15 Things to Do Inside with Your Dog This Winter - Simply For Dogs
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15 Things to Do Inside with Your Dog This Winter

When the deep snow or heavy ice starts to hit my area, I always feel a bit of dread. Janice and Leroy are still young enough to get stir crazy fast, and with all their energy, being able to get them outside is very important – for their health, and my sanity. Most of the time, I’ll brave the elements for them and deal with it. But that’s not always totally possible. When the conditions are so bad that you can’t even see, and your dogs aren’t willing to do much more than race through a potty break before heading back in, how do you help them get out their energy throughout the day?

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I’ve slowly been able to collect some indoor activities over the years that have helped me get through imminent weather. If your dog has a ton of energy, and the sight of freezing rain or hail fills you with dread as you consider what to do with your dog, have no more fear. Here are 15 ways you can have fun inside even in the extreme winter weather.

(1) Take Advantage of Good Grooming Time

Why not take advantage of the fact that your dog has to be inside by taking care of some grooming chores. Give them a bath, brush their coat, trim their nails, brush their teeth – something that should be done once a week. Do all the things that you normally put off when they are outside having fun. This is a great time to work on teaching your dog to be comfortable with grooming. Give out plenty of treats and praise during this session, and take it slow. You’ve got all day inside, after all.

(2) Change Out the Toys in the Toy Bin

This takes a little bit of planning before the winter day, but if you can get a spare toy bin set up in advance, it will save you many headaches. The idea is that your dog gets used to their regular toys, and when a bad-weather day comes around, they won’t be interested in those toys for very long. So that’s when you go into the spare toy bin and swap out some of their usual toys for a few new ones that you’ve set aside for rainy days. The key is to be sure that you only let them have the new ones on days when you are stuck inside, unless you intend to buy new ones to refill the spare toy stash. This will get your dog interested and excited in a new toy, and hopefully keep their mind off mischief.

(3) Work On Their Obedience Training

Have you been slacking on the clicker training, or have you been wanting to teach your dog some better manners? Now is a great time. They’re bored, you aren’t going anywhere, and there’s no chance of distraction thanks to the weather. So grab your treats, your clicker, and your patience, and work on some commands. The attention from you will keep your dog occupied, and by the end of the day, you may have a much better behaved dog. (My favorite clicker for training is this simple one by StarMark, because it’s easy to use, fits on a keychain, and is under five bucks.)

(4) Teach Your Dog Hide and Seek

Dogs love a challenge, and they also love to be with you, their owner and best friend. So hide and seek is a great way to combine both of those instincts. The only thing your dog really needs to know how to do is to “stay” while you hide, and then to come look for you when you call their name. This game is a great way to work on the stay command if your dog doesn’t have that down yet.

(5) Play Interactive Games Together

Dogs love figuring out puzzles, and they love attention from you. So interactive games where you try to stump them are bound to be big hits. Try a “guess which hand” game, hide treats around the house, or even play the shell game by hiding a treat under a shell or a cup and moving it around with empty cups. Then have your dog guess which cup has the treat. It won’t take long for your dog to figure out the nature of the game, and in the meantime, you’ll get a laugh out of their antics as they try to get the treat.

(6) Try Some Food Motivation

Dogs are highly motivated by food, so what better way to keep their attention than by making them work for their meal? Get a fillable toy, such as a Kong, and fill it up with their daily kibble. If you are worried that they won’t get much to eat, just put some of their daily meal in the toy, and save the rest for later when they are tuckered out. They’ll spend hours getting the kibble out one piece at a time, and you’ll get a bit of peace.

(7) Give Your Dog a Job

If you’re stuck inside, you’re probably at least thinking about doing a few long-neglected household chores (just me?). It’s a fun idea to get your dogs involved when you’re doing chores, even if all they are doing is following you around. Leroy and Janice are not much interested these days (I think they caught on to the fact that I was putting them to work) but I used to be able to get Janice to tug laundry baskets up and down the hallway while I did laundry. And they both know how to fetch their leashes when it’s walk time.

Consider getting your pup to “help” you put away their toys, or work on the
“heel” command by having them follow you closely as you mop. This will let you get the floor clean without them in the way, and keep them busy as they try to master the command. Just don’t be surprised when they start sticking close by every time you do chores in the future!

