K9 Corner: Keep your dog mentally stimulated indoors

Published 11:50 am Tuesday, October 15, 2019


K9 Corner

October weather is cooling and there is rain in the air. Some of my friends are anxious to keep their dogs exercised and mentally stimulated. So how is the ordinary pet owner going to accomplish these two activities with their dog?

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Thinking back on how I kept my first dog occupied, I remember taking her out as often as I could and playing ball with her, as well as practicing the obedience commands of heel, sit, stand, down and stay. Then, I let her tour the fenced-in backyard, sniffing and running freely around. It was so much more fun for her after I acquired two more homeless dogs and they could play tag together.

But then there were the rainy, snowy or icy days and I wasn’t as creative. Over the years I have learned a number of indoor activities to keep the dogs mentally and physically stimulated. Did you know that brain games can tire a dog and the animal will be happy to sleep for an hour or two after playing a brain game?

Here are some suggestions for indoor activity.

Create your own indoor agility course using broomsticks for jumps, an old cushion or a worn pillow slip on the floor as a pause area. In agility, the dog has to lie down on the pause table until told to get up — a few seconds or longer.

Then you can play ball or fetch on your stairs if you have them by tossing a bean bag or soft toy up the stairs and encouraging your pet to bring it back. Be sure to have a pocket full of yummy treats to give as the dog completes each activity. As he masters each obstacle or game, speed up going from one activity to the next to keep the dog alert and watching you to see what is next.

Another activity requires an oversized ball measured by the size of your pet. (If your dog is small, an 8-inch to 12-inch ball will be “oversize” for him.) Once you have the ball, teach him to push the ball with his nose. Once he catches on, start a game of you push the ball toward him and he pushes the ball back to you. Remember to give lots of verbal praise and treats when you stop. Stop the game before the dog gets bored.

I am currently using a piece of an old extension ladder lying on the floor. Snapping a leash on the collar I lead my dog over the ladder rungs. This helps the dog’s balance and coordination. I use treats to encourage him, especially when he starts working indoors.

Another activity is hide and seek. You can hide treats or toys, or someone (a child?) could hide. There are various doggy games on the market that require food treats that the dog has to figure out how to extract from the container. Finally, if your dog is trained in obedience exercises, you can create a Rally course and practice.

This will give you a good start for winter playtime. Have fun!