Updated 01/09/2024 – Being stuck in the house all day is no fun for you or your dog. Too many days stuck inside without adequate exercise can cause your dog to become stressed. In turn that stress can cause bad behaviors; like barking or destroying your belongings.
One of the best ways to provide your pup with physical and mental exercise is to go on daily walks. But sometimes we just cannot get outside.
All is not lost. You can still give your dog plenty of exercise with games and activities you can do inside your home. Join us as we show you 15 boredom busters for dogs.
How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?
The amount of exercise your pup needs dependents on their age, health and energy level. Some experts say that breed affects a dog’s energy level. To a certain extent this is true, but within the same breed you can find dogs with more or less energy. In the end no two dogs are alike and you need to decide what your dog’s energy level is. Our English Springer Spaniel had a very high energy level. She could chase a ball for an hour with few rest periods in between. Our Rat doodle, with her short legs, can become tired after just a few times of chasing the ball in the house.
So how do you determine the correct amount of exercise for your dog? Pay attention to your dog. Your dog will let your know when they have had enough. For example, let’s say you are playing a game of fetch, when your dog starts to become tired they will start taking breaks. Our Rat doodle goes to the couch with her ball when she has had enough play time. This might be harder to see if you are out on a walk. But I have noticed that our dogs will start to slow down as they get tired.
Just keep in mind that one play session or walk is probably not enough daily exercise for your pup. Most dogs will benefit from a combination of walks and play sessions with you throughout the day.
There are signs that your pup is not getting enough exercise. These include weight gain, destructive behaviors, hyperactivity, and barking or whining. For more signs of boredom in your dog, PetMD has a great article titled: 6 Signs Your Dog Isn’t Getting Enough Exercise.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Bored?
You can tell when a dog is bored by the trouble they get into. It’s not that they want to get into trouble, it’s just that the things they find entertaining are not entertaining to you. These activities include:
- Destructive Chewing
- Exploring off limit areas, like the garbage
- Excessive licking or chewing their paws or other areas of their body
- Running around the house
- Jumping on you
- Biting or pulling on you
- Excessive sleeping
- Stealing personal items
When our Golden Retriever rescue wanted attention he would steal something of ours. It was generally a piece of clothing. He would then taunt us with the item until we reacted. At which point he would run away. If we didn’t follow he would parade past us to make sure we knew what he had. Thankfully he never destroyed any of the things he stole. He just wanted to play a game of chase. To keep your dog from stealing your clothes check out these boredom busters for dogs.
15 Boredom Busters for Dogs
Teach Your Dog a New Trick
The first idea on our list of boredom busters for dogs is teaching your dog a new trick. Dogs were originally domesticated to work side by side with humans. But these days most dogs are family pets, so teaching them a new trick is a great way to reinforce your relationship. To get started here are a few tips:
- Break the trick into small steps
- Generously reward your dog with a high value treat each time they do something right or close to right
- Don’t reprimand them when they don’t do it correctly
- Make sure to reward your dog right away
- Be consistent with training
Before you can start teaching your dog new tricks, it is important that they know the basic commands such as sit, down, stay, come and release.
There are plenty of books and videos available on how to train your dogs to do basic commands and advanced tricks.
The one I used is the 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance and her pup Chalcy. It starts out with step by step instructions for the four basic commands; sit, down, stay and come. Then it moves on to harder tricks. The best part is this book is available at most libraries. Check out your library’s eBook select to see if you can check out it out today. You can also find 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance at Amazon.com
Create an Indoor Agility Obstacle Course
The second idea on our list of our boredom busters for dogs is agility training. Agility training can be a lot of fun for you and your dog. It not only provides physical and mental exercise for your dog, but it is another great way to for you to bond. However you need to be careful when setting up your agility course to ensure you don’t hurt your pup. Remember only you know what your pup is capable of doing. Watch what they do naturally and build a course based on that.
