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Games to Play With Your Dog When You're Stuck at Home
Dog games for rainy days and pandemics
In times when you just can't get out, boredom can take over pretty quickly. For both you and your dog. Why not turn it around?
Instead of sitting around staring at each other, why not build your bond and have some fun with your dog?
It doesn't take any special equipment. You don't have to be an expert trainer. You just have to get started with a few fun games.
Remember when you were in school and the best classes were the ones that were also the most fun? Dog training is the same. If you and your dog aren't both having fun, it's not the best way to train.
All you need to start training is a dog and some treats. That's it!
We recommend a "trail mix" of treats. Mix up a variety of nummies in a bowl. It can be anything from cereal (lots of dogs like oat circle cereal), to kibble, to slices of carrot. If you do use veggies, cheese, or pieces of hot dog (another dog favorite), only make enough for that day - it won't last.
A mixture of treats makes it more exciting for your dog - he never knows if the next bite will be super-yummy, medium-yummy, good, or just okay. He'll always be hoping the next treat will be the best one ever, so he'll probably keep going.
If your dog isn't food-motivated, it's going to be more difficult. Try to find some treat that he or she will get excited about. Toys are also great rewards - a few minutes of tugging is a good motivator for many dogs.
Dog Game #1: Catch me if you can!
Believe it or not, this game teaches your dog to come to you when called!
It's simple enough to play:
Find the longest, clear area in your space. Grab a few treats for your dog and stand with your dog at one end. Run away from your dog, calling his or her name as you go.
When he catches up to you, grab his collar and stick a treat in his mouth. Then go the other way - as many times as you both can stand it!
This teaches your dog:
- Come when called
- Someone holding his collar is a good thing
- Something good always happens when he comes to you
You never know when a reliable "recall" will be needed. There may come a time when a door is left open, or a squirrel crosses your path, or a gate isn't closed and your dog gets away from you. Establishing a good "catch me if you can" could possibly save your dog's life if he gets out in a heavy-traffic area.
Chasing after a dog never works - they look at it as a game of "keep-away." Running away from an escaped dog goes against our instincts, but it's the best way to have your dog come to you in stressful circumstances. And it's priceless to be able to grab your dog's collar with no fuss.
Dog Game #2: The Shell Game
For this game you'll need three disposable, or non-breakable, cups and some treats.
Just like the classic betting game, but with dogs! Which is much more fun and everybody wins.
This game is best played on a hard floor, without carpeting.
Sitting on the floor in front of your dog, have your dog in a "stay." Hide a treat under one of the cups. Move the cups around, changing positions randomly.
Release your dog to "find it!"
Depending on how enthusiastic your dog is, or how good the treats are, explains why you need non-breakable cups or plastic drinkware!
You can use any number of cups, play anywhere in the house, and play as many times as you like. You can even turn it into a meal-time game and feed your dog's entire meal this way.
Having your dog use his brain is equally as tiring as physical activity. Remember how exhausted you were after a school test? That's how your dog is feeling when you ask him to stretch his "mental muscles."
Dog Game #3: Go to bed
This is one of the most useful training games you can teach your dog! Wouldn't it be wonderful if, instead of being impossible when guests or delivery people come to the door, your dog ran to a mat or bed?
All you need for this game is some treats and the bed or mat that you want to designate as your dog's "place."
Have your dog on collar or harness and leash and stand by the mat. Look at the mat. When your dog looks at it, drop a treat on the mat.
If your dog steps on it, drop another treat. The treats stop when the dog disengages with the mat.
If your dog is a genius, he may figure out right away that the "mat" is the prize dispenser. And you'll have trouble getting him to leave it! The solution is to toss a treat away from the mat with the instruction "find it!" or "go," or any word you want to use to release your dog.
The next phase of the game is to wait for your dog to sit or lie down on the mat. Stand by the mat again, but withhold any reward. You're "stepping up" what you expect, and your dog will figure it out pretty quickly. What got him a couple of treats before isn't working now. So what can I do differently?
If you have patience and allow your dog to think things through, he'll be more willing to try new stuff. Ignoring behavior you don't want and rewarding what you do will produce the results you want.
Grow your fun, your bond, and get a well-mannered dog
Dogs aren't stubborn, spiteful, or stupid. They're like little kids who have little or no impulse control and do what's most rewarding to them. Given the opportunity, dogs can learn hundreds of words and grow their understanding.
Give your dog the chance to live the best life a dog could dream of. Give him (or her) the chance to learn new things, explore new games, earn lots of treats!