Indoor dog games – keeping our pets occupied whatever the weather

In this post I’m going to introduce the idea of indoor dog games.

‘Active dogs are happy dogs’, that’s one of our favourite phrases around here, but how do we keep them active all year around? Racing around off leash at the beach or dog park is an important part of dog life, but it isn’t the only way to provide physical and mental stimulation for our pooches. What if the weather’s terrible? (OK, so I live in the UK, so it often is!), what if we didn’t get home til late and its dark, there are loads of reasons why we might not be able to fit the traditional dog walk into our schedule every single day. That’s OK! We can do loads of other stuff with our pets, plus there are added benefits too.

  • Bored dogs get into trouble! keeping them occupied lessens the likelihood of problem behaviours like chewing and barking.
  • Improving the bond that we have with our pet.
  • Builds confidence.
  • Provides mental stimulation.
  • Provides physical stimulation.
  • It’s fun!!!

So, in this post I’m going to touch on a few simple ideas of how to entertain our pupsters without having to go outside, there really are hundreds of things you can do instead, so get your thinking caps on and give us some feedback on your ideas and how you and your pooch enjoyed it.

Ideas for starting out – put that nose to work

Use your dogs natural ability for sniffing stuff out. There’s loads of fun to be had using nosework. You can buy all kinds of interactive dog games where you hide treats in places, but really all you need for this game is already in your home. Hide some treats around the room, let your dog watch you the first few times. Then give them a ‘find it’ (or whatever) command and give them tons of praise each time they find a treat. Once you both get the hang of it you can place the treats while your dog waits out of sight.

Another simple one is to take three paper cups, place a treat under one of them, let your dog watch as you mix them around, then give them a command to find the treat. Again, give them tons of praise when they get it right. You can soon add more complexity to up the ante! Add more cups, put treats under more than one, don’t let them see which one you put it under.dogs-nose

One word of warning here, too many treats might make Fido fat! If this is a concern you can either use low fat treats (my dogs love sliced raw carrot) or use part of their daily food ration for the treats. After all, why waste that amount of reward by just handing them a bowl full of food when you could make them work for it instead.

Have a game of hide-and-seek

If your dog is already trained to wait until you call them you can leave them waiting, go and hide yourself somewhere, and then call them. You could also get somebody else to help you, ie hold the dog’s collar until you are ready and then either you can call them, or the other person can give them a ‘find her’ type command. Again, as soon as the dog finds you make sure you dish out the praise plentifully.

Get your dog to do some chores

That might sound far-fetched, but I once pet sat a dog who had around 20 different toys. Each toy had a name and the dog knew them all by name. If I told her to fetch Bertie she would dutifully go off to the toy pile and bring the right toy out. Why not start with learning the names, then teach the dog to put all of their toys back in the toy box after you’ve finished playing? Obviously you wouldn’t start with 20, you’d start with two and work up, heaping out the praise as you go. Fun and games for the dog, and useful to you too!

Try teaching them to fetch your slippers, or a newspaper, or whatever works for you. You could even attach an old towel to a door handle and get them to open and close doors.

Teach them some manners

This can only be a good thing in any case, but you can have loads of fun whilst doing it. For example, if your dog likes a tug of war you can introduce a ‘leave it’ command as part of the game. They get to tug back and forth with you, but when they’re told to leave it they do as they are told. This is easy to teach, to begin with just wait until they naturally leave the toy, then add the command and tons of praise. They will soon realise that the command, the action and the praise are linked and they’ll be keen to please. Make sure you give them the toy back again straight away most times, only say one in ten times would you take it away from them completely.tugging-dog

Similarly, with treats, you can teach them to have a treat placed in front of them and to wait until they are invited to take it. It might take some time and patience, but can be really fun and helpful in stopping a dog who likes to steal food.

Try it today – your dog will thank you for it!

These are just a handful of ideas to get started, I’d love to hear how you and your dog get on and what other fun ideas you come up with, share your feedback in the comments below.

For now, yappy playtime!




  1. Great post! Raph loves to play hide and seek (or maybe it’s just me because it makes me reminisce of being young again). I’ll make him stay in the living room or just wait until he’s not paying attention and then go run and hide somewhere then call his name. It’s fun to see him search places where he knows I usually hide, so I try to mix it up some. I’m always quiet when he gets close to me though.
    I always give him lots of praise and attention when he does find me and it makes him excited!

    I like you idea of getting dogs to pick up after themselves. My sister trips over dog toys ALL the time and I’m sure she’d approve of teaching the dogs to put toys away. Raph knows a few of his toys by name, so I will have to start working on that with him again.

    Thanks for the great information!

    • Thanks for the feedback Nate, I think the ideas of play are good for us as well as our dogs, anything that gets us both active and having fun is certainly good for our bond with our pets, and our physique! Let me know if you or your sister have any questions when you start to teach the tidying up, its a great skill once learned.

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