Note: At home agility training for young dogs and puppies should not include jumps. Jumping can cause injury to young dogs and puppies. Please speak to your veterinarian to determine when your dog will be ready to attempt the jumps.
There are a variety of obstacles in an agility course. Not everything was easy to recreate. We were able to recreate the weaving course, a low jump and a tunnel obstacle from things we had around the house.
This is an easy obstacle to recreate using a children’s tunnel. If you have kids there is a chance you already have one lying around. If you look at the picture to the right you will see we placed two yoga mats on each side of the tunnel. We did this to stop the tunnel from rolling while our dog is trying to get inside. Many dogs will be frightened by the movement and will not attempt to enter the tunnel
If your pup is not willing to go through the tunnel you can lure them inside by placing treats in the tunnel. Leave a trail of treats inside the tunnel for them to follow. Give your dog plenty of time to warm up to the idea of entering the tunnel.
For the jump obstacle we used a yoga mat and two chairs. Since we didn’t want to take a chance of hurting our pup we kept the jump low. If you need a higher jump you can raise the yoga mat with some books. Remember to start the jumps low. If it is too easy you can raise it a little, but be mindful that you don’t raise it too much. Dog are prone to injury when jumping. All it takes is landing wrong to get hurt.
To teach this trick have your dog, sit on the opposite side of the yoga mat from you. With a treat in your hand call your dog to you. Hopefully they will jump over the mat to get the treat. However, some dogs may simply go around the mat to get to you. That is what our pup did the first time we tried. To teach your dog to jump over the mat instead of going around it place the mat between two objects that block any other way to get to the treat. Here we used our kid’s small soft chairs. Now your dog will have no other choice but to hop over the mat to get to you.
The last obstacle we created in our course was the weaving poles. Here we used our yoga mats standing on their end and one roller. You can also use wrapped paper towel rolls as the poles.
This trick is a little harder to teach your pup. If you have ever watched a dog agility contest you might have noticed that some trainers use a stick to guide the dog through the obstacles. This is called a lure stick.
To teach the weaving obstacle we created our own lure stick using a chopstick and a treat stuck on the end. When Bella completed the trick we would give her a different treat so that the stick stayed together.
Use this stick to guide your puppy around the mats. Most dogs will follow the treat around the poles. Before you start guiding them through the poles give them a command like weave. That way they will associate the command with an action. Each time they complete one round of weaving give them a treat. Soon they will learn that weaving in and out of the poles on command earns them a treat.
Give Them An Interactive Toy
Next on our list of boredom busters for dogs are interactive toys. These can be toys that you play with your dog or challenging dog toys that can keep your dog entertained on their own.
Pole and Bait toys
A pole and bait toy is a fun interactive dog toy that can be used in a confined space. It is basically a large version of a cat toy. The idea is you control the bait by swinging around the pole as your pup tries to catch the bait.
There are a few versions of this toy. In our post Pole and Bait Toys: Why You Should Get One we review the two top selling pole and chase toys including the one we have.
Large Hard Ball
The first time I saw these extra-large balls was in a training video. The video had nothing to do with the ball, except that the trainer gave the extra-large ball to their dog at the end of the training as a reward. You could tell it was the dog’s favorite toy.
The largest one I could find is the Jolly Pets Push and Play Dog ball. It comes in two large sizes 10″ and 14 “. It is available at Amazon.com
The Snuffle Mat has become a very popular canine enrichment tool for many people. Most snuffle mats consists of long strips of fabric tied to a rubber mat. Treats are then hidden under the strips of fabric. Dogs need to use their sense of smell to sniff out where the treats are hidden.
You can purchase a snuffle mat or create your own using a rubber dish mat and strips of fleece. The Honest Kitchen has easy to understand instructions. Just make sure to supervise your dog when using a snuffle mat. Heavy chewers will be able to tear the material off the mat.
Paper Egg Carton Puzzle
This is a simple and inexpensive food puzzle for your dog. Simply place pieces of dog treats in a clean paper egg carton. Make sure to close the carton then watch as they try to figure out how to get the treats out. Make sure to supervise your dog while they have the egg carton to ensure they do not ingest the paper.
Stuffed Treat Ball
The Hol-ee Roller Ball is a round ball with holes that allow you to stuff treats into it. You can use large treats like shown here or wrap smaller treats in cloth. By wrapping the treats in a cloth you can create a food puzzle for your dog. If you get the larger size Hol-ee Roller ball you can also stuff a ball in it.
The Hol-ee Roller ball is made out of soft flexible rubber which allows a dog to bend and stretch it to get the treats out. It is not indestructible and should not be given to your dog without supervision. Our pup liked to play tug a war with ours and ripped the thin rubber strip so we had to take it away.
Play a Game with your Dog
Another one of our boredom busters for dogs ideas is playing games with them. Playing a game with your dog not only gives you both some exercise but it can also help you bond with your dog. Here are a few games you can play inside with your dog.
Indoor Game of Fetch
Just because you don’t have a lot of space inside doesn’t mean you can’t play a game of fetch. Just use a soft ball and don’t throw it as hard. Also instead of throwing the ball you can roll it. When we lived in a ranch style home we had a long straight path that went from one end of the house all the way to the other end. We used that as our fetch area for our puppy Molly. Every night we would play fetch inside with her before bedtime.
Make sure to clear away anything that might get broken, like picture frames on the wall. The only downside to playing fetch in our hallway was that we ended up with round dirt marks on our walls. But that could be easily cleaned.
Monkey in the Middle
Don’t have enough space to play a game of fetch, try playing monkey in the middle with your dog as the monkey. If you have never played this game, it is a simple game where two people throw a ball back and forth. The object of the game is that the middle person needs to try to steal the ball as it is throw past him. To play the game with your dog, sit or kneel on the ground and throw the ball over your dog’s head to the other person. Your dog will run back and forth trying to catch the ball. Just make sure your dog is able to steal the ball from time to time otherwise they may lose interest in the game or get frustrated.
The Cup Game
This is the canine version of the shell game. To play you will need three large cups and a treat. Show the treat to your pup then place it under a cup. Move the cups around on the floor. When you stop give your dog the “go find” command. If they don’t know that command simply give them the command and then show them were the treat is. After a couple of rounds they will quickly understand what they are supposed to do.
I am not sure why dogs love playing tug-a-war so much but they do. Tug-a-war ropes can be made out of rope or fleece. You can also make your own out of fleece by braiding fleece material. We use the Made in the USA, Knots for Fun; Tug Toy for dogs. I prefer the soft fleece used in this toy over the rope tug toys. This is due to my dog’s gums becoming irritated with the stiffer rope toys. So far the Knots for Fun tug robe has held up well with our pup. But it is not indestructible and you should not allow your dog to chew on it unsupervised.
Send Them On A Hunt
Another one of the boredom busters for dogs are hide and seek games. Dogs love to use their noses to find an object. There are many different types of hunting games. Here are a few options:
Play Hide and Seek with Treats
This is a simple game to teach your dog. However in order to play this game you need to teach your dog to sit and stay even when they cannot see you.
To play this game you will need a small high value treat to hide in several places. We generally use a large sized treat that we break into smaller pieces. Just make sure you don’t give your dog too many treats. The treat needs to be high value so your dog will want to search for it.
Once you have your treats handy give your dog the sit and stay command. Then hide the treats in the area you want your dog to search. Do not place them in an area where your dog can potentially do harm. Then go back to your dog and show him a treat you did not hide. Now tell him to “go find”. At first your dog will not actually know what you are asking him to do. You will need to go around with him showing him where the hidden pieces are. After a few times, your pup should learn the command.
To start place the treats where they can be easily found. As your dog begins to understand the game you can hide them better.
Play Hide and Seek with Toys
Once they get the hang of the hide and seek you hide their toys instead. This version might be a little harder to teach. They must first be attached to their toys and know what they are called. Always remember to give them a treat when they find the toy.