As much as we’d love the weather to be perfect year round, we live in NW Indiana.  We’ve had plenty of bone chilling and snowy days during the month of February and for most of our pets, going outside means taking care of business and running back indoors as quickly as possible.

But, despite the weather’s lack of cooperation, it’s still important to regularly exercise our dogs for both their physical and mental well-being . What can we do?  Exercise them indoors!  Research has shown that just a few minutes of mental exercise is far more exhausting to your dog than that same amount of time spent doing something physical.

So, when you’re stuck inside and your dog’s bouncing off the walls, try exercising her brain!

1. Obedience and Trick Training:

In addition to teaching your dog basic obedience skills, like sit, down, and come, take this extra time together to work on some advanced cues, like stay or shake. Once you’ve mastered those, start working on some cool new tricks, like roll over, sit pretty, or high-five. Not only will you strengthen your bond and communication skills with your dog, you’ll have some great fun showing off what you’ve taught – and your dog will LOVE being rewarded for learning new behaviors.

TIP: When training your dog, keep sessions short – about 15 to 20 minutes – and always end on a positive note. If your dog hasn’t quite grasped the latest trick or cue, go back to one he knows well and end your session on a successful execution of the trick. This will keep him excited for training and looking forward to the next session.


2. Brain Games and Dog Puzzles

Did you know there are tons of puzzles and games especially for dogs? From simple treat dispensing toys that require interaction by your pup, to elaborate puzzle games that force your dog to problem solve, dog puzzles are an excellent was to exercise your dog indoors!  Filling a few treat dispensing balls with the Fruitables Bacon or Bison jerky sold at the Hydrant keeps both of my dogs busy for hours.


3. Scent Games and Hide ‘n Seek

Scent games and hide and seek are excellent indoor activities that not only expend energy, but build confidence as well! Here’s how to play:

With your dog watching you, toss a few small, soft and meaty dog treats onto the floor. Just as your dog runs to eat them, say “go find it!” After a few tosses, start placing the treats inside boxes, in corners, or on low shelves (nothing above your dog’s nose level) and always use the “go find it” cue when he goes to get them.

Once he’s got the hang of it, try putting your dog in another room while you hide the treats. At first, use the same locations that you’ve already put treats to guarantee success in finding them. Then, allow your dog back into the room and say “go find it!” and watch him go to work searching for his tasty rewards. If your dog has trouble finding your hides, either stand in the vicinity or toss some additional treats in that direction to give him a boost. Eventually his nose will take over and lead him around the room to find the hidden treats on his own.

If you really want to thrill your dog, hide a long-lasting chew like an antler or bully stick or a treat dispensing ball for him to first find and then enjoy!

TIP: If treats don’t excite your dog, scent games and hide and seek can also be played with a favorite toy. Or, you can even hide yourself and let your furriest friend come find you!


4. Tug-o-War

A good game of tug doesn’t take up a lot of room, but it DOES use up a lot of physical energy!

Look for tug toys that are durable enough to stand up to rigorous pulling and long enough that you can safely hold onto one while your dog pulls on the other.


For the super creative pet owner…

5. Build an Indoor Obstacle/Agility Course

You can use portable agility equipment if you have it.   Or you can always build your own indoor obstacle course using chairs, tables, and couch cushions! Have fun getting on all fours and doing the course along with your dog – he’ll love it!

Before you know it, Spring will finally be here!!