10 ways to tire out your dog indoors

Well, Labour Day has come and gone and that means that <shudder> means winter is not far behind.

The days will be getting shorter and the weather will be turning inclement.

Soon dogs will be driving us crazy for lack of exercise…. so here’s a list of things to tire out our best friends:

  1. Stairs, stairs, and more stairs. Running stairs is tremendous exercise. To encourage the behavior, sit at the top of your steps and toss a TINY treat to the bottom. Once they collect it, call them back to the top and give another TINY treat. Repeat until your pup is panting!
  2. Puppy pushups. This is a fun little training exercise. It’s basically repeating: sit, down, sit, down, sit, down, and on and on. When your dog is new at it, start with one rep: sit, down, treat. After a while, try fading out the cues for sit and down, and try to incorporate a single cue (push up!) for the combined sit, down behavior.
  3. Find it. Allow your dog to smell a super tasty treat. If he has a solid sit/wait or sit/stay, give that cue, then hide the treat where he can see it. Release him with “find it.” Gradually increase the challenge – hide it where he can’t see it, have him wait in another room, switch from a smelly treat to his favorite toy, and so on.
  4. Doggy IQ test. There are tons of these available for free online. I haven’t tried any yet, so I can’t recommend a specific one, but this is on our indoor task list. Most have a series of challenges that could be fun training exercises, regardless of whether or not you actually score your pup.
  5. Chase the treat. Another favorite around here. This simple game is exactly how it sounds: You throw treats all over the place while your dog chases them down. To make this more challenging, get your dog  in a sit/wait, toss a treat and then release them  to get the treat. It’s TOUGH to get a dog to sit still and not go after a tossed treat! Lots of reps, and your dog will be mentally and physically tired. Hint: Combine this with STAIRS to increase the cardio impact.
  6. Make meals challenging. Serve your dog’s meals in a food puzzle. Check out this super comprehensive review of the Top 10 Food Dispensing Toys.
  7. Stay proofing. Clearly, it’s important to proof behaviors outside the home. But you can work on tons of “stay” proofing indoors, which can only help solidify your stay outside. Criteria could be everything from: rolling or bouncing a ball nearby, sprinkling treats around the room, singing/dancing/jumping/clapping around your pup, in another room, while you play with your other dog/cat/rabbit, while you turn your back, and so on.
  8. Loose leash party. Just like with stay, you need to work on loose leash walking out and about, but to stay busy inside, practice your skills by upping the ante. Go up and down stairs, take sudden 90-degree turns, traverse obstacles (Ottomans, the cat, etc.), start and stop suddenly – clicking and treating all the while. Be exuberant with your praise, and your dog will think this is a blast.
  9. The shell game. Just like the casino game. Check out this It’s Me or the Dog video for an example.
  10. Make a movie! You’ve probably seen dozens (hundreds?) of videos online of dogs doing tricks. Some of them are pretty impressive. Others, well… I’m sure you’ve thought, “Huh. My dog can do that.” So make a video together! Have your dog run through his repertoire of tricks. Here’s why this is great: It keeps you both busy and working together, of course, but even if you never plan on posting it anywhere, you have documentation that you can watch closely to see what you and your dog need to do to improve. For example, when you film yourself, you may notice that every time you cue a sit, you make a minute step forward (this is something I was totally guilty of…) that you never would’ve noticed. With the video, now you know! And you can come up with a plan to improve.