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Games to Play Inside With Your Dog

Our canine companions sometimes seem to have a boundless supply of energy and enthusiasm! So what do you do when you’ve been for a hike and he still wants to play? Or if the weather is too rainy for a walk? Here are some fun games to play with dogs inside!

Puppers, especially younger ones or working breeds like cute collies and dotty dalmations, often don’t seem to have an ‘off’ button! But you don’t always have to trek for hours to wear them out. There are plenty of inside games to play with your dog!

Name that toy

Have you ever seen a pupper that seems to know exactly what its owner is talking about? Well, with a little training, you can give that illusion too! This one might be a little easier if your dog knows the ‘drop it’ command, but hey – it can work even if they don’t. 

Start with some preparatory training, as follows. Pick up two or three different toys; remember, doggos can’t see a full range of colours, so they need to be very different toys so that they can tell them apart easily. For example, a Gnaw-a-Bone, a plush toy and a rope ball/tug toy. Decide what you want each toy to be called (e.g. ‘bone’, ‘stuffie’ and ‘tug’). 

Settle down somewhere comfy with your pooch, because this one takes a bit of repetition! Choose the first toy – ‘stuffie’, for example – and hold it in front of your pupper and say ‘Stuffie’, then offer it to your pup and let them grab it. Praise (or click, if she’s clicker trained) and treat, then get her to drop it. Then, you do it again. And again. And again. Honestly, keep going with this for a few minutes! 

Then, put the stuffie toy next to the rope toy and say ‘Stuffie’ again. Now, your pooch should go for the toy they have been practicing with, in which case you can reward and practice a bit more before introducing a third toy. However, some doggos may take a little while to get the hang of this, so if they pick the wrong toy (maybe it’s their favourite) just pop it back next to Stuffie and get them to try again – no treatos for mistakes! If they get it wrong too often, go back to the beginning with them. You don’t have to do all this at once – you can play for five or ten minutes, then leave it for a while.

The ‘game’ bit comes once they can consistently pick up the Stuffie when told to, even in a sea of other toys. That’s also when you can start with the next toy! Keep working slowly through the stages until your pupper is confident with a range of names. You will have to repeat yourself often, but your fluffy friend will end up with quite the vocabulary! You’ll be able to wow your friends with how smart she is.

🐾Top tip: mix things up a bit by choosing silly names for the toys, such as people’s names or nonsense words.

You can also get them to do this trick with household items, like a blanket, your keys or your slippers, if you’re brave enough to leave those within reach! Probably best not to use your finest sheepskins for this, though…

Hide and seek

This game is super simple – all you need is a friend or family member, your dog, and a handful of tasty tidbits! One of you needs to stay with your canine companion and keep them in a sit/stay position or otherwise distract them while the other goes to hide somewhere. Keep it simple to start with – behind a door or on a bed. When you’re well hidden, call your doggo in an excited voice – this is the signal for your helper to let them go. With a bit of luck, your faithful friend will come bounding through the house looking for you! When they suss out your hiding space, give them lots of treats and praise. Then, the helper becomes the hider – and after a couple of goes, Fido will know exactly what he’s doing and you can try out some trickier hiding places. You can even add in a cue when you release him (‘go seek’), so you can start playing out and about, too.

🐾Top tip: not all puppers love treats the most; some will go crazy for a game of tug or a lot of fuss. Choose the reward that best suits your dog and switch it up a bit if you usually use treats to avoid ending up with a porky pooch.

Old favourites

Depending on the size of your dog – and your home – you can also turn the old classics into games to play with your dog inside the house: fetch (with soft, non-bouncing toys) and gentle tug of war with smaller tug-toys. Remember, don’t get your dog to run around if your floor is uncarpeted, as they may slip and hurt themselves. Keep energy levels low by pausing regularly for breaks, particularly if your fluffy friend seems to be getting a bit over the top! 

Another classic game to play is ‘Guess which hand’. All you need is some tasty treatos – and your hands! Get your pup to sit calmly in front of you and hide a treat in the palm of one of your hands. Hold both hands out in front of your fluffy friend – she will probably give them a sniff and work out one of them smells delicious. Hopefully, she will paw at the correct hand – this is a natural response for most doggos. If she does, open your hands so she can snaffle the snack. She is likely to check your other hand for a bonus, so make sure you keep it open with palms up so she can see there’s only one. 

Now, try it again but put the treat in the other hand. She may be super smart and sniff it out, but she’ll probably just go for the same hand – it worked last time, so why not?! Whichever she chooses, open both hands again (if she chose wrong, keep your hands far enough away from each other that she can’t trick you by turning her head and grabbing from the hand she didn’t choose). You can keep playing this game for a while, but swap some treatos for carrots or other dog-friendly snacks to keep it healthy. Don’t carry on for too long if your pupper has a knack for getting it wrong, and always end on a ‘win’ to avoid any frustration.

You can also practice their training and add new tricks in – how many of these can your pupper do?! If none, don’t worry, you can learn how to teach 5 super simple dog tricks here.

  • Beginner: sit, lay down, touch (usually your hand, or a target), go to bed (or settle, in your crate – whatever command you have chosen).
  • Intermediate: wait, stay, roll over, drop it, leave it, weave (in and out between your legs), crawl.
  • Expert: play dead, back up (walk backwards). Bonus points if you can get your doggo to do these tricks from a distance instead of running over to do them directly in front of you!

Once you have mastered all of these, there are lots of new tricks you can do with your pooch, and it makes your training sessions a little bit more fun and varied. Tried all of these inside games for dogs? Try out some brain games next!

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