(8) Teach Your Dog New Words

Dogs have an amazing capacity for words, more so than many people realize. One famous Border Collie named Chaser knows more than 1,000 words, and has been recorded picking out various toys from a huge basket of more than 800 toys, just by the name. That’s pretty amazing, and your dog probably won’t learn that many words in a day. But you can begin teaching them simple things that you’ll use daily, such as “leash” or “ball”. Use full, simple sentences, such as “Go get your leash” and “Fetch the ball”, and your dog will catch on in no time.

(9) Play Tug of War

Tug of war is one game that Leroy just cannot live without. Any chance he gets to yank a piece of rope out of my hand, he’s going to take. For dogs, this is a fun game that mimics the survival games they learned as a puppy. You can easily make a simple tugging toy by braiding together some strips of fabric (cut up a few old t-shirts if you must), but a heavy-duty Kong tug toy is a good choice for dogs with a lot of jaw strength.

(10) Get Out the Camera and Make Some Memories

Do you love to record your dog’s antics? Do you entertain your friends with silly photos and videos on social media? Now is a great time to get your dog in the spot light. Grab some toys and treats, or some silly props, or whatever gets your dog going. Turn on your camera and start recording. It won’t take long to get some fun shots. Janice and Leroy aren’t very happy being photographed, because they mostly want me to play with them. But many dogs love being in the spotlight, and will happily ham it up on a rainy day when there’s not much else to do. If you want some selfies together, this neat tool will help you get that front-facing shot without a lot of wrestling.

(11) Set Up a Puppy Play Date

While you are inside, now may be a good time to work on some social skills. Your dog has no chance of distraction from the outdoors, and working on their social behavior is a very important part of being a good dog owner. Particularly if you have a puppy, or a dog that doesn’t get out much, it’s a good idea to regularly introduce new people and new dogs. For this rainy day activity, choose just one thing – either a new person, or a familiar person with a new dog. Never both at once.

(12) Play Fetch Inside

If you have a large hallway or a big room in your house, it’s a great idea to have a game of tame, indoor fetch. Basic tennis balls like these work just fine; I keep a few around specifically for winter days like this. Gently roll or toss them around your space and your dog will have just as much fun as your outdoor fetch games. This method may take forever to wear them out, but if you’ve got the patience, or a show to catch up on, you can easily keep this game going for the entire day.

(13) Go Run Some Pet-Friendly Errands

Do you have a PetSmart, or some other pet-friendly store in your area? Now is a good time to take your dog and work on good manners when out and about. Stock up on dog food, treats, new rainy day toys, or whatever else you need, and take your time. Give your dog a chance to sniff, to be reminded of their behavior, and to meet the cashiers or stockers. It’s not the most fun thing you can do with your dog, but it is another opportunity to work on training that they may need a reminder of.

(14) Act Like a Kid Again with Bubbles

I think it’s a rule that all dogs love chasing bubbles. I’ve never seen any dog, no matter how well-behaved, wizened, or independent, resist the allure of floating soap. Take your dog to the garage or kitchen so the soap residue is easy to clean, and then have some fun! Any bubbles that are safe for kids are safe for dogs as well, so there’s no need to worry about your dog eating the bubbles as they chase them. This is a good time for a few photo ops if you love recording your pup’s life.

(15) Relax Together

If all else fails, now is a great time to teach your dog to relax a bit. Too much excitement can have an adverse effect on a dog’s health, and it’s good for them to know how to calm down. Try watching a few videos on doggie massage to practice, or snuggle up on the couch and catch up on some Netflix together. Whatever you choose, your dog mostly craves your attention – so just be sure you are present, and your pup will be happy.

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The Final Word

It can be incredibly hard to handle a high-energy dog when the weather has gotten bad. But there are plenty of things you can do inside that can work to keep them interested, engaged, and not destructive. You may find that most of these require you to put some of your other plans on hold, but that may be the better outcome instead of having a bored and destructive dog on your hands.

All of these 15 methods have worked for me at one time or another with Janice and Leroy. Wintery days can be difficult to master when you have a hyper puppy, or a dog with a lot of energy to burn, but it’s doable if you have patience and think outside the box a little. Doing just a few moments of prep work before your next bad-weather day can also be a huge help to avoid any destruction and boredom.