I love going to the dog park to visit with my friends, both human and canine, but I live in an area where it often rains. I don’t mind walking Janice and Leroy in a nice, gentle rain, but fall is just a few weeks away, and where I live, that means torrential rains at times (for one of my adventures with inclement weather, see Help, My Dog Ate a Battery!).
When the weather gets really nasty, it’s tempting to just cuddle up with Janice and Leroy and cue up Netflix, but that wouldn’t be fair. My dogs are basically couch potatoes, but they still need their exercise, so I have a number of ways to keep them entertained. I’m happy to share my rainy day dog activities with you, so here are some of the things that I do with Janice and Leroy when it’s just too nasty to venture outside.
This is a fun, easy way to keep your dog amused on a rainy day. Just hide some treats around the house. If you didn’t make it to the pet supply store before the bad weather hit, and you’re out of treats, don’t despair – you can use cooked carrots, bits of apple, or just tear up some whole wheat bread.
Show your dog the treats, and then make him sit while you scatter them around the house. Then tell him, “Go find a treat!” and watch him sniff them out.
This is a variation on the game I just described, and also a variation on the shell game that humans play. What you do is show your dog the treats, and then set up three cups. Put a treat under one of them, and then shuffle them around. Tell him, “Find the treat!” and praise him when he does. It doesn’t matter if he knocks over the cups. The idea here is to offer some mental stimulation.
I suppose I should once again point out that I am not on Kong’s payroll, and that I would never recommend a toy that I wouldn’t give to my own dogs. That said, Janice and Leroy have happily spent many rainy days playing with their Kong toys. They offer a ton of mental stimulation, and I get some time to myself when they’re amused with one of the best rainy day dog activities going!
I know that I’m flying in the face of what a lot of animal behaviorists say, which is that tug of war encourages aggression. However, for every “expert” that claims tug of war is a bad idea, there’s another who will tell you that tug of war actually channels aggression in a positive way, and that as long as you decide when the game ends, no harm will be done. Some animal behaviorists even believe that dogs who play tug of war are more confident and more obedient. Make it a real game, though – don’t let your dog win all the time. One of the best things about tug of war in terms of rainy day dog activities is that you don’t need a whole lot of space – you can play even in a small room.
Dogs love learning new things, and one of the best rainy day dog activities involves teaching your dog a new trick. Maybe show him how to open a door? This one is easy – just wrap a towel around the door handle (or the fridge handle), and encourage your dog to grab the towel and pull. Say, “Open the door,” and then praise him like crazy when he gets it right!
Yes, you can do this indoors! Of course, if you’re going to be throwing a ball for your dog, it’s best to choose one that’s lightweight so that if you misjudge your throw, you won’t break anything. If you have a long hallway in your house, you can toss the ball down to the other end and have your dog retrieve it. This is also a great game to play in the garage.
Pile your dog’s toys up in the corner of the room, and then ask him to, “Bring the ball,” or, “Bring the rope toy,” or, “Bring the rubber chicken,” and so on. If your dog is used to being asked to “bring” something to begin with, it’s just a matter of waiting until he gives you the object you asked for, and then praising him extensively. Don’t show disapproval if he gets it wrong; just keep asking, “Bring [insert name of toy]” and react enthusiastically when he gets it right. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your dog learns new words.
This is basically scent work, and again, you don’t have to have store-bought treats to play. Get a treat, and then put your hands behind your back. Obviously, you’ll place the treat in one hand and leave the other empty. Then, hold your hands out in front of you, and say, “Which hand?” Let your dog sniff your hands. At some point, he’ll probably bump his nose against the one that contains the treat, or possibly paw at your hand. When he gets it right, give him the treat. Again, if he gets it wrong, don’t do anything to discourage him. After all, the treat has been in both your hands, and his very sensitive nose might lead him astray, to begin with. As he begins to understand what you want, though, he’ll probably get to the point of choosing the proper hand every time.
