If your dog is anything like my dog Teddy, outdoor time is part of your daily routine. Few things in this world make Teddy happier than running outside and chasing down his favorite ball. Next to fetch, Teddy’s other love is going for a nice walk. Teddy’s walks aren’t just good for his body; the sights and smells of the neighborhood are also good for mental stimulation.
But what about the times when it’s so rainy that even a walk seems like a perilous undertaking? When Teddy doesn’t get all of the mental and physical activity he requires, we sometimes get some less-than-desirable behavior around the house. Teddy might start throwing his own ball around the living room if he hasn’t had play or walk time. Or, if the ball is out of reach, he’ll play with garbage.
Bringing outdoor games indoors
In her blog post about rainy day activities, trainer Julie Schmitt offers a couple of variations on the classic game of Hide and Seek. In one version, you and your family members hide around your home and encourage your dog to come and find you one at a time. If you don’t have other people around to hide, then try hiding your dog’s favorite toy or treat somewhere in increasingly harder-to-find places around the house. Not only is all of that searching good for your dog’s body, it’s also a bit of a mental workout.
Since Teddy loves to play Fetch, we bought a soft wool ball that we toss down the hallway for Teddy to chase. Sometimes we sit on either side of the kitchen and play a modified version of “Monkey in the Middle” in which we try to roll the ball past Teddy. He doesn’t seem to mind being the monkey — every time he stops the ball, he gives it back to us and takes his place in the middle.
Jenna Stregowski, RVT, About.com’s dog guide, says Tug-of-War is a great way to burn off extra energy inside. Just make sure you have the right amount of space between your tugging dog and that breakable lamp on your end table! Jenna recommends that your dog have a firm grasp of a release command before taking a firm grasp of the tug toy.
Another way to while away the rain is to take advantage of the distraction-free classroom that is your house. As West Coast Dogs blogger Holly Grace suggests in her Rainy Day Dog Activities post, teaching your dog a new trick will keep your dog mentally stimulated while reinforcing your bond. Or why not work on an old trick or practice basic commands? Even if your dog knows every trick in the book, a training session will be fun for both of you, and will give your dog a chance to show off.
In Rain or Shine: 10 Ways to Engage Your Dog Indoors, Dogster observes that in recent years the “the food dispensing toy market has greatly expanded.” These toys motivate and reward your dog with food or treats, but often take a lot of mental work to get the reward. Many of the rubber toys made by Kong are designed to store treats and to challenge canine boredom.
Dognition Expert Panel member Nina Ottosson makes stimulating and interactive games for dogs, too. I recently brought home the Dog Casino for Teddy to try out. Check it out:
Dognition on a Rainy Day
The good news about being stuck inside with a dog is that you’re stuck inside with a genius. If you’ve purchased a Dognition Assessment Toolkit but haven’t had a chance to finish the games, a rainy day is the perfect time to discover more about how your dog’s mind works. Our science-based games aren’t only fun to play on a rainy day — they also help paint an even richer picture of your dog’s cognitive profile. And this month, all Dognition members will receive personalized “brain games” from one of our dog experts, designed specifically for indoor play. These interactive activities will keep your dog — and you — stimulated and active when the skies are gray.
Whatever the weather, it’s important that we take care of our dogs’ needs to get both physical and mental exercise every day. Your dog will appreciate it, and you will, too. Especially when your dog isn’t getting into your trash.
What do you like to do with your dog on a rainy day?