How to Stay Sane Sheltering in Place with Dogs
by Wendi Piscia | March 21st, 2020 | 5:55 pm
One of the silver linings of a shelter-in-place order is the extra time you get to spend with your furry loved one(s). But sometimes, the isolation and change of routine bring out behaviors that aren’t so delightful, and owners need to find new ways to engage their dogs without violating the order and putting our community at risk.
Here are some tips for fun, socially responsible games and physical activities to do with your pup, whether they’re just excited to spend more time with you, or a non-stop busybody. These are also things you could do year ‘round to put their minds to work, polish up those manners, and help strengthen your bond with your pet, so don’t feel like you need to stop when the order is lifted!
Exercising the Mind
Turn your dog into a detective by hiding treats around the house for them to sniff out. Teach them the game by tossing the treat their way and saying, “Find it.” Once they’ve mastered that, challenge them by hiding the treats in another room. Start with something extra smelly and delicious to make it easier. (Pro tip: Don’t hide treats anywhere you don’t want your dog nosing around in future—like the inside of shoes, bags, drawers or cupboards.)
Kong Balls are great for hiding treats and keeping dogs busy on their own. The toy’s opening is small enough to provide dogs with a challenge, but also big enough for a treat to fall out before your dog gets frustrated.
Interactive Food Puzzles
Even though your dog may figure it out in a few minutes, interactive dog feeders and puzzles can be a great way to keep your canine occupied.
The Shell Game
The shell game is just like the well-known magic trick, without the magic. Have your dog watch you as you put a treat under one of three upside-down cups. Slide the cups around to shuffle them so they’re in a different position than when you first hid the treat, and encourage your dog to “find the treat.” This game gives your dog plenty of mental stimulation, and helps them work on their problem-solving skills.
Master the Basics of Obedience Training
Does your dog know all of the basic obedience commands? (Sit, down, stay, drop it, and come.) Does he have a reliable recall and stay? Even well-trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. A few quick training sessions (5-10 minutes) each day can help them master the essentials every dog should know, and keep them mentally stimulated, as well.
Teach Your Dog to Clean Up His Toys
If your dog’s toys are kept in a container, you can teach them to put their toys away. Yes, really! Children aren’t the only ones who can be taught to clean up after themselves, and with dogs it’s actually a lot of fun. Teaching your dog new skills boosts their confidence as well as their mental stimulation.
The first step is making sure your dog knows “drop it.” Once they’ve got this down, encourage them pick up a toy and then give them their “drop it” command when they’re standing over the toy container. Praise them like crazy when they drop the toy into the box. Rinse and repeat. If you’re consistent, you’ll eventually have a dog that will be able to clean up after himself.
Exercise the Mind & Body
Is your pup doing zoomies around the house? Try some of these fun ways to channel that energy.
Go For a Socially Responsible Walk or Run
Take your pup for a walk or run, but please keep them on leash, and maintain an appropriate distance from other people. The dog park will be there when the shelter in place has been lifted – for now, stick with on-leash activities to avoid spreading illness any time you leave your home.
A long, straight hallway is idea for this version of indoor fetch. Take a favorite ball and roll it down the hallway as if you’re bowling. Your dog will go racing after it, without tearing through your home like a hurricane.
The Hol-ee Roller
The Hol-ee Roller is great for dogs that love bigger toys. Its hexagonal cut-outs make the ball lightweight, so it’s easy for owners to throw, easy for dogs to retrieve, and you won’t have to worry about it breaking your lamp. However, please be careful with it if your dog is a heavy-duty chewer.
Tug of War
Tug of War is one of the best ways to engage in meaningful play with our dogs. It’s fantastic mental and physical exercise for your pup, and since it doesn’t require a ton of room, you can play it indoors just as well as outside.
StairMaster (Pup Edition)
Now more than ever, it’s important to make the most of every area of your home! If you have a staircase, put it to work by standing at the bottom and throwing a ball up to the top for your dog to retrieve. For most pups, a few rounds of this challenging new game will ensure they’re ready to sit still for a while.
While your dog may not be the next agility champion, an obstacle course is still a fun way for the two of you to play inside – or outside, if you have a fenced yard. You can build your own jumps, tunnels and weave poles (get creative with couch cushions, empty boxes, cones, etc.) or purchase some ready-made agility supplies online. Working together to get through the obstacles strengthens your relationship and builds your dog’s confidence, as well as gives them a fun, challenging physical workout.