It’s been raining for three days straight and your adolescent Lab is climbing the walls. Or maybe it’s the middle of winter, so it’s way too cold to go for a long walk, which means your routine-driven senior won’t stop pacing in circles. You know you need to do something to keep your dog sane, but what? Enter dog enrichment activities!
Read on for our list of fun dog enrichment ideas to keep your pup entertained while indoors.
Dog Enrichment: Why It’s Important
We all know our dogs need daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy, but what do you do if the weather keeps both of you trapped inside? Dogs that don’t have the opportunity to burn through their energy reserves often find “creative” ways of dealing with the resulting boredom, like chewing up household items, barking out the window, or emptying the trash cans. The good news is there are plenty of entertaining indoor dog activities that will keep your pup’s brain engaged and body busy
Dog enrichment takes typical fun and games to the next level. It taps into their natural drives, encouraging creative play and problem solving through activities like scenting and training games that require creative thinking. Even better, enrichment doesn’t need miles of open space to have a big impact.
The ideas detailed below are perfect for indoor play and can be enjoyed by dogs of all ages and sizes. And at the end of an enrichment session, you’ll have a happily worn out pup!
6 Indoor Dog Enrichment Ideas
Fun enrichment activities are easier to come by than you might think. The following games for dogs don’t require any special components or much space. In fact, nearly all of the following toys and games can be created with items you already have at home!
Got a recycling bin filled with empty plastic bottles? Then you’ve got the makings of a fantastic DIY dog toy. This food puzzle will get the good times rolling, literally!
Step 1: Select a bottle that’s the right size for your dog (petite pups will do well with a water bottle, while bigger dogs might prefer a soda bottle).
Step 2: Use scissors to carefully cut holes in the bottle. If you want to make it easy for your dog to “win,” cut bigger ones; smaller holes are best if you want your dog to work harder to get goodies out.
Step 3: Fill the bottle with a mix of kibble and high-value treats, then screw on the lid.
Step 4: Give the bottle to your pup and let them go to town kicking, shaking, and chasing it around to get the treats out.
If you can’t resist online shopping, you’ve probably got a stack of empty boxes that can be repurposed as an easy DIY dog playground. Most dogs can’t resist digging for buried treasure in the great outdoors, but this is a sanctioned option that’s perfect for rainy days.
Step 1: Find a box that has sides low enough for your dog to easily get in.
Step 2: Fill the box with digging materials like shredded paper bags or old t-shirts that you’ve cut into strips. (You can get creative with your fill materials and use whatever you like – as long as it’s dog-safe and you don’t mind cleaning it off the floor!)
Step 3: Once your pit is filled, plant a variety of fun surprises inside it, like treats, bones and toys.
Step 4: Watch as your pup has a blast digging for “gold”!
Hide the Toy
One of a dog’s most impressive gifts is the power of their incredible sniffers, and this canine enrichment game puts that talent to the test. It’s the perfect activity for rainy days because it doesn’t require much space, but it does require a ton of focus and leaves your dog mentally exhausted by the end.
Step 1: Grab a special plush toy that your dog loves (the smaller the toy, the easier it is to hide).
Step 2: Either get your dog to hold a “stay” position or use a leash to keep them in place, so they can watch as you hide the toy in an obvious spot.
Step 3: Tell your dog to “find it,” then release them to go grab the toy. Celebrate with some fetch or tug when they find it.
Step 4: Once they seem to understand what the cue “find it” means (it might take a few repetitions), take your dog out of the room before hiding the toy so they don’t see where you’ve put it.
Step 5: Repeat step 3 and be amazed by the power of that incredible nose!
Regular agility courses might require special equipment and a ton of open space, but did you know that you can craft your own version in your family room? An indoor agility track is fantastic indoor enrichment for dogs of all ages and sizes, and with some creativity, you can turn your furniture into easy (and not-so-easy) obstacles. Here’s an idea for a simple course:
Step 1: Balance a broom on two laundry baskets to make a jump, and use a series of kitchen chairs lined up and draped with a blanket to create a tunnel.
Step 2: Give your pup plenty of time to get used to the equipment by taking your time introducing it and using treats for encouragement.
Step 3: Once they’ve mastered each obstacle at a low speed, put them through the entire course in overdrive!
Good manners training is an important part of your pup’s education, but learning tricks just for fun is a fantastic way to burn energy when it’s too rainy to play outside. The beauty of trick training is there’s no pressure to make it perfect. Unlike a strong “stay” or dependable recall, tricks are fun for fun’s sake.
One of the best parts of teaching tricks (aside from how adorable they are!) is that this type of training encourages your dog to think creatively, which all but guarantees a nap at the end of lessons. An easy trick to start with is a simple “spin.”
Step 1: Hold a treat near your dog’s nose and use it to lure them in a circle, as if you’re tracing a halo over his head.
Step 2: Repeat this step until your dog is quickly following the treat, then try it with nothing in your hand and save the treat until the completion of the motion.
Step 3: Continue to make the luring gesture less obvious until you can do a “swizzle finger” motion and your dog completes the circle. (Don’t forget to give a treat at the end!)
Toy on a String
Did you know that dogs and cats love playing the same game? Most dogs enjoy chasing small furry things out in the wild (sorry, squirrels and bunnies!), and you can easily mimic the thrill of the chase inside with a DIY toy that looks like something your feline friend would also enjoy.
Step 1: Tie a 5- or 6-foot piece of string or yarn to a plush dog toy.
Step 2: Scoot it along the floor near your dog.
Some dogs might take a few minutes to warm to the idea that their toy has come to life, but most will try to snag it immediately. The main rule for this fun game of chase (other than avoiding breaking any lamps or mirrors when the toy flies across the room) is to try to keep the toy on the ground. It can be a wild game, so four-on-the-floor is a manners must.
Dog Enrichment: Tips for Success
Keep it Simple
When it comes to indoor enrichment activities for dogs, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to go over the top in order for your dog to benefit.
Find That Mental Focus
We’re usually quick to work out the body without considering how important it is to provide mental stimulation for our best friends, but focused games that use your dog’s brain, like trick training, are just as energy-draining as games that get the body moving. Try to use the days when you’re stuck inside as a way to focus on that very important gray matter!