Emmett plays with a DIY dog toy

Boredom Busters: 5 ways to exercise your dog indoorsBoredom Busters: 5 ways to exercise your dog indoors

In 2010, we faced an icy winter. Our backyard was a slick sheet, and the sidewalks were a slippery, salty mess. The dogs were going bonkers, so I put together this list of 10 ways to tire out your dogs indoors.

After a few years of working through that list each winter, we landed in Louisiana and faced the opposite problem: It was far too hot to play outside safely. We had worked through that initial list, so I brainstormed 10 (more) ways to tire out your dog indoors.

By the way, in case you don’t want to click through all those posts, I’m compiling the full list of 25 Boredom Busters into a handy PDF checklist that will go out with the January newsletter! If you’re not on the list, subscribe here so you don’t miss out!

Now, we’re back in Indiana and back in winter. While this has been a mild winter, we’ve had a couple health setbacks that have shortened Lucas’ and Cooper’s walks. They still need exercise – physical AND mental – so I’m back to brainstorming some Boredom Busters for the boys. Here’s my newest list: 5 ways to exercise your dog indoors!

Boredom Busters 5 ways to exercise your dog indoors

  1. DIY games: I love food puzzles and games. But once they’ve played the same ones a few times, they have it totally figured out, and the challenge is gone. I realized that the puzzles we had in rotation were being solved way too fast to truly keep them busy. I DIYed a few variations to mix it up a bit. First up was this Restuffable, Easy DIY Dog Toy from Kol’s Notes. Piece of cake to make (some basic sewing skills required), and you can mix up what you stuff on the inside. I also made a little “find it” game out of two Solo cups. I cut a slit in the bottom of the cup and inverted it over a piece of food. The boys had to target the cup with their nose to earn the food. To increase the difficulty, cut slits in multiple cups and have them select the only one you put food under – a variation on the shell game!
    Emmett plays with a DIY dog toy
  2. Take a drive: Now, I’d rather your dog be safe than bored, so this one is totally weather-dependent. If the streets are plowed, though, getting out of the house can be fun! Plan errands like driving through the bank because, obviously, you don’t want to leave your dog in the car, or just hit Starbucks – be sure to order your dog a Puppy Latte! Note: When John does this with the boys, he always warms up the car before they hit the road. I, on the other hand, am apparently cruel and never think to do so!
  3. Tag! This is Lucas’ favorite game in the house. We play it a couple different ways, but the important thing is to figure out what you can do to cue your dog to PLAY. (This article is an interesting exploration of that question.) For Lucas, he gets very wound up if we pretend like we’re coming in for a hug. I need to get video of this or something because it’s really different from an actual hug – like an over-exaggerated “I’m gonna get you!” He leaps in the air and spins around, at which point I take off in the opposite direction. He chases me around until he catches me, then I do the “coming in for a hug” again, and off we go for another round! With Emmett, the only thing that gets him going is if he sees you actively try to hide, like if he’s watching me and I duck behind the couch. He goes, “Uh oh! Better go get my lady!” at which point I take off the opposite way.
  4. Rotate toys: For a very long time, all our dog toys lived in a basket in the living room. The boys would dip in and out, choosing what they felt like playing with – but, over time, it turned into the same favorites got the most attention. So, I picked up about half the toys, stuck them in the pantry, and waited. When they seemed disinterested in playing with toys, I switched out three at a time (one for each boy, attempting to be fair… even though they only want the toy the other ones have). It revitalized several long-abandoned toys, and when I open the toy drawer, they get really excited to see what I’m going to bring out.
  5. Strike a pose: Start an Instagram account for your dog… and teach poses! I thought of this one because we needed some new tricks. We’ve been working on many tricks for many years, so I wanted to mix it up and come up with tricks that would photo well, just for fun, and Instagram is the perfect platform for those performances! Cooper is learning “Eskimo kisses” and I want the big boys to master a “pout” by putting their chins on their paws.


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