For most of us, taking our dogs outside is a part of our normal routine. Exercising our dog means going out in the backyard for a game of fetch, going for a walk around the neighbourhood, or finding a local dog run where our dogs can run and play with each other. Not only are these activities important for physical stimulation, the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors also provide mental stimulation, which is especially important if your dog has been cooped up indoors all day while you were at work.
But what happens when it rains? It’s too wet outside that we can’t enjoy our normal routines and, unfortunately, our dogs don’t always get the physical and mental stimulation that they need. When that happens, many dogs get “creative” and develop their own ways to entertain themselves indoors, which usually involves some kind of destructive behaviour in our homes. Rather than let our dogs reach a level of boredom and restlessness that they start to literally climb up the walls, it’s our job to get creative too. There are plenty of ways that we can break up the monotony of sitting indoors and waiting for the rain to pass for our dogs. Think about the activities that your dog already likes to do outside, and then do your best to devise out an indoor alternative that you and your dog can do together.
Indoor Obstacle Course
Most of the time we don’t want our dogs treating the inside of our home as an obstacle course, but rainy days are the exception to this rule. This is a great way to provide some much needed physical exercise for your dog when he can’t run laps at the dog run. I have several sturdy wooden chairs and plastic foot stools that I like to arrange around the living room of my house. I get some treats ready and then I ask my dogs to follow my lead around the course. I use the treats to control my dog’s pace through the game so that I make sure that he doesn’t get too enthusiastic and forgets to watch where he’s going. Also, if your dog isn’t sure about trying out the game, the treats will help motivate him to give it a shot. Try to give them a different path around, under, over, or through each obstacle so that they never know what to expect. If you have multiple dogs, try putting them through the course one at a time to make sure that they don’t accidentally bump into each other.
Teach your dog how to run on a treadmill so that he never misses an exercise session due to weather again. When using a treadmill, the goal is to have your dog walk or trot on the machine. He should NOT be jogging or running! Small dogs can generally use most human treadmills without a problem. Medium to large dogs have a longer walking and jogging stride, and sometimes the running platform on a human treadmill isn’t long enough for them to use without falling off. Luckily, there are several companies that design treadmills specifically for dogs and can help you find the right machine for your pup. Before using a treadmill with your dog, it’s important to speak with your vet to make sure that there are no health concerns that could be exacerbated by using the machine. It’s also a good idea to consult with a dog trainer that uses reward-based training methods to teach your dog how to safely and comfortably move on the treadmill. Lastly, a dog should never use the treadmill unsupervised.
Interactive toys are a great way to keep your dog’s mind busy on rainy days, or any other time when you can’t personally entertain him. There are lots of different variations available, but most of them involve food or toys placed in a puzzle. It’s your dog’s job to figure out how to roll the toy around, open the compartment, or slide the moving pieces around so that the treat or toy pops out! I like to put a variety of treats inside interactive toys so that my dog is never sure what he’s going to get. Sometimes a piece of kibble comes out of the toy, but sometimes it’s a piece of meat! That’s really exciting and makes him want to play with the toy even more!
This is a classic game that you can play with your dog on a rainy day. All you need is a handful of his favourite treats (preferably something that won’t leave a mess!) and then hide them for your dog to find. It’s important to put your dog in another room while you are hiding the treats or else he will just follow behind you and scoop them up as he goes. If you haven’t played this game with your dog yet, start simple and only hide the treats in one room. You might have to show him where the first one is to let him know how to play the game. Once he has a better understanding of how to play, you can expand your hiding places to multiple rooms in the house. If you have a seasoned “treat hunter” and you need to make this game more challenging, try hiding your dog’s interactive toys around the house. Not only does he have to sniff out the toy, he also has to figure out the puzzle to get his treat!
Doing some training with your dog is always a great way to give him a mental workout. Depending on where your dog is with his training, you might review the basics, work on adding distractions to cues that he already knows, or train something totally new. I like to train tricks on rainy days – tricks are normally just for fun and most of us are a lot more relaxed when working on a new stunt than we are when training a more formal obedience behaviour. Plus, tricks are a great way to improve your dog’s coordination, balance, and creative thinking skills.
Bad weather doesn’t have to prevent you from providing the physical and mental stimulation that your dog needs in order to be a happy and fulfilled companion. Just get creative with your activities and have fun!
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