*Discloser: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you.
Sometimes, you just can’t go outside! There might be a number of reasons, whether it’s due to weather conditions, your health or because you’re quarantined, like many people are right now. These are the times when you’re desperately looking for fun things to do with your dog at home.
You’d be surprised by how many fun things you can actually do with your dog inside. Even if you can take your pup on his daily walks, it’s a great idea to add some indoor fun every now and then.
Indoor fun in the perfect way to challenge your dog mentally. Mental exercise is often forgotten about. However, it’s so important for our dogs.
What kind of exercise does a dog need?
First of all, it’s very important to understand your dog’s needs.
I guess every dog owner knows that their dog needs walks on a regular basis.
So, physical exercise is clear.But a dog should also be mentally stimulated every now and then.
How much physical exercise does a dog need? Well, I can’t give you an answer that fits all.
But even for the laziest dog, I recommend doing at least 3 10 minute-walks per day. Like, I can’t imagine any situation, where it would be okay to take your pup out for less than that. Here’s a guide how to guess how much your dog needs.
Well, the only exception is when your pup’s still a puppy. In that case, you’ll find all the information about walking and hiking with a puppy here.
My Miniature Poodle Baloo is happiest with 2 30-minute-leash-walks and 1 1-hour off-leash-walk or Agility Training per day.
Additionally to physical exercise, a dog should have to use his brain every now and then as well. Most dogs were bred for a purpose, such as hunting or gathering. This was their job and they had to think in order to do it properly.
Now, dog’s still have that urge to fulfill a job in their genes. So, it’s very important to keep their brain occupied. Otherwise, they might find themselves a job, like barking at squirrels or chasing balls around the house.
If you’re wondering whether your dog has enough brain for mental exercises, click here to find out how smart dogs really are 😉
How do you mentally stimulate a dog?
Okay, so how do you mentally stimulate a dog?
There are lots of different ways. The most common ones are:
- Teaching commands
- Teaching tricks
- Scent games
- IQ Ball
Actually, everything, that isn’t just plain walking, is mentally demanding for a dog. Even walking heel can be a mental challenge, because he has to watch you while walking and taking all the other stimuli in.
Teaching tricks or commands needs a lot of brain power, too. It’s quite demanding for a dog to figure out what you want him to do and then remember it.
However, it’s only demanding as long as it’s new. That “sit” he learned 3 years ago, doesn’t exactly force him to use his brain cells…
Scent games are mentally intensive for dogs, too. It takes a lot of mental energy to process scents. It doesn’t really matter what kind of scent game it is, everything where he has to use his nose is great. I’ll get back to it in the list further down.
For more information on how to mentally stimulate a dog click here.
How much mental exercise does a dog need?
As long as you provide enough physical exercise, ideally with some walking heel or sniffing on the way, the average dog doesn’t need a lot of other mental exercise. Once or twice per week should be enough.
For very active or very intelligent dogs, it would be good to do some mental exercises every other day. With enough physical exercise, it’s not compulsive, but intelligent dogs are much happier when they can solve problems from time to time.
21 fun things to do with your dog at home
Here are 21 fun things to do with your dog at home. With these ideas you can keep your pup occupied and happy for a long time. Most of them are great for mental stimulation. And others are just cool to have a good time with your four-legged friend.
There are videos with every idea, so you know how to do it properly.
1. Teach a new trick
Learning a new trick is quite demanding for a dog. He has to use a lot of brain power to figure out what you want him to do. Plus, he has to understand that he has to link a certain word with an action. It’s probably like learning Chinese for us: you have absolutely no point of reference and it’s super hard to remember all the meanings and don’t mix them up!
So, teaching your dog new tricks is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog, plus, it’s fun!
Here are a few ideas for inspiration:
2. Hide treats and let him find them
Most dogs love games that involve treats. So, why not let him search them in your house?
Processing scents is quite demanding and tiring for dogs. There are a million smells around your house. He has to use a lot of energy to find the right one and then locate it properly.
This is why 10 minutes of intensive scent games are about equal to 1 hour of walking.
3. Play a scent game with a tea bag
To level up on your scent games, you can also let your dog search for tea bags.
Simply hide a tea bag underneath a blanket and let him show you the exact location.
4. Play hide and seek
Hide and seek is a super funny game to play with your dog. I love their confused faces when they’re looking for you. And the joy when they find you, so cute!
This is also a form of a scent game. However, most dogs probably just try looking around and will only try using their noses, once they’re really desperate.
So, this is a really fun thing to do with your dog at home.
5. Play tug of war
Playing tug of war is so much fun with your dog.
Dogs get so excited with this game and they love to show that tug a good ol’ death shake!
As a tug of war you can use any rope or piece of cloth. Or you can get yourself a tug of war dog toy, such as one of these.
6. IQ Ball
IQ Balls are one of my favorite ways to keep Baloo busy indoors.
Even though he has long understood its concept, he’s still happily throwing the ball around to get the treats.
I like the ones made out of rubber, so he can also chew it.
Here’s another option:
7. Dog puzzles
There are a ton of dog puzzles out there and this is the perfect tool to keep an intelligent dog busy.
The only downside to dog puzzles is that you’ll have to get new ones on a regular basis. It’s like a room escape game: once you know how to solve it, it gets boring.
If you don’t want to buy new dog puzzles all the time, go right to nr. 12.
Gohan the Husky tested a few for you:
8. Play the shell game
This is only for really intelligent dogs!!
I always thought Baloo was intelligent, but he doesn’t get the shell game!
I keep trying, but he’s totally overwhelmed. If your pup is a really intelligent little one, then you’ll have lots of fun playing the shell game, though.
This pupper understood it much faster:
9. Teach him some new obedience
Indoors is the perfect environment to practice some new obedience. There isn’t much to get distracted, so all the doggo focus can be on you.
If your dog is still a puppy, then it’s worth to start working on some indoor manners as well:
10. Give your dog a massage
I love this one!
Baloo is a very excitable dog and there’s nothing that relaxes him more than a soft massage!
I can literally massage him to sleep! And all you have to do are small and soft circular movements on his shoulders and back.
Baloo relaxing in my hand is the cutest thing you can imagine!
You can also do a full body massage to relieve pain.
11. Try Dog Dance
Dog Dance is the perfect sport if you don’t have a lot of space.
Unlike Agility, Flyball and so on, you can easily do it inside your living room.
12. Make your own dog toy
If you’re a creative person, there are tons of ways to create your own dog toys. Grab some cardboard, paper, pet bottles, old shirts and some scissors and set your creativity free!
Here are a few ideas to get you inspired.
13. Schedule a play date with his furiends
Are there other dogs in your neighborhood that your dog is furiends with? Then schedule a play date for them and let them get exhausted from all the fun they’re having.
14. Fill and freeze a kong
A frozen kong toy filled with peanut butter is a real yummer for your pup. It will take him about 15 minutes of intensive licking to empty it. I also like to use this for uncomfortable situations, such as crate training or riding in the car.
15. Groom your dog
Grooming your dog is a great way to bond with him. It’s a nice, calm couch-activity after some rough playing or a long walk.
16. Play “which hand”
Similar to shell game, this gets your dog’s brain cells working. Or, if he’s really smart, he’ll sniff the right hand.
17. Teach him useful tricks
Why not get your dog a job and letting him help doing chores?
Not only is it super cute when dogs help doing household stuff, they also love to feel needed.
The most useful tricks are: clean up your toys; hold the water hose and bring me something.
18. Throw treats for him to catch
Catch it if you can!
Baloo can’t catch and it’s hilarious. Here’s proof:
But if your dog can catch is a fun way to practice speed and precision.
19. Master clicker training
Clicker training is the most efficient way to teach your dog new tricks or commands.
Before you use it outside, you should master it inside. Once your dog is a master of clicker training it’s much easier to use it outside.
20. Let him work for his food
There are so many fun ways to let your dog work for his food. This is especially useful for dogs who just gobble their food down, which is clearly not very healthy.
Here’s an example:
21. Snuggle on the couch
Is there a better way to end an active day than to snuggle with your pup on the couch? I don’t think so!
In case your dog gets a little too excited with those games, then check out this article about the question “how to calm an over excited dog quickly”, next.
Even if you can’t go outside, there are so many fun things to do with your dog at home!
I hope this list inspired you to try entertain your dog inside next time the weather is bad or for have to stay inside for some other reason.
Struggling with your puppy's hyper behavior? I offer private 1:1 online coaching to help you with your puppy's behavioral problems (biting, crate training struggles, crying, barking, separation anxiety, daily schedule etc.). Schedule a free 15-minute video Zoom call to get started!
Please note that I'm not a professional dog trainer. Everything I know is from my own experience with my hyper Mini Poodle Baloo and hundreds of hours of research.