One of the many benefits of time at home with your dog is getting to be more involved in their lives. But it can be challenging to find new ideas to keep your pooch entertained! Something I like to remember is that training and games don’t have to be different things - why not combine the two and make learning fun for you and your dog?
Here are a few activities I find fun with Kirk, my little terrier, to keep him on his toes (and out of trouble!):
Come rain or shine, we have some ideas to keep your dog busy! Most training games can start off inside - you just need a space big enough for your dog and a few tasty treats.
Stop (stay in one place)
This game has a lot of uses - it’s commonly used in dog sports (such as agility), obedience classes and it’s great if you like taking photos of your pampered pooch!
- Ask your dog to sit and reward them.
- Try to take a step away and then back towards your dog. If they stay still give them a reward. If they move towards you, ask them to sit back down and try again.
- Once your dog is staying still when you take one step back, try two or three steps away. Make sure each time you give your dog the rewards while they’re still sitting - if they start to stand up each time you give the reward, try to be quicker with your reward next time and make them sit again before they get the reward. This is where using a clicker or key reward word can be easier than giving a treat at the correct time!
- Now your dog is staying still as you move away, start to add a command. Only do this once your dog is doing what you’d like 9/10 times or they’ll get confused! You can use a verbal cue (I use stop for Kirk) and/or a physical cue (I use an open palm).
- From here, you can take the game as far as you’d like. Try moving further away, looking away from your dog, turning around, use it at the park - be as creative as you like! Just make sure you reward your dog for staying still and that they’re having fun! And if you find yourself at that perfect spot for a photo, why not give it a go while you get that perfect pic of your pooch.
Some owners want to use the stop command then call their dog to them - this is great fun, but your dog will prefer running to you than staying in one place. If you’re going to do this then make sure you reward your dog for staying where they are at least the same number of times as you let then move from their spot or they’ll quickly forget the basics in all the activity!
An easy game to keep your dog entertained, especially if they need to be rested. You can use your dog’s normal food or some tasty treats:
- Scatter a few treats or some food over an old towel or blanket.
- Roll it up, making sure the treats don’t fall out the ends.
- Allow your dog to sniff and snuffle the treats out of the towel.
You can make a really simple tunnel just using a cardboard box. This is a really useful trick for your dog to learn if they like to go into the undergrowth on their walks - once they learn how much fun it is to come to you at home it’ll be easier for them to leave their investigations when out and about!
- Cut the flaps of a cardboard box that is big enough for your dog to go through.
- Put the box on it’s side and let your dog explore the box.
- Start to throw treats inside the entrance to encourage them to look inside.
- Once they’re comfortable putting their face in, try throwing the treats further inside.
- Start to call your dog through the tunnel until they are happy to go through on their own. It’s easier for your dog if you start with a short box then gradually build up to longer ones (especially if they’re a little nervous at the start).
- Once they’re happy, try calling them through other things, for example under the table or a line of chairs. You can even add a cue word to ask them to go through without guiding them to the entrance.
Games that need space
This simple game starts to teach your dog to pay attention to where you are and what you’re doing. It’s also perfect to work on your dog’s recall! You can try this in the house if you have room in the living room but it often works better with a bit more space outside in the garden.
- Start by calling your dog over to you while you’re facing away from them and standing still. (If you’re dog isn’t reliable with their recall, you might want to work on this a few times while facing them then turn away!)
- Try to make them come to your left or right side by calling them over one shoulder and having that hand stretched out behind you.
- Reward them when they come up to you on the side you asked.
- Once they come to you while you’re still, start to move away as you call them using the same technique.
- Build up the distance, try calling them to run after you and give it a go even if they’re distracted for example out on a walk.
Try making a jump with some cups or cardboard boxes as supports and a bamboo cane, broom or mop for the bar. Make sure the bar moves easily so if it’s touched by your dog they won’t hurt their legs as this will put them off!
- Start off with a low jump.
- Reward your dog for jumping or stepping over the jump - most dogs will give it a go if you just look at the jump for a little while or guide them with a treat.
- Once they’re confident, you can then start making the jump higher or try to create a little course for them.
And if you also play the ‘follow me’ game, you can ask them to follow and jump round the course. And maybe you could add in a ‘tunnel’ or two for even more fun!