No matter where you live, Mother Nature can be the one who decides whether or not your canine gets outside for her daily exercise. As dedicated owners, we try our best to weather the storm in the name of our dog’s health, but sometimes Mother Nature wins. Ice, torrential downpours, dangerous winds, negative wind-chills, and a variety of other natural occurrences can keep you and your pooch cooped up looking for something to do.
We have certainly been in this position before and can tell you that it is not fun. Whether your dog is a young pup looking to burn off that puppy energy or a seasoned veteran looking for his daily walk, we as owners often face a sense of guilt as we watch our canines lay around the house. We combat poor weather days ourselves by catching up on work, giving the house a deep clean, watching our favorite movies, or finally reading that book we bought three months ago.
Unfortunately for our dogs, they are limited in the entertainment department. If your dog is anything like our dog, Maddie, she is used to living an active lifestyle and is always looking for something to do. When she is not entertained, Maddie has the ability to really mooch it up and make herself looking extra bored and adorable. Talk about puppy eyes!
Over the last few years, we have found some fun ways to entertain Maddie. The first choice is always braving the storm and getting outside, even if it is for a brief period of time. But, when that is not an option, we pull out our bag of tricks and tire Maddie out inside. Below are the games and strategies we use to get her moving!
1. Indoor Fetch
Fetch is one of the best ways to quickly burn through your dog’s stored energy. Walks are a great way to bond with your dog but they come up short in the energy burning department and are rather inefficient. A quick game of fetch will have your canine’s tongue hanging out of his mouth in no time!
Fetch does not have to be limited to outdoors. You may have to adjust how you play indoors to accommodate for furniture, different floor surfaces, and other distractions, but the basic concept remains the same. Throw, retrieve, drop, repeat.
If you would like to make it even more challenging for your dog, add in training commands that you are working on before you through the ball. For example, when Maddie drops the ball we tell her to stay and do not let her retrieve the ball until we say, “Ok.” You know her brain is going when she gets excited that the ball was thrown and starts running, only to quickly slam the brakes on and look at us as if nothing happened.
To get Maddie listening, focusing, and mentally stimulated even more, we will occasionally throw the ball without the stay then tell her to “leave it.” This, again, gets her thinking and keeps her on her toes rather than simply running around the house like a nut. There are countless commands that you can practice along with your game of fetch, just use whatever you are working on!
2. Focused Training Session
As stated earlier, it is imperative that you mentally stimulate your dog. What better time to learn a new command or perfect one you’ve been working on than a cold or rainy day? Our hectic lives sometimes pull us away from formally training our dogs or we simply take our dog for granted. Bad weather days are a great opportunity to give your dog some extra attention and get back into the swing of things with your training sessions.
How you train is up to you and will depend on what skill you are working on. If you are trying to perfect “leave it” in a distracted environment you may have others walk through or move into different rooms. If you are just starting a new skill, it might be best to go to a spot in the house where your canine is comfortable and will not be easily distracted.
3. Chase and Flee
This one is fun, but we must urge you to be careful! If you have the space for it (and you need much less than you think), play tag with your pup! Simply go tag him then start running the other way. When Rosco catches you, start running after him. We have had many tag games around our home with Maddie. Many of them ended with her simply chasing herself around the house and doing laps like the Daytona 500. Either way, it counts as a win!
A word of caution, though: be sure to pay attention to your dog’s level of aggressiveness during this game. There have been times when instead of catching or tagging, Maddie starts to nip at our butts. The majority of the time nipping is simply playful, but you don’t want your dog getting carried away and practicing harmful behaviors.
If you’re into fitness like we are, you’ll love putting your dog through a fun workout. Hit play on the Rocky (bonus points if your dog’s name is Rocky) playlist and get to work! Like many of the other bad weather day activities, putting your dog through a workout is both mentally and physically stimulating. It requires her to pay attention to your commands and to execute certain movements.
Our two favorite exercises, which we use to build a mini circuit or WOD, are burpees and sprints. For burpees, have your dog sit, then quickly drop to down (or lay down), then back up to sit. Using a treat to lure your dog into the correct position can help your dog get focused quicker and perform the exercise much more effectively.
You have many options for the sprints and you should choose whatever you think your canine will have the most success with. You can use a ball and have your dog play fetch in between burpees, run with your dog to a specific spot then drop, tell your dog to stay and then come to you. You’ll notice that the options have additional training involved so pick based on your pup’s training levels and your goals for the activity.
5. Treat Obstacle Course
The treat obstacle is an absolute blast for your canine. It gives you great enjoyment because we can almost guarantee that your dog’s tail will not stop wagging during this activity. For the treat obstacle course, grab a large amount of treats and spread them throughout a room, a couple of rooms, or even the entire house. When choosing the treats, keep in mind that you want a large number of treats but not necessarily a large amount. Cut bigger treats into smaller pieces so you have more to work with. Also be sure to factor in the number of treats with your dog’s meals for the day and adjust accordingly.
How you hide your treats will depend on how good your canine is at hunting and sniffing. It will also depend on how likely your dog is to move an object or go somewhere a little hidden. For our dog, Maddie, we are not yet at the point where we can completely hide the treats. We keep the treats fairly in the open where she doesn’t have to move anything to the side, but we spread them far apart from each other. Start slow and build up according to your pup’s skill level.
One word of advice if you are going to hide the treats, remember where you hide them! Sometimes we give ourselves a little too much credit and find that really great hiding spot, then two weeks later something smells funny. Try to keep tabs on the number of treats your canine has found so you know they were all apprehended.
An easy way to prevent lost treats is doing rounds of a set number of treats (such as 3 rounds of 5). This way you can keep track and make sure no treats get lost in the process. It is also a great way to regain your pet’s attention, work on a training skill, and elongate the activity.
6. Recreation Bones
If you feed your dog a raw diet you know that feeding your dog bones are a necessary part of a complete diet. Recreation bones have many health benefits ranging from added calcium intake to teeth cleaning. We love saving recreation bones for bad weather days because they are extremely stimulating and entertaining.
Maddie will spend a solid 15 to 20 minutes working on a bone, making sure she gets every last nook and cranny. Sometimes she plays with the bone while she is eating it, including rolling on the floor, tossing it a few feet, and just messing around. We don’t love this part because it usually means she is making a bigger mess, but hey, she’s happy.
Once Maddie is done with her bone, she will spend another 10 minutes or so cleaning her self off. The period after eating a bone is when Maddie looks calmest and most content. Even when she is done cleaning she usually just lies and looks around like a proud lioness. Rec bones will certainly satisfy your pup and are a great way to close out your bad weather day.
What do you think of our bad weather day activities? What do you do when you can’t get your canine outside for exercise? We want to know! Leave a comment below!