Play find the treats with your dog
Dogs in the wild spend 95% of their time looking for food. Bowl feeding at the end of the day generally lasts about two minutes, so why not make the highlight of their day last for hours?
Nose work games are one of the easiest ways to tire out your dog. You are both mentally tiring them out and helping them hone in on some of their natural skills. Grab some treats and have your dog watch as you place them around the room. Encourage your dog to pick them up, remembering to praise them every time they find one. Once they have got the hang of it, you can make it a bit more challenging by making them stay in another room as you hide the treats and hiding them in spots they have to sniff out, such as under a throw rug or hidden in the sofa cushions.
This is a simple problem-solving game for dogs. Get three identical cups from your kitchen, line them up in a row and hide a treat under one of them. You then shuffle the cups around and encourage them to ‘find the treat.’ Let your dog select the right cup with her nose or paw and lift the cup up. If your dog is right, he wins the treat! For an extra challenge, don’t lift the cup up - let your dog figure out how to knock it over to get the treat.
Use a stuffed Kong to keep your dog busy
Kong toys are a fantastic way to keep your canine friend mentally stimulated throughout the day. Kongs have a hollow centre to stuff with tasty treats that require skill and persistence to get to. Kong toys have an unpredictable bounce that will keep your dog guessing. They’re the perfect boredom-busters and even encourage physical activity.
Play a game of ‘tug of war’ with your dog
Playing a game of tug of war is one of the best ways to engage in meaningful play with our dogs. It’s a great way to mentally and physically exercise your dog - and provide them with a wonderful outlet for their natural canine urges to grab and pull on things with their mouth. Letting your dog win makes the game more fun for your dog, and it will encourage them to play more.
Pick a dog toy that is designed for tugging, and that you won't use for other games such as fetch. The toy should be durable and flexible. The best tug toys are typically made out of rubber or similar material and have a comfortable handle that keeps your hand away from the dog's mouth.
Play hide and seek with your dog
Playing a game of hide and seek is always a favourite! This game is also an excellent way to practice your dog’s “stay” command. If your dog doesn’t have a good “stay command” you can always ask a friend to help by having them distract your dog as you go and hide. As they become better at staying while you hide, you will no longer need the extra help. When your dog finds you, you can give him some treats and some praise, or you can engage him in a game of chase.
Use interactive dog puzzle toys
Dogs need mental as well as physical exercise. If they lack mental stimulation, they can sometimes create their own "fun", like chewing on things, barking or hyperactive behaviour. Dog puzzle games provide mental and physical exercise, decreased anxiety and boredom, increased problem-solving skills, and release pent-up energy. Interactive dog toys and puzzles are excellent for creating a positive outlet for your dog’s natural chewing, digging, and hunting instincts and can also be used as slow feeders at mealtime to improve your dog’s digestion – bonus!
Master the basics of obedience training
Does your dog know all the basic obedience commands? Does he have a reliable recall and stay? Even well-trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. All dogs should have a reliable sit, down, stay, drop it, and come here, and it can never hurt to brush up on these skills.
Check out our article How to teach your dog to do tricks for step-by-step instructions for teaching your dog these obedience commands.
The game of fetch wins the prize as the ultimate good-for-us, good-for-them activity. It gives dogs exercise without humans having to work up a sweat and is a great way to teach dogs the crucial skill of dropping an object on cue. Since it’s fun and interactive, it enhances the relationship between you and your canine friend.
All games of fetch should begin with you asking your dog to sit. Make sure your dog is sitting calmly next to you before moving on to the next step. Once your dog sits, throw the ball and tell him to "fetch." Start by throwing the ball just a short distance. Most dogs will instinctively chase the ball and pick it up.
If fetching doesn't come naturally to your dog, you may have to work on training your dog how to play first. You can start by giving the dog treats or praise for taking an interest in the ball. Then, slowly work your way up to having him run after and pick up the ball. The best way to get him to return to you with the ball is to make sure your dog has a strong understanding of the come command before you begin. When playing fetch, as soon as your dog picks up the ball, say "come." Encourage your dog to come back to you by speaking in a happy voice, patting your legs, and giving it praise.
If a dog is having trouble with this step, you may need to shorten the distance you throw the ball. In some cases, you will have to start with throwing it just a few feet away from you then gradually increase the distance. Your dog should be able to consistently bring the ball back to you before you move on to the next distance.
Create your own indoor obstacle course
Have your dog jump over some towels, run up the stairs, army crawl under a coffee table, weave through his toys, and then lay down on a blanket. Use your imagination and come up with a set of obstacles for your dog to follow. Once you have mastered the first obstacle, move on to the second one. Building on prior tricks will keep your dog mentally stimulated and encourages focus.
Does your dog have some nice dog friends? Invite them over for some play time. Your dog will love being able to engage and play with another dog. And the upside for you is that you’ll have one tired dog at the end of the day.
Give your dog regular grooming sessions
Although your dog won’t find a grooming session as exciting as a game of tug or fetch, regular grooming is good hygiene and helps you to identify any rashes, cut or abrasions that may need attention. Dog grooming during winter remains as important as any other time of year - dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their teeth cleaned, and have their nails trimmed when they start to get long.
Some dogs tolerate grooming better than others, and the more you practice using positive rewards, the easier it will become. Don’t be afraid to hand out lots of treats during a grooming session. You want to ensure your dog will associate grooming habits with a positive experience.
Snuggle up & relax with your dog
After a friendly training session or game, there’s nothing better than a little bit of relaxation. We all know that this will by far be your dog’s favourite option on the list. Who doesn’t love a good session of puppy snuggles?