or ottoman, if your dog is allowed on furniture, for up.  If you have a K9 Klimb that would work perfectly for this exercise
  • Something small and flexible for your dogs to jump or high step over like stacked books or a chair in its side.
  • Cardboard box for your dog to crawl through, or a sheet over two chairs, to create a tunnel
  • You can also create a dog jump from common household goods, click here to see theAKC DIY dog jump

Dog Games, Rain or Shine

It is always good to have stuff on hand for indoor games for dogs, just in case the weather or current events cause you to stay home.  And let's face it, some days you might just not feel like going out. Truthfully most dogs don't care if you play indoors or outdoors just as long as they get to spend time with you.

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Meet The Author 

Jessica Mabie author of Dog Paw Pad Injuries for dogs: What you need to know

Jessica Mabie

Canine Specialist & Writer

Jessica Mabie is a Freelance Writer residing in the Twin Cities. She specializes in writing about pets, travel, and food. Jessica graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, TC.

Jessica has always loved dogs, and, at the age of 14, she started volunteering at a neighborhood vet clinic. While at the U of M, she continued her work with dogs as an obedience trainer and vet tech. Although she no longer works with dogs professionally, she does use her experience as a volunteer with American Brittany Rescue as well as aiding in her writing.

When not working, Jessica and her family spend a lot of time camping and hiking from spring to fall. So, if you happen to see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).

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