As we head into the winter months, we all know that keeping our dogs occupied inside the house can become a challenge. And trying to come up with new ideas on how to keep your dog busy can be more exhausting than actually getting up and doing it. Bored dogs get into trouble.

We, humans, are their primary source of entertainment, so if we’re not giving them things to do they’ll come up with activities of their own — and that’s when we end up with chewed up shoes and furniture. By playing with your dog a few times each day, you can decrease the likelihood of them developing destructive habits such as excessive barking or chewing. To help you through these difficult times we have put together a list of some fun activities that you can easily do with your dogs, while we are all stuck inside this Winter.

Play Find the Treats With Your Dog

Nose work games are one of the easiest ways to tire out your dog. You are both mentally tiring them out and helping them hone in on some of their natural skills. Grab some treats and have your dog watch as you place them around the room. Encourage your dog to pick them up, remembering to praise them every time they find one. You can make it a bit more challenging once they have gotten the hang of it. Have them stay in another room as you hide the treats and start hiding them in spots they have to sniff out, such as under a throw rug or behind a chair they can actually get behind.

Play the Shell Game with Your Dog

This is a simple problem-solving game for dogs. To play the shell game with your dog let your dog watch as you place a treat under one of three cups. You then shuffle the cups around and encourage them to ‘find the treat.’ This game will help them work on their problem-solving skills.

Teach Your Dog to Clean Up His Toys

If your dog’s toys are kept in a container, you can teach them to put their toys away. Teaching your dog new skills boosts their confidence, and it’s a great way to give them more mental stimulation. It also saves you from having to put them away. I know I am continually picking up dog toys that have been strewn throughout the house. If your dog already knows “drop it” have them pick up a toy and give them their drop it commands once they’re standing over the container. Give them lots of praise and eventually, with consistency you’ll have a dog that will be able to clean up after himself.

Use a Stuffed Kong to Keep Your Dog Busy

Stuffed Kongs are great when it comes to relieving dog boredom because they’re easy to prepare and will keep your dog occupied for an extended amount of time. There are endless things you can stuff the Kong with that are healthy for your dog. The gold standard in Kongs it to stuff it with xylitol-free peanut butter. You could freeze plain yogurt, pack it with shredded carrots (great for avoiding those sneaky winter pounds), if they are a kibble dog, consider feeding their meal in a Kong, so you don’t double up on calories with treats, simply give your dog something to work for. If your dog is bored while you’re at work, put a stuffed Kong in the freezer overnight and give it to your dog in the morning as you’re leaving. A frozen Kong will last 30+ minutes for most dogs — much longer if you fill it completely.

Lastly, with Kongs, remember you can toss them in the dishwasher on the upper rack. If you don’t have a dishwasher, don’t skip the soap and water! Be sure always to stuff a clean Kong so that your dog is not exposed to bacteria that could result in digestive upset and ultimately a trip to the vet.

Play a Game of Tug of War With Your Dog

Playing a game of tug of war is one of the best ways to engage in meaningful play with our dogs. It’s a great way to mentally and physically exercise your dog. Letting your dog win makes the game more fun for your dog, and it will encourage them to play more. Dogs who play tug with their owners have been found to be more obedient and have higher confidence levels.

Teach Your Dog to Help With Chores

Dogs love having a job to do, even if it’s something as simple as fetching you your slippers. You can make them feel even more useful by teaching them the names of some items you wouldn’t mind having retrieved. If you really want to impress all of your friends, teach your dog to fetch you something from the fridge. When training your dog to open the fridge tie a towel around the handle, so it’s easy for them to pull open the door. This will take time and work from each of you, but any “work in progress” will help relieve boredom for both human and canine winter blues.

Play Hide and Seek with Your Dog

Playing a game of hide and seek is always a favorite. This game is also an excellent way to practice your dog’s “stay” command. If your dog doesn’t have a good “stay command” you can always ask a friend to help by having them distract your dog as you go and hide. As they become better at staying while you hide, you will no longer need the extra help.

Master the Basics of Obedience Training

Does your dog know all the basic obedience commands? Does he have a reliable recall and stay? Even well-trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. All dogs should have a reliable sit, down, stay, drop it, and come here, and it can never hurt to brush up on these skills.

Play a Game of Fetch with Your Dog

Most of us do have some room inside for a simple game of fetch; hallways, stairways, and big living rooms are popular choices. Of course, this will be the most popular game of choice if you happen to have a fetch-a-holic on your hands. Be careful with large toys around anything that’s fragile or able to be tipped over, and it’s probably not a good idea to play fetch inside the kitchen. If you don’t like the idea of playing fetch indoors, you could turn it into a simple game of catch.

Give Your Dog Regular Grooming Sessions

Although your dog won’t find a grooming session as exciting as a game of tug, regular grooming is good hygiene and helps you to identify any rashes, cut or abrasions that may need attention but go unnoticed until they require a vet visit. Our dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their teeth cleaned, and have their nails trimmed when they start to get long. Some dogs tolerate grooming better than others, and the more you practice using positive rewards, the easier it will become.

Don’t be afraid to hand out lots of treats during a grooming session. You want to ensure your dog will associate grooming habits with a positive experience. While you can keep your dog fresh with one of the many water-less bath products on the market, if your dog needs soap and water during the winter months, consider a spa day at the groomer.

Create Your Own Indoor Obstacle Course

Have your dog jump over some towels, weave through his toys, and then lay down on a blanket. Use your imagination and come up with a set of obstacles for your dog to follow. Once you have mastered the first obstacle, move on to the second one. Building on prior tricks will keep your dog mentally stimulated and encourages focus.

Make a Doggie Play Date

Does your dog have some nice dog friends? Invite them over for some play time. Your dog will love being able to engage and play with another dog. And the upside for you is that you’ll have one tired dog at the end of the day.

Snuggle Up & Relax with Your Dog

After a friendly training session or game, there’s nothing better than a little bit of relaxation. We all know that this will by far be your dog’s favorite option on the list. Who doesn’t love a good session of puppy snuggles?

Contributed article by Farin Lewis