1/16/2018 - Written by Certified Trainer and Guest Blogger, Nicole Ellis
Winter weather can make us all a bit stir crazy. But when it’s too chilly or wet or dark to adventure outdoors and your dog needs to burn off some energy, there are many indoor options for you and your best friend. Inside play can be as stimulating, invigorating and confidence-building as outdoor games, and at the end of a session, you'll have a tired but happy dog, ready for a nap and not missing the dog park at all.
Here are some of our top picks for mental stimulation games. My dogs, Maggie and Rossi, play with these toys throughout the week, even when the weather is nice.
iFetch - The iFetch is an automatic ball launcher that you can (a) either teach your dog to use by themselves or (b) use to play together with your dog. This is a great way for kids and family members to safely interact with your pup. Just make sure you choose the correct distance setting for inside your house. There are several iFetch models to choose from: the regular iFetch for smaller dogs, the iFetch Too for large dogs and the non-electronic Frenzy, where the ball rolls out rather than launching into the air. The iFetch is hours of fun for dogs who love chasing a tennis ball and teaching the dog to use it provides a great training experience for both dog and owner. (goifetch.com)
Bark Buster’s Game Changer - Maggie and Rossi love this but each of them plays with it in a totally different way. That's part of the appeal of the Game Changer - you can make it easier or more difficult for your dog as they flip, roll, throw and dig at the toy to free treats from its holes. Pro tip: be sure to use treats or kibble small enough to fit through the holes or you will have a very frustrated pup. I break up their ZIWI® into pieces and it works great! (Bark Buster’s Home Dog Training)
Nina Ottosen puzzles - I absolutely adore the Nina Ottosen puzzle line by Outward Hound. We use the Dog Brick and the Dog Pyramid the most. With the Dog Brick's progressive challenges, you can start off with easier questions and then as your dog gains experience, increase the difficulty. It's fascinating to watch how your dog figures out how to slide, pull and dig to find the hidden treats. Maggie likes the process of solving the puzzles; Rossi is more focused on getting all the treats as fast as possible. (Outward Hound Puzzles)
Frozen Kong - I admit we have a ridiculous number of Kongs in our house but they are so useful for keeping the dogs stimulated and busy. I often stuff them with peanut butter or yogurt then shake it up with some of their ZIWI® kibble or treats. To make it last longer, I freeze them overnight. Maggie and Rossi get so excited at the sight of a stuffed Kong, I’m sure your dogs will too! (Kong Classic)
Find-it game - The last game requires no special toys, just some treats or food, such as ZIWI, or if your dog is toy-obsessed, you can use a favorite toy too. With your pet watching you in a stay (or being held on leash), place a few treats in sight. Then say ‘Find it’ and release them to get the food. Practice this a few times and your pup should be eager to gobble up the food on your cue. Slowly increase the distance to a few feet further away, then around the corner of a couch, then across the room, down the hall and so on. When you say 'find it', they'll sniff around and search for the treats.
You don’t want to overdo it so keep this game – it's a special one - to under 10 minutes at a time. Maggie and Rossi both LOVE this game and I’m sure your dog will enjoy sniffing around and searching as much you will enjoy watching them work. If you find it’s something you both really like you can look into getting involved in scent work classes with a dog trainer near you. Tip: If you have a dog who may want to search ALWAYS, even when you aren’t playing, consider putting on a different collar like a martingale or a harness when you play this game, so they learn that wearing that equipment means it's time to search.
We hope you and your pups enjoy these mentally stimulating games for indoor fun!