5 simple and fun indoor games to play with your dog – and teach your pup new skills

indoor dog games feature

You may be stuck inside, but with these simple and fun indoor games you can still have a great time playing with your dog – as well as developing his obedience and nose skills. What’s more, master the last of these brilliant indoor games and you’ll have a dog who loves tidying up.

Note: At the time of writing we’re in lockdown here in the UK and in many countries due to the pandemic. I hope this post provides some useful ideas for fun things to do at home with your dog. Most of all, though – wishing you well. Stay safe.

1. Which hand?

This is a fun indoor game and great for nose work training – getting your dog to use his nose rather than his eyes – as well as impulse control.

Of course, some dogs (such as labradors, springer spaniels etc.) will need little training to use their nose; any training needed is more likely to be in impulse control 🙂

Whilst your dog is watching, put a treat in one of your hands. Close your fists and extend both hands towards your dog. Ask your dog “which hand?” and wait for her to choose.

If your dog starts scratching or leaping at your hand, then work on improving control. What you’re looking for is for your dog to choose by lightly nudging your hand with his nose, or putting a paw on the hand, whichever you prefer.

Fun and rewarding

If your dog chooses the correct hand, praise him and open your fist to give him the treat. If he chooses the wrong hand, open your hands to show him where the treat is, but don’t give him the treat. Simply close your fists and start the game again.

Note: Be sure not to scold your dog if he chooses the wrong hand. The purpose of this game is to encourage your dog to use his nose rather than his eyes, so don’t risk discouraging him. Keep the game fun and rewarding.

Photo by Everson Mayer from Pexels

2. The Three Cup Game

This variation on ‘which hand?’ is another great game for nose work.

Line up three (non-breakable plastic!) cups in a row in front of your dog. While your dog is watching, put a treat under one of the cups. Then give her the cue to show you which one is the right cup.

When she chooses correctly, praise her and give her the treat. If she chooses wrongly, lift the cup to show her nothing is underneath. Then lift the cup with the treat, but don’t give her the treat; simply re-set the game.

Once your dog is getting the hang of it, you can increase the challenge by mixing the cups around once you have placed the treat.

(Note: after the game, make sure you wash the cups thoroughly!)

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3. Find It!

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

An old favourite from the playground – hide and seek – is also great to play with your dog, and a fun development on from the ‘Which hand? game.

Get your dog to sit, then hold a treat or familiar toy in front of his nose so that he can smell it. Then place it (or roll it) some distance away, but in sight.

Give your dog the cue to ‘Find it’. Praise him if he goes to the treat or toy on your command.

As your dog becomes familiar with the game, you can begin to make it more challenging. Place the treat or toy just out of sight, behind a chair for example, and then give him the signal to ‘Find It.’

Take the game to the next stage by placing the treat round a corner, or in to the next room, and so forth. You can also try hiding a number of treats at the same time.

Clever pup!

If your dog becomes discouraged at any stage by not being able to find the treat immediately, give vocal hints and praise him as he gets closer, or even point him in the right direction. He’ll soon catch on, and will throw himself with gusto into seeking and finding.

As before, remember always to keep the game fun; don’t let your dog become downhearted. When your dog finds the ‘hidden treasure’, praise him like mad so he feels happy and accomplished.

When you’ve played the game with different dog toys for a while, your dog will begin to be able to differentiate between the various smells. You can then experiment to increase their skill level: hide a number of toys, but have your dog focus on finding and retrieving one specific toy amongst the others.

4. Tug of war

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

This is a great way to mentally and physically exercise your dog and, played correctly, will not make your dog more aggressive or, by allowing him to win, make him more dominant. In fact, studies have shown quite the opposite.

You should follow a few basic rules, such as ‘if your teeth touch my hand, the game stops’. And no jumping up!

Tug is not only fun, for owner and dog, but being very physically demanding is also a great workout.It will also help to improve your dog’s impulse control and manners.

5. Clear up!

This is a really fun way to get the room tidy after you’ve been playing toy games with your dog.

Begin by getting your dog to pick up a toy close to his toy box (or wherever you store your dog’s toys). When he’s standing over the toy box, tell your dog to “Drop it”.

It may take some time before your dog really gets the ‘game’ but patience, combined with lavish and enthusiastic praise, will help him along the way.

You can even take the game a stage further and use it to teach your dog the name of toys. Start by showing him one specific toy whilst naming it to him. After practice and praise, your dog will connect that verbal name with the specific toy. You can then try giving him commands to pick up and put away a particular toy.

There’s certainly a bonus for teaching your dog to clear up. You and your dog have had a fun time – and the room is left clean and tidy!

So, let play begin!

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