Severe weather events, poor air quality, temperature extremes and other unforeseen situations can keep you and your dog cooped up indoors. But you both still need physical and mental activities to stay healthy and avoid weight gain — and to keep from going stir crazy. That means you’ll have to get creative.
When you and your dog are stuck indoors, there are steps you can take to keep your dog active and any potential extra weight at bay. Read on to learn more.
Avoid overfeeding and over-treating
Maintaining a healthy or consistent weight is a balancing act of calories in and calories out — in other words, food and activity. The single greatest tool you can use to help your canine companion avoid weight gain is a measuring cup or kitchen scale. By carefully measuring the amount of food fed, you’ll know how much your dog is eating and whether you need to make adjustments based on your dog’s body condition.
When it comes to treats, many pet parents aren’t aware how many calories can be packed into a tiny tidbit. Yet rewarding our dogs with a treat or two is an important part of the bond we share with our pets. If your dog isn’t getting as much exercise as usual because the two of you are stuck indoors, consider decreasing the number of treats you give or switch to a lower-calorie option. Remember the rule of thumb: treats should provide no more than 10 percent of a dog’s daily calories.
Go for a “walk”
Regardless of your home’s size, find 15 minutes twice a day (or 10 minutes three times a day) to walk at a decent pace around your house or apartment with your dog. It will get you and your dog moving.
If weather permits and you have a terrace, lanai or backyard, you and your dog can get some fresh air as you purposefully walk around the area. You can up the activity’s intensity by adding intervals of jogging, sprinting or jumping jacks.
Become stair masters
Does your home or apartment building have stairs? Walking your dog up and down the stairs twice a day for about 5 to 10 minutes each time gives you both an excellent cardio workout while engaging different muscles compared to walking on a flat surface. A “staircase workout” also can help burn off some of your dog’s energy. There’s just one caveat. If your dog has joint or balance issues, going up and down stairs isn’t recommended.
Play, play and play some more
When playing and walking outdoors isn’t an option, you need to get creative with indoor play. Some dogs need extra playtime when they’re stuck inside. Consider these ideas to get your dog moving:
- Play indoor fetch. This game works best if you have a long hallway, basement or stairs. It’s also safer on carpeting or other traction-providing surface so your dog doesn’t slide or slip. Be sure to remove fragile or dangerous items from the play area. Then find a soft toy or ball for tossing and chasing — while avoiding broken windows, lamps or other home décor.
You can also stand at either the bottom or top of your home’s staircase and toss a toy for your dog to fetch.
- Play tag with your dog. Like indoor fetch, a game of tag can be played in a hallway or basement (although tag tends to be more fun when played in the yard). Just grab your dog’s favorite soft toy, give it a toss, and race your dog to retrieve it.
- Play indoors tug-of-war. A round of tug-of-war using a chew rope can help release some of your dog’s pent-up energy. You only need a little bit of open space to play tug-of-war indoors. Just be sure to remove any potentially harmful or breakable items from the play area. You’ll also want your dog to understand a release command before playing.
- Play hide and seek. Hide and seek is an easy game that doesn’t require any special equipment. And if you have kids that need activity, you can get them playing along, too. Have your dog sit and stay while you (or the kids) go hide. Then call your dog to find you.
Create an obstacle course
If you’ve ever wondered if your dog might enjoy agility, here’s a chance to find out while also getting your dog active. You can set up an obstacle course in your living room, basement or multiple rooms of your home (or your backyard when you can go outside). You can set up a low hurdle using a broom stick across boxes or laundry baskets, tunnels made from large cardboard boxes (or buy one from a pet retailer) and a slalom course made from plastic cups or training cones set about 3 feet apart. Then it’s a matter of walking, trotting and running your dog through the course. Your dog will enjoy both the physical and mental exercise from the change-up provided by the obstacles.
Practice training, then teach some new tricks
Being stuck inside is a good time to work on training, whether your dog needs practice on basic commands or you want to teach more advanced ones. Even if your dog knows commands well, a training session can still be fun and a great exercise for both mind and body.
If you want to step up your dog’s tricks, work on teaching fun and helpful tricks like how to pick up his or her own toys. Remember, too, dogs can recognize more than 150 words, so try teaching your dog the names of toys, then send your dog to retrieve them.
Set up a treat hunt
Much like a scavenger hunt, a treat hunt allows your dog to do two of his or her favorite things — sniffing and eating. While your dog is out of sight in another room or in a crate, strategically hide some great-smelling treats that your dog loves around the house in places where they can find them. Try hiding treats behind the door, next to furniture, under pillows or in room corners. You can also hide treats among your dog’s toys.
Once you’ve hidden the goodies, let your dog loose to start searching. You may need to guide them initially to areas where treats are hidden and encourage him or her to search. Then again, if you hide fragrant treats, your dog may not need any help locating the goodies.
Provide hands-off mental stimulation
As much as you and your dog enjoy your time together, there will be times when you (or your dog) needs a break. You can keep your canine companion mentally occupied and entertained if you invest in some puzzle toys.
Puzzle toys are interactive toys that usually involve hidden treats in an object. Your dog will need to figure out how the toy works to get the treats, which will require some skill. You’ll just want to make sure the reward is worth the effort!
Avoiding weight gain and even cabin fever can be challenging when you need to stay inside for an extended period of time, regardless of the reason why. But with a little creativity and minor changes to your dog’s activities, you can make it more tolerable — even enjoyable — for both you and your dog.
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