We’re all feeling a little extra stress this week. This month. This year. This everything. Our pups are certainly picking up those cues. And if you’re working from home, you’re likely both getting a little antsy being inside all day. Ah, Chicago winter. Here are a few things you can do with your pup to change things up, give them a little brain and physical exercise and have a little fun. It doesn’t take long—a quick 10-minute or 15-minute session each day will do. And isn’t complicated—uses items you already have. It will build your bond, grow their confidence and give you some free time afterwards for that Zoom call or Netflix show on your to-binge list.
Disclaimer: I’m a dog mom, not a dog trainer or a vet. Please consult with yours before doing any new physical activities with your pup.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Play on your dog’s natural instinct to forage and hunt by hiding treats or toys around your home.
First timers: Hide a few treats—with the pup watching where you place them—under something of theirs (e.g., a blanket, toy or your hand) and tell them to “find it.”
Level up: Hide it when they’re not watching and send them to find it.
Go pro: If your dog has a good sit/stay, show them the toy or treat and ask them to sit/stay. Hide the treasure. And give them their find it command.
If your dog relies on sight to find, try putting the treasure at different levels, below, at and above their eye level (e.g., chairs, on top of end tables, on the floor of your closet). Put treasures in typically stinkier areas for dogs who are scent-driven (e.g., their toy bin, under dirty laundry).
Play Hide ‘n Seek
Got a pup that enjoys burrowing? Or chasing you? Bring on the hide ‘n seek. Let them treasure hunt for their humans.
First timers: Throw a blanket over you, with your dog watching, and ask them to seek you (“come find me”).
Level up: Hide when they can’t see you and give their seek command. Try around a corner, under the covers or behind a door.
Go pro: Put them in a sit/stay and go hide in another room. Hide in a closet with the door part way open, Or lying on the floor behind a place where you usually stand.
Try not to giggle when they pass you without seeing you. Celebrate the seek successes.
Make a Dogstacle Course
Sounds more complicated than it is. Promise. You can use objects found around the house to make an indoor play space—ottomans, pillows, yoga mats, solo cups. Really anything works. Even two chairs with a Swiffer across make a great jump or crawl obstacle (aka dogstacle).
First timers: Do three obstacles. Start with some “sit downs” (aka puppy pushups)—on a yoga mat or carpet. Next, ask them to “paws up” on an obstacle—a chair, ottoman or your arm. Finally, have them “go over” an obstacle—a toy, a broom, their human little brother.
Level up: Add more obstacles with different skilled or types of activities all in a line. Work each obstacle a few times to give them the hang of it. Then do all of them in a row—like an obstacle course.
Go pro: Circuit-train each of the obstacles. It’s your own puppy cross fit! Do thirty seconds or a minute at each station, then move on to the next. Up the skill level—try putting their paws up on something and using their back legs to circle around (use lure to guide) or have them place back paws up on a pillow, yoga brick or balance pods.
Get creative. Use the home workout equipment you bought last March (wink). Use lures as needed. Have water ready for both of you!
Whatever you decide to do to work your pup’s brain, start simple. You want to create some stimulation, not overwhelm or frustrate your dog. Have fun. It’ll buy you time to be productive. Or lazy. Whatever your plan for the day is. Little games like this have both immediate and long-term payoff for you and your pup.
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Our goal is to connect dog rescues, dog-friendly businesses & dog lovers. Based in Chicago, Illinois, we host fun events for dogs & humans at great places with all proceeds going to local dog rescues.