Activities That Keep You & Your Pup Entertained During a “Stay at Home” Order
With most of the country under some form of “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order, it can be tricky to always find a place to exercise your dog outdoors. While walks are a great way to get them out and moving, if you have a large or young dog, they need more than just a walk to get enough exercise. Plus, during COVID-19 we need to be mindful about the amount of time we spend outside of our homes.
Still, if you live in an apartment, it can be especially difficult to exercise your dog inside. You likely have limited space and won’t have room enough to play games like fetch. When we’d usually rely on going to parks for doggie playtime, we should be social distancing, and many parks are closed to the public to protect us from the Coronavirus.
So, without a yard or a park for your dog to run around and play at, what’s left? How will they be able to burn off enough energy and get proper exercise?
As dog lovers and owners, we put together some dog-approved activities to help your dog get exercise, even in a small space. All of these activities can be done in a small home, small yard, or apartment space. These activities are sure to keep your pup engaged, tire them out, and give you some extra bonding time together.
Dog-Friendly Activities for Small Spaces
When compiling this list, we tried to think of a variety of options because we know that not all dog breeds are the same, and not everyone has access to the same size space. So, feel free to try all of the activities below, but keep in mind that some may work better for your dog breed than others.
If you have stairs in your home, they are a great exercise tool, not only for you, but your dog will love them. You can utilize them to play fetch up and down or simply teach them to go up and down on command.
This works best if you have carpeted stairs to prevent your dog from slipping on the way down. Although it is tempting to want to run the stairs with your dog, if you aren’t taking turns, this can be dangerous. If you have kids, they may especially want to join. So, make sure your dog and each human is taking their turn to avoid tripping one another.
Teach them Hide & Seek
This is a great game to teach your dog, especially if you have kids. I have owned several dogs that love to play hide and seek, and it would keep us occupied for hours. It not only engages their body, but it will engage their mind and nose too. It can be a great way to teach younger dogs recall and help older dogs to reinforce their recall training.
To play, pick a place for your dog to sit and to stay. Be sure that they will only move from their location if they are called. This won’t work if your dog doesn’t already know how to stay. So, work on that first and then build-up to this.
Once your pup is in position, have all the human players hide somewhere. Pick one person to call the dog or use a dog whistle to tell them to start. To further reinforce this game, have everyone that hides keep some training treats in their pocket and give them to your dog when they’ve found you.
Rotate Toys (or get a new one)
Although our dogs love their toys, they can quickly become bored with the selection. If they have multiple toys, rotate them in and out of use, don’t just give them unlimited access. If you present them with an old favorite toy, they are likely to be more engaged for a longer time.
The same is true for getting new toys for your pup. Our dogs are curious and love to learn new things! Treat them with a new toy every now and again.
You can also teach them the names of each toy, so when you ask for specific toys, they will find them.
Playing tug of war with your dog is a classic playtime activity that you likely already use! If you don’t, it is worth a try. There are tons of great ropes and tug-o-war toys you can buy that make it easy to see if they enjoy playing tug of war. If you have multiple dogs, they may even like to play this together.
For this game, you should have an already established level of trust and respect between you and your dog. The action of tug of war with any object can potentially bring out aggression in many dog breeds. You need to have control of the situation at all times and be sure that your dog understands you are playing, not fighting.
With small dog breeds, be careful not to pull much when playing this game with them. Simply hold the object and let them do the work. You can easily injure a small dog by playing too rough during tug of war.
Create an Indoor Agility Course
Agility is something that all dogs can enjoy, and it doesn’t need to be elaborate either. If you have a broomstick or chairs you can move around, you can create an agility course. You may need to work on some training if this is entirely new to your dog, but if they already love the agility obstacles at the dog park, this will be a real treat!
Some simple obstacles you can set up in the house include:
- Move chairs for them to run between, around, or jump over
- If they’re allowed on furniture, have them jump up and off of objects
- Have them limbo under coffee tables or broomsticks
- Set up your broom between two chairs for them to jump over
- Have them weave between soup cans or other objects
This is another super fun activity if you have kids. Employ your whole family to help come up with new obstacles for your dog to accomplish.
If you don’t want to create your own, you can also purchase an agility course online.
Try Canine Conditioning
Just like a personal trainer would for us, you can teach your dog conditioning exercises to keep their muscles healthy and to tire them out indoors. There are several conditioning programs you can find online with video instructions on how to train your dog. YouTube is also a great tool for finding videos on this.
Most activities will focus on strength training, agility, and improving balance. Conditioning programs are widely used by dogs and trainers that compete in agility competitions as well as trainers that rehabilitate injured dogs. Conditioning has become more popular for many dog owners and all dog breeds can benefit from this structured form of exercise.
The exercise can be as simple as an angled stand up sit down exercise or as complex as balancing on a ball. These exercises don’t have to last long, either! Most dogs will be tired out in 5-10 minutes as conditioning engages both their mind and their body the entire time.
Engage Their Brain
One major trend in the activities we are listing is that they all should engage your dog mentally as well. Never underestimate the power of a dog’s energy when it comes to paying attention. If they are required to sit and wait for a treat or a toy, it can become quite exhausting. Try these activities for additional mental stimulation for your dog.
Learn New Tricks
If you have extra time on your hands, as many of us do now, take some time to teach your dog something new. This is also the perfect time to reinforce other behaviors they already know. Take 5-10 minute spans of time to have your dog focus on only training exercises like sit, stay, down, heel, and come to reinforce behaviors, then add in new tricks or commands.
Be sure that you are using positive reinforcement during training time. Many dog breeds will respond much better when learning in a positive and warm environment.
Play Puzzle Games
Giving your dog something to solve is another fun activity. You can practice nose work around the house by hiding their favorite treats or objects for them to find.
You can also play the shell game by using three cups and one treat. Hide the treat under one of the cups, show them it is there but tell them to wait. Place all three cups on the ground and move them around. Have your dog select the cup they think it is under by knocking the cup over with their nose or paw, and if they’re right, they get a treat. If they guess wrong, remix the cups. If your dog is having a hard time, start with two cups instead of three.
Teach Them New Words
We mentioned this earlier when we talked about dog toys, but dogs can learn an astonishing number of words. Teach them the names of their toys or other objects around the house. You can have them help you get things, or it can be a great way to entertain them by having them identify objects.
If you haven’t taught them how to identify objects according to name before, here is a great tutorial on how to get started. We do recommend the use of a clicker for most training exercises as it will reinforce behavior alongside a treat. Trust me, teaching a dog of any age new words will take time! So this is a great activity to do daily to entertain you and keep your dog’s mind engaged.
Give Your Dog a Job
Once you’ve moved on from teaching them tricks and new words, your dog is likely also ready to have a job. This can be whatever you make it. You can train your dog to pick up their toys and put them in their basket each night or if you need to vacuum. You can teach them to open doors or get objects for you.
Many dog breeds thrive with having a job to do and are more than willing to fulfill the task with enthusiasm. Plus, if you teach your dog to help clean up dirty clothes or toys, it can be an encouraging way to get your kids to clean up too!
Whichever activity you choose to try, be sure you have plenty of treats on hand! Keep your dog happy, healthy, and engaged while you both are stuck at home.
A tired dog is a good dog! Is your pup still bored or you’re working from home and need a break? Get them out of the house for some much needed fresh air and new sniffs with their favorite dog walker.
For more information about how Pawfect is handling social distancing and dog walking, see our up-to-date safety protocol.
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