This is one of the most fun rainy day dog activities ever! If your dog already knows how to sit and stay, you’re better than halfway there. If not, you can always work on that on another rainy day, and perhaps have someone else hold your dog this time around. Then, you go and hide. Let your dog look for you, and praise him when he finds you.
If your dog doesn’t have a complete grasp of basic obedience, a rainy day can be a great time to do a bit of remedial work. In fact, even the best-trained dog can always use a refresher course, so consider the areas he’s weak in (recall, perhaps?) and work on them.
Assuming that the weather isn’t so horrible that your power is down and you’ve lost your Internet, why not go online and learn how to give your dog a massage? Just Google “dog massage” and you’ll get tons of hits. In terms of relaxing rainy day dog activities, this one is great for your dog, and you as well. It’s bonding time.
To play this game, you’ll need a partner, so if it’s just you and your dog at home during the rain, this one won’t work. If you have a buddy with you, though, you can play tag with your dog. Each of you will stand on one side of the room, with treats. Put your dog in a sit, and then have your partner call the dog. You’ll say, “Tag, you’re it!” and give the dog a pat on the rump to get him started. Your partner will reward the dog with a treat. Then you call the dog, while your partner taps him on the bum and says, “Tag, you’re it!” This can go on for as long as you like, and it’s fun for all concerned.
If you usually take your dog to a groomer, or if you’ve been putting off grooming tasks, this can be one of the most useful rainy day dog activities. Brush and comb your dog, trim his toenails, and brush his teeth. If you’ve found some of these tasks to be difficult, then this is the perfect time to work on them – after all, you’ll have time, since it’s not like you’ll be going anywhere.
You don’t need any special equipment for this. You can use anything at all that “shakes up” the usual environment. Lay down some plastic dinner plates, or roll up some towels, or if you’re like me and heat with wood, take a few sticks and position them strategically. Then work on teaching your dog how to weave around, or jump over, the obstacles.
This is something you’ll probably want to do in your kitchen, garage, or another area where it’s easy to clean up soap residue. It’s just what it sounds like – you’re going to blow bubbles, and let your dog chase them. You can use any of the bubble solutions and wands that you’d use for a child, since the bubble solutions for children are non-toxic to both kids and dogs.
Maybe you’re an old hand in the kitchen, or maybe you’ve never baked anything in your life. Now is a great time to learn how to make your own dog treats. See 15 Simple Puppy Treat Recipes for some easy ideas to get you started. None of the recipes in this post require more than 5 ingredients, and many will make your kitchen smell great, too!
If you know that rain is coming, why not plan a play date? I do this often, usually with my friend Al and his Saint Bernard, Otis. We get together on rainy days, and Otis plays with Janice and Leroy while Al and I enjoy coffee and conversation.
If your dog is prone to coming up to you and slamming his nose under your arm or into your hand when he wants something, teach him to ask politely. When he does that, put him in a sit, and tell him something along the lines of “Ask nicely,” or “Be polite.” Then, give him what he wants – a petting or a treat, perhaps?
Your dog doesn’t mean to be rude, and gestures or barking are really the only ways he has of telling you that he wants something. If the behavior doesn’t bother you, that’s fine too. But if it does, show him another way to behave. If you keep at it, your dog will get to the point where he’ll come over to you, sit, and wait for you to try to identify what he’s asking for.
I know that at the beginning of this post, I suggested that there should be more to rainy day dog activities than just cuddling and watching Netflix, and I’m standing by what I said. Your dog needs stimulation, no matter what the weather. But once you’ve played with him, taught him things, and generally made sure that he gets the physical and mental exercise that’s important to his health and happiness, there’s nothing wrong with just kicking back and taking it easy. So make yourself some popcorn to share, find a nice warm blanket, and snuggle up with a good movie. But not “Old Yeller,” okay?
Being indoors doesn’t have to be boring. There are tons of fun rainy day dog activities that will keep you and your best buddy entertained. These are just a few ideas.
How do you keep your dog entertained when the weather is too nasty for you to be outdoors? Leave a comment!