Easy Indoor Enrichment

Here in Texas, dogs who don’t love the rain (yeah…most of ’em) are set to be cooped up indoors for a few days thanks to Hurricane Harvey. For couch potato pups, this is no biggie. They can snag some coveted snuggles with their humans and maybe get in a little extra playtime with their favorite toys. But for a lot of dogs, getting creative with quality enrichment is a must to prevent stir craziness and all the fun behaviors that come with it from setting in.

So from our cooped up pups to yours, here are some fun and easy ways to make the indoor magic happen!

PUZZLE TOYS

It’s the go to answer for indoor enrichment with good reason. Our favorites are the KONG Extreme (fill it like a profill it like a health nut), KONG Wobbler, Buster Cube (it now comes in soft for less noise on non-carpeted floors), Tricky Treat Ball, Dog Tornado, and Dog Finder.

Already stuck inside and don’t have any puzzle toys on hand? Make your own!

 

PATTERN GAMES

Training games even a novice can play that come with a great how-to video from their creator, Leslie McDevitt!  You and your dog can work in some awesome rainy day fun that has the bonus of helping build handler focus and giving you a skill you can take on the road later!

 

NOSE WORK

All you need for the fancy version are some tasty treats and cardboard boxes. Don’t have any on hand? You can play sans boxes too and use some cheese or meaty bits from the fridge! For both versions, have your dog hold a stay while you set-up (or use a tether/door/baby gate/human partner holding the leash). In the box version, you’ll choose one consistent box to be your stinky treat box. Place a treat only in that box and then scatter the boxes together on the ground. Release your dog from their stay and tell them, “Go find!” As they get better, you can add more boxes and space the boxes further apart. For the box free version, simply hide the treat somewhere in the house and follow the same instructions. Start with somewhere nearby and pretty obvious and then begin to make it more difficult, working up to hiding multiple treats. Just don’t forget where you put them in case your pup misses one!

Or, try these versions from the Center for Shelter Dogs!

Hint: Use stinky treats the dog will have an easy time sniffing out as they get the hang of things – no dry treat bones. 

 

TUG AND FETCH

Hopefully your dog already has some sweet toys hanging around the house. Use ’em to initiate a game of tug, fetch, or kick things up a notch with a flirt pole.

 

LEARN A NEW SKILL

Maybe your dog needs work on the basics. Maybe he’s already nailed them and you’d like to try out some tricks. Either way, the weather is giving you and your pup the perfect excuse to get to work. Bonus points for combining enrichment and skill building that will benefit you both in the long term!

 

MAKE TIME TO GNAW

For a lot of dogs, gnawing is one of life’s greatest pleasures. With the exception of  Nylabones, the favorite gnawables in our house also happen to be consumables. Hands down, the number one spot goes to bully sticks, followed closely by the marginally more disgusting tracheas and fish skins. For one of our boys, antlers are a great choice but the other crunches right through them at a somewhat alarming rate so know your pup’s gnaw style.

 

WORK ON CHILL

If you’re reading this post looking for help with your higher intensity dog, you’ve got even more reason to invest in helping him or her achieve a good chill. For taking it down a notch but still having your dog working, Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol is an excellent place to start. Another great and more structured option is teaching your pup a place cue. Trying to improve your dog’s chillax on the couch skills? Work in some TTouch to help him or her relax and consider a little aromatherapy.

 

In less wacky weather, we’d also add car rides and indoor field trips but in the interest of safety, it’s great to remember that there’s plenty you can do without leaving the house! Did we miss your favorite indoor enrichment activity? Tell us! And best of luck to everyone out there weathering the storm!

 

*The thoughts and opinions in each post on this blog are those solely of the attributed author and do not necessarily extend to all program collaborators or to Ethics in Animal Care itself.* 

By Ethics in Animal Care

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