- There is no shortage of dog sports that can be practiced outside year-round, even in cold, dark, or wet conditions! But, as a human, you may not want to partake. For all the fair-weather
kerry owners out there, here are some ideas for keeping your pups thinking and staying occupied even if it’s not a day for the great outdoors.
Hit Up an Indoor Dog Park
If there's a day that's too blustery or cold for a trip to your neighborhood outdoor dog park, hop online and search for an indoor dog park — you may find one nearby! If you can't find an indoor dog park close to you, consider treating your pup to a social afternoon at daycare or signing up for a training course.
Nose work can provide great physical and mental stimulation for dogs who love to sniff. Using his keen sense of smell — at least 10,000 times greater than our own — a dog must find a specific odor – something not normally found in the home, such as birch oil, clove oil, or anise -- previously hidden in a container, room, or on a person, and alert his handler to the find. To indicate, “I’ve found it and here it is,” the dog may sit, paw at the area, look at the handler or offer some other signal.
This reliance on teamwork helps owners and dogs improve their communication skills, strengthening the bond between them. Shy or fearful dogs may quickly develop confidence. Dogs of any age and ability can play, at home for fun or in nose work classes. A number of breeds and mixes compete and earn titles, including toy breeds. Senior dogs show they’ve still got game, even if they move a little more slowly or deliberately. And when the weather breaks, you can transition your dog’s new skills to the yard, take advantage of the perfect opportunity to get your dog to step up her game, as wind, rain or snow can all affect scent flow and make the activity more challenging.
“The Canine Kingdom of Scent: Fun Activities Using your Dog’s Natural Instincts,” by Ann Lill Kam/A Dogwise Training Manual
Make an Indoor Agility Course
You can set up chairs, broomsticks, blankets, hula hoops and tons of other items found in your house to make the course, and then use hand-targeting or treats to lead your dog through the obstacles. It's fun, physically active and, best of all during Day Two of a major winter storm, it’s warm and dry – and free! Just remember, it's best to do this on a carpeted surface instead of hardwood, which can be slippery. And make sure the obstacles are stable and can't be knocked over or otherwise injure your pet.
Very important: Make sure the blanket is attached to the chair so that it cannot slip off while your dog is walking through it. Such an accident could totally spoil your dog’s fun.
This is how it works:
- Your dog waits on one side of the tunnel. If he hasn’t learned to wait yet, ask someone to stay with him and gently hold him if necessary.
- Go to the other end of the tunnel, pick up the end of the blanket and catch your dog’s eye. Call him, and reward him when he comes to you.
- Do this a few more times; each time, lower the blanket gradually so that your dog gets used to the feeling of pushing himself through to the exit.
- Keep the degree of difficulty low in the beginning, with the tunnel overhang rather short so that your dog isn’t in the dark too long.
Challenges on the Ground
You have probably already observed that your dog avoids grates or doesn’t like rustling plastic covers. So why not try a little test in a familiar environment? Integrate these into your course:Let your dog investigate the unknown surfaces step-by-step on his own. Every little test of courage passed—even if it is only placing one paw on the different surfaces in the beginning—is worth a reward and gives your dog a little bit of self-confidence that carries into his everyday life.
- Doormats made of different fibers.
- Newspaper (unfolded or rumpled and placed into a shallow cardboard box).
- Aluminum foil.
- An air mattress with only a little air in it (provided that your dog doesn’t have long or sharp nails).
Living Room Obstacles Depending on the size of the space and the dog, as well as the flooring, you can include jumps in your living room agility. Appropriately low jumping elements can be built out of different items:
This is how your dog learns to jump:
- Make it easy for him in the beginning. Arrange your obstacle so that, ideally, your dog can’t pass beside or underneath it. Use doorframes or chairs as lateral restrictions.
- Encourage your dog to jump over the hurdle with the aid of some treats. You can jump with him in the beginning. Or you step over the hurdle first, and then lure your dog over to the other side.
- When your dog understands the game and has tried different obstacles, insert a verbal cue (for instance, the word “jump”) and send your dog over the hurdle with it.
Need some examples?