food enrichment

How to entertain a bored dog inside

Sometimes when the weather is just to bad to get outside with your dog you need to find activities and ways to exercise your dog indoors. A bored dog or one with tooindoor dog much pent-up energy will find their own way to get a release of that energy or entertain themselves.

Often this results in destructive or nuisance behavior such as chewing or barking. Here are a few ways to entertain your dog when it is raining cats and dogs outside.

Mental enrichment and Mind Stimulation

Mental stimulation is just as important for your dog as physical exercise. Fifteen minutes of mental enrichment can be the equivalent of an hour of physical activity.
To learn more about this read “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation for dogs”

Play nose games with your dog

Scenting and nose games are an excellent way to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your dog. Some ideas for nose games include

Game 1: Which hand

A very simple game to start with is to place a treat in one hand with a closed fist so your dog can’t see the treat and have them select which hand it is in. If they choose the wrong hand, show them the treat but don’t give it to them. For a more advanced version of this, get three or four cups or containers turned upside down. Hide a treat under one of the cups and have them find which cup the treat is under.

Game 2: Find the treat

Using up to ten cardboard boxes you can hide the treat or toy in one of the boxes and have your dog indicate which box it is in. The first few times you can leave the boxes open to make it a little easier. Start by putting your dog in another room so they don’t see which box you hide the treat in. If you have more than one dog, it is best to play the game with one dog at a time.

To take this game to a new level you can teach your dog to find a particular scent similar to how drug dogs are taught. With a ball or toy, put a scent of the item such as an essential oil or similar and get your dog interested in the item. The hide the item in one of the boxes as before and have them find it.

As you repeat this game, use the same box to put the item in to avoid cross contamination but simply move the box. As your dog gets good at locating the scent, you can put the scent on a piece of paper and place in the box to test if they are able to locate that particular scent.

Game 3: Hide treats around the house.

Put your dog outside and hide treats around the house in places they can access. Try placing them at different levels so your dog is using both ground scent and air scent skills such as some on the floor and some on the arm of a chair or somewhere reachable but above their head height. let your dog in and allow them to find the treats.

Most dogs will keep going until they find all of the treats and know when there is no more. If they stop looking encourage them to find the treat until all are found and tell them no more when they have found them all. Another way to play this game is to hide the treats in the open but with the lights out.

For more nose games read “12 Scenting and tracking nose games for dogs”

Automatic Ball Launcher

Ball Launchers are a battery or power operated machine that shoots balls across the yard or the house (generally 10-30 feet) so that your dