How to entertain your dog at home

Article by Harriett Type

Harriett Type is a writer and dog lover from Sussex, England.

Dogs need bursts of activity throughout the day and, if you don’t entertain them, they’ll entertain themselves.

A daily walk or three will keep most hounds amused for a while. However, it might not be enough for younger or very active pups. And there are occasions when illness, bad weather, or a busy day might mean even one walk is out of the question. 

To stop them chewing, barking, and generally being a bit manic, here are some easy challenges you can set up to entertain your dog at home.

Find the treats

This is probably one of the easiest ways to mentally stimulate your four-legged friend, as it mimics their natural behaviour.  

Hide some treats or kibble around your home and encourage your dog to find them. Between five and ten hiding spots are usually enough and you only need one treat per hiding place. Choose a word to teach your dog so he understands when you are going to play the game. Something simple like “Search!” works well. 

Tricks to entertain your dog at home

Dogs love to learn new things. They also like to hang out with you and please you.  

Teaching them something new is a great way to combine your dog’s love of learning with their desire to please you. And it’s not all about playing dead or rolling over. There are many genuinely useful tricks and tasks that dogs can learn. Teach them to tidy up their toys, to collect their lead, or open doors. For more ideas, check out our article Ten easy tricks to teach your dog.

Cup game

This is a very exciting game for dogs. It’s a bit like the cup magic trick, but the hidden object disappears down your mutt’s throat not into the pocket of the magician.  

Take three plastic cups and place them lip down on the floor in front of your dog. Show your dog a treat or some kibble and then hide it under one of the cups. Next mix up the cups while the dog is are watching. Then, encourage your dog to find the treat!

Again, use a consistent command so they know when to start. “Search!” is good for this game as well, remembering that it can take a few repetitions before you dog connects the word you’re saying with what you want them to do.

Hide and seek

This classic game is really fun to play with your mutt and, if you have children, can be a great way to involve them, too.

Before you start, you will need to cover some basic commands with your dog. In particular,”Stay”. Otherwise, someone else will need to hold the dog whilst you hide. 

If you find your dog doesn’t get the idea straight away, try taking some treats or a toy with you when you go to hide. Once your dog gets the idea, though, they will make the perfect playmate. 

Create an indoor obstacle course

Active healthy dogs enjoy a physical challenge but that doesn’t always have to mean going outside. If you have space, an indoor obstacle course is easy to set up and makes use of ordinary things you have around the home.

Prop up cushions to make a jump, use the stairs, find a table to run under, make a tunnel tent from a blanket. Once you’ve set up the route, encourage your dog to try it by following them along. You might need to use a treat at first, but they’ll soon get the hang of it.

It will be chaos but that’s okay! Don’t forget to reward your pooch and tell them how well they have done.

Build a digging box

Dogs of all shapes and sizes just love to dig and they don’t care where; in flower beds, in the middle of the lawn or under the fence into the neighbour’s garden. You don’t need to stop them from digging, you can just direct their activity to somewhere more suitable by making them a special digging pit.

This is one you can do inside or outside, depending on the space you have and the weather. If you have a big enough garden, find a space that you don’t mind looking a bit unsightly. Cordon off the area with something that won’t move easily, such as railway sleepers. Whatever you use, make sure to check for anything that could injure your dog. 

Once you’ve built the space, fill it with play sand and then hide toys and chews for your dog to find. Don’t leave anything in there from session to session, though, as germs from your dog’s saliva could thrive in warm sand.

If you don’t have the space to build a dedicated area, or you’re looking to create a digging box indoors, a tray or child’s sandpit is a good alternative.

Your pooch will be so busy in their digging patch that, with any luck, they will leave your lawn, or your shoes, alone.

Give a dog a view

Dog looking out of the window

You can entertain your dog at home even when you’re not able to give them your undivided attention. For thousands of years dogs have been on guard duty for their two-legged friends. They protect their shared territory and know it’s their job to keep everyone safe. That makes them naturally quite nosy; the canine version of curtain twitchers! Give a dog a spectator’s view of the world and many will happily while away the hours watching all the action outside.  

These are just a few ideas of how you can keep your dog occupied, even if you’re not able to get out and about and we haven’t even covered some of the old favourites, such as fetch, healthy chews, and snuffle mats.

With just a little effort on your part, your four-legged friend can have a busy, interesting day, meaning you save money on replacing chewed up trainers and less time policing their boredom induced naughtiness.

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