If there are days when the weather's so bad that neither you nor your dog fancy braving the outdoors, you might be left feeling a little guilty that your best friend isn't going to get his/her daily dose of exercise. At times like this, you definitely need to get creative and look at ways to make use of the space in your house or apartment. Even if your accommodation leans towards the small side, with a little imagination, you can put something together that involves plenty of movement for your dog - and stimulation, of course, because that's what the park also provides and what your dog absolutely needs.
1. Use the Stairs
Start by standing at the bottom of the stairs and throwing things up and then switch it round so you're at the top throwing things down. Balls aren't necessarily the best thing in a small space but a favourite soft toy is good. Be sure that your dog is fit enough to take on this kind of exercise (consult with your vet, if necessary) and make safety a priority, e.g. don't throw downwards if there's a front door or other obstacle (hall table etc.) right at the bottom of the stairs and don't use stairs at all if they're varnished and slippy.
A good game of tug with a rubber ring, tug rope, tug toy etc. provides both exercise and stimulation for your dog. Let him/her 'win' by letting go every now and then and initiating a game of chase around the house if that's something your dog enjoys.
3. Obstacle courses
It's easier to set something like this up than you might imagine. Make use of blankets, cushions and pillows to form tunnels, place a broom handle over 2 low chairs to create a bar for jumping over. Take cardboard boxes and cut dog-sized holes in them. The stairs can also be incorporated into your doggy obstacle course. Alternatively, you could buy some purpose-made obstacles like the following:
4. Get a treadmill
Strange as this idea might sound, many dogs can be taught to use a treadmill. Safety should be prioritised with speed settings kept extremely slow in the early stages of learning. There are a number of good videos on YouTube detailing approaches to this form of indoor exercise. See below for one of our favourites.
5. Interactive Food Puzzles
Familiar to many dog owners, Kongs are the most common example of interactive food puzzles. Filled with your dog's favourite treats, they can provide him/her with essential mental stimulation to help alleviate boredom that may result from long periods indoors. For some good examples of other products offering similar mental engagement, have a look at:
6. Hide Treats Around the House
Set about hiding some strong smelling doggy treats in a variety of locations around your home and you'll help him/her satisfy a number of natural instincts. Think about places that are within reasonably easy reach but will encourage some investigation before discovery. There will be exercise involved in the dog's moving from room to room and you'll be ticking lots of boxes as they use their nose to sniff out each treat's location.
Try to make any indoor activity involve a combination of both mental and physical exercise, that way you'll know that some of your dog's primary needs for stimulation are being met. Dog forums are good places for exchanging ideas on this topic. Remember also that just because you're not a fan of bad weather, doesn't necessarily mean that your dog isn't. Breeds that are naturally drawn to water such as Springer Spaniels, Retrievers etc, will rarely be phased by even the hardest of downpours. You might consider employing the services of a professional dog walker if that's your situation.
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