Rain, snow, and cold weather can be the worst nightmare for families with high-energy dogs. Without a walk, game of fetch, or trip to the park, all that pent-up energy can bubble over in frustrating ways. But when the weather gets bad, exercising outside isn’t an option.
My solution to the rainy day blues is to entertain my dogs with fun indoor activities. Some of the games we play exercise my dogs physically, and others stimulate their minds. They’re all safe to play inside (with proper precautions), and you don’t need fancy equipment or a lot of time to make them happen.
The next time the weather keeps you inside, try out these fun indoor activities for your dog.
1. Hide and Seek
This is just like the game we used to play as kids. But in this version, you do all the hiding, and your dog does all the seeking. Use your dog’s “stay” command to keep them still while you hide somewhere in the house. When you’re ready, call your dog to you. Your pup will have tons of fun running through the house trying to find his human. You can also reward your successful seeker with a treat.
2. The Shell/Cup Game
I call this the cup game, but I’ve also seen it called the shell game. Whatever you call it, the concept is simple.
Take three cups and a couple of treats. Hide one treat under one cup. Let your dog sniff the cups to find the hidden treat. You can change the difficulty by moving the cups around or teaching your dog a specific way to point out their chosen cup.
If your dog is struggling with this game, feel free to get creative. I made up a modified version for my dog, Bailey, because she couldn’t quite figure it out. Instead of using three cups, I lay out about 15 plastic cups all around a room. I put treats under some of them, but not all. Bailey has a blast simply running around the room knocking over cups looking for treats.
3. Puzzle Games
Dog puzzles are a great invention that exercise both a dog’s mind and body. You’ll probably have to buy a puzzle for this one (although I’m sure there are ways to make your own). The puzzle I have for my dogs requires them to move knobs and open drawers to find hidden treat compartments. I love watching them think through problems to get what they want. You can find dog puzzles at most pet stores or online.
4. Towel Game
Here’s another simple game you can play without any additional toys or equipment. Take an old towel and lay it flat on the table. Sprinkle a few small treats on the towel and then fold or roll it up. The more folds you make, the more challenging the game will be. It’ll take your dog at least a couple minutes to nose through all the folds to find their hidden treasure.
5. StairMaster Fetch
You’ll have to use your best dog mom/dad judgement to determine if this indoor activity is suitable for your dog. If your pup has difficulty with stairs on a regular basis, it obviously isn’t a good idea to have them running up and down chasing a ball. It’s also best to only play this game on carpeted stairs.
But if your dog has healthy joints, is confident on stairs, and loves a good game of fetch, you can use this game to exercise them inside. Toss a ball or toy to the top of the stairs, and after a few throws, your pup will be pleasantly worn out.
6. Sniff and Seek
Your dog might not have the skills to sniff out drugs or explosives, but they still have a powerful sense of smell. You can use it to play a fun game of “sniff and seek” when bad weather keeps you inside. Strong-smelling treats work well, but you can also use your dog’s favorite toys. Hide things around the house and teach your dog to “seek” or “find it.” If they have fun, consider getting them into the canine sport called Nose Work.
7. Learn a New Trick
Learning new skills has the dual advantage of keeping your dog occupied indoors while also strengthening your relationship. If your pup is still working on basic obedience, spend a rainy day reinforcing old skills and learning new ones. If your dog is already a well-trained pro, bad weather is the perfect opportunity to add to their trick list.
Does your dog know how to weave between your legs or turn off the lights? Can they recognize their toys by name and clean up their mess? Now’s the time to learn.
8. Indoor Obstacle Course
You can set up an indoor obstacle or agility course for your energetic dog. Use things you already have, like sofa cushions, brooms, and dining room chairs.
I do this pretty often with my dogs, and they have a blast running, jumping, ducking, and weaving. I usually set up hurdles with my broom, mop, and a couple chairs. After the hurdles, they have to army crawl under a blanket and then hop across couch cushions without touching the floor.
9. Dog TV
When I need my dogs to calm down or focus on something other than the walk we won’t be taking, I turn to their favorite TV channel. That channel is actually a YouTube video featuring a bunch of squirrels and ducks, but they don’t know that. All they know is that their favorite animals are on TV, and they better not blink and risk them running away.
My dogs like random wildlife videos, and maybe your pup will pay attention to videos of other dogs or cats.Make sure the sound is turned up! Not every dog is interested in television, but it’s worth a try. You might even get a few adorable head tilts out of it.
10. Doggie in the Middle
You’ll need two people for this fun indoor activity, but the rules are simple. Grab a ball or soft toy and start tossing it back and forth with your dog in the middle. If you get your dog’s attention, encourage him to join in and try to catch the toy.
The key to keeping this game fun for dogs is to let them win every now and then. If you go for ten minutes without letting them get close to the toy, they’ll end up frustrated and annoyed. But if they know they have a chance of grabbing that flying toy from the air, they’ll be more motivated to play along.
11. Interactive Feeders/Toys
There are tons of toys out there designed to keep dogs busy for an extended amount of time. Some of them, like Kongs and treat-dispensing puzzle balls, use food as motivation. But if you’re worried about overfeeding, there are also interactive toys that don’t involve food. Hide-and-seek-type toys fulfill a dog’s instinct to rip things apart—but there’s no mess to clean up.
You can even make interactive toys with things at home. My dogs love it when I trap their favorite toy under a laundry basket. They like to use their brains to free their friend from the plastic prison. To keep it interesting, sometimes I cover the basket in a blanket or put other objects on top to make it harder.
12. Treadmill Time
A treadmill is the perfect way to recreate a walk indoors. But before you try it out, remember that this is another indoor activity that is not appropriate for every dog. Your dog should be in good health, and you should always start with the treadmill set to a slow walk.
Some dogs are great at walking and even running on the treadmill, and others can’t quite figure it out. My dog, Copper, is a pro at jogging, and my other dog, Bailey, likes to go only for short walks. Bailey also requires a treat in front of her face to keep her motivated, but Copper enjoys jogging just for the fun of it. Never force your dog onto the treadmill or push them to go too fast.
I used to dread rainy days because I knew I’d have to deal with cranky, unsatisfied dogs.
I’m not afraid of the rain, but storms, snow, and extreme cold can make being outdoors dangerous. With this arsenal of fun indoor activities, however, being stuck inside isn’t so bad.
Do you know why your dog just sits and stares at you? Find out here.