A tired dog is a good dog, just like a bored dog can be a destructive dog. Whether it’s cold outside or you’re away from home all day, keeping your dog entertained, and out of trouble, can be a surprisingly difficult task. While entertainment is not only important for their mental and physical wellness, it may also be the difference between a happy dog and a shredded couch. If you’re finding yourself in need of some ideas to keep your dog entertained for hours, whether you’re there or not, check out these six.
Obedience Training and Learning New Tricks
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So maybe obedience isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you’re talking about entertainment, but the fact of the matter is, obedience training can really occupy a dog’s mind. Dogs not only like to get active physically, but they also like a little mental stimulation. Learning obedience or new tricks is a great way to get their wheels turning towards something positive rather than thinking about the next thing of yours that they’re going to chew up.
Now before you try to put your dog through an all-day school, obedience training and learning new tricks are best done in short bursts. Most dogs, like children, have a very short attention span and will lose interest after 10-15 minutes. With this in mind, give your dog short training sessions throughout the day. Work for five or 10 minutes on new commands and five or so minutes refreshing the old ones. Use positive reinforcement to aid in their learning and move on to new tricks or commands once your dog has something mastered.12 This will keep them on their toes, give them something to do, teach them valuable manners and tools that benefit their safety, and provide some bonding time for the two of you.
Play Hide-and-Seek or Hide-the-Treat
Hide-and-seek is the ultimate game that combines reasoning with rewards. Dogs, and kids alike, love it. This game gives them the chance to explore their world, rationalize their findings and reap a great reward at the end. And best of all, you can play hide-and-seek outside or in a small apartment, it doesn’t take a lot of space. First, have your dog sit and stay (a great chance to practice those obedience skills!) and then go and hide somewhere in your home. Once you’re hidden call your dog and have them find you.
If you’re strapped for time or are trying to multitask, you can also play hide-the-treat in a similar way. Place a treat under a pillow or blanket and have your dog hunt for it while you fold the laundry or send some emails. This game can be repeated over and over with treats or toys. You could also add a snuffle mat into your dog’s day to make treats and food just a bit more fun.
Create an Obstacle Course
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If you’ve ever competed in or watched agility then you know how much fun it can be for both you and your dog. It mixes physical skills with decision-making and following directions. While most of the time agility takes place on a course with brightly-colored obstacles, it doesn’t have to. You can make a fun obstacle course at home in your yard or living room using boxes, pillows, boards, or furniture.
Create a course with obstacles to go under, over, around, and through. Then, once your dog learns the pattern, change it up. Not only does this help your dog meet their physical and mental needs, but it also provides you with an outlet for your creative talents.
Provide a Window to the World
While not quite as curious as their feline counterparts, dogs are interested in what is going on around them. If you can’t be there to entertain your dog first-hand, giving them a place to observe the comings and goings of the outside world will keep them busy longer than you think.
If you have a sliding glass door or window that is low to the floor, you can place their bed in front so that they can watch with comfort. If you have a window seat or wide window sill, safely set their bed up there. If all of your windows are higher, you can provide a bench or chair for them to sit in to get a good view. For smaller dogs, look into a window perch. These are shelves that attach to windows or window sills to allow cats a bird’s eye view but can work for small dogs as long as they’re within the weight limit.
Invest in Interactive Toys
Everything requires batteries these days, including some dog toys. While battery-operated chase-type toys are entertaining, they’re not the only interactive toys that will get your dog’s attention. Spreading peanut butter or pumpkin in a Kong or inserting kibble into a puzzle toy will occupy your dog’s hours while they figure out how to get at their tasty reward. Giving ice cubes will also make your dog happy but also your house a little messy.
Rotate Toys that Entertain
It may be hard to imagine your dog being bored when their toy box is overflowing, but just like people, dogs like to see something new every once in a while. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy new toys, instead just rotate them so that they only get a few toys at a time. Every week or so put those toys away and get out some other ones. By only allowing them a few toys at a time and rotating them out, it makes every week like Christmas and your dog will play with their old toys like they were brand new. Of course, if your dog has a favorite stuffed frog or rubber tire toy, let them keep that one but rotate through the rest.
Dogs love spending time with you and often that is entertainment enough. For those times when you can’t be with them or lounging on the couch isn’t cutting it, having a few activities up your sleeve can never hurt. Any one of these six ideas for keeping your dog entertained is sure to give them the physical and mental motivation that they desire.
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- Zazie T. What is Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training? companionanimalpsychology.com. Published 1 Feb 2017. Accessed 3 Nov 2021.
- Vieira de Castro AC, Fuchs D, Morello GM, Pastur S, de Sousa L, Olsson IAS. Does training method matter? Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare. PLoS One. 2020;15(12):e0225023. Published 2020 Dec 16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0225023