Rainy Day Activities for Dogs

Rain, rain…go away. All our dogs want to play!

Bad weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising your dog’s body and brain. Here are a few great ways to keep your dog from going stir crazy when you’re house-bound.

Days of rain or bitter cold, even unbearable heat usually mean we coop up the dogs with nothing to do. And that got me to thinking: What do we do with our dogs when they don't want to be outside for more than a quick potty?

The first thing we need to understand is that dogs are intelligent creatures, created to fulfill a function. In evolutionary terms, it is only in the last 80 or so years that dogs have been kept as pets, with no real responsibilities. It is no coincidence that the happiest dogs in the world are those who still find employment as service dogs, guiding the blind, herding sheep, in obedience competition, and so forth.

Today, most dogs collect unemployment in the form of free room and board with a great health plan, zero deductible, and as much petting and cooing as they can swallow. It's no wonder they get stir crazy on rainy weekends when they don't even get to move their bodies and use their brains on that short daily walk.

Imagine a healthy, intelligent 8 year old boy or girl cooped up in the house for days on end with no computer, no books, no television, no telephone and no exercise equipment. It's a recipe for disaster. For sure, you'll come home and find a fort built out of your best furniture, or a mosaic made out of pieces of the good china.

Intelligence combined with energy and no outlet equals trouble. No wonder our dogs get harder to live with in bad weather. I recommend you play productive indoor games with your dog to use up some of that brain and body power.

As a child, I remember playing Hide and Go Seek for hours on rainy days. It was a great way for kids to use move their bodies and use their brains. Play Hide and Go Seek with your dog, using food as the object for them to find. Here's how you start.

Begin with a hungry dog. Show her a tasty treat, something high value like a small bit of chicken, and toss it on the floor in front of her. Tell her "find it." That won't be difficult as it's in plain sight. However, toss the next treat around a corner so it lands out of sight. Tell her "find it" again. Slowly work your way up to hiding the treats behind curtains, under furniture, eventually in other rooms. Get her started by pointing in the right direction.

If your dog is well trained, she can be on a sit stay while you're hiding the food. If not, then you may have to close her in another room for a moment. In short order, you can simply point in the general direction of the food, and your dog will use her nose to find the source of that delicious smell.

Although this activity might seem less exhausting that a run in the park, the fact is that your dog will be actively using her strongest sense, the sense of smell. The olfactory center of your dog's brain occupies a tremendous amount of resources. This means that working scent busily for 15 or 20 minutes can be quite tiring.

If you have a treadmill in your home, bad weather days offer the perfect opportunity to teach your dog to use this equipment. Start with a hungry, leashed dog and another bit of chicken. Turn off the treadmill. Simply lure the dog up onto the belt and reward with the treat. Do this multiple times, then quit without ever turning it on.

Several times per day, bring your dog near the treadmill. Be sure you use a flat buckle collar, not a slip collar. Within a couple of days, most dogs will happily hop up on the treadmill waiting for that treat. This is the time to accustom your dog to walking on the machine. Be sure it is level, with no incline. Hold your dog's leash close to the collar, but leave it a little bit slack. Turn the machine on to it's slowest level. Encourage your dog to walk by holding the leash or collar and giving verbal encouragement.

Be prepared to quickly turn off the machine if your dog becomes frightened. Just reward again a few more times while the machine is turned on, making its noise, but with the dog held several feet away on leash.

In short order your dog will hop up on the treadmill and be ready to go for his rainy day walk. Be aware that some dogs are more comfortable at the walk, while others work better at a trot. Play with the speeds very slowly so you don't frighten your dog.

Most important of all, never tie your dog onto the machine. You must be there, holding the leash or collar, ready to hit the treadmill's emergency stop button in case something goes wrong.

Rainy weekend? Pull out those rainy day games and let your dog exercise her body and her brain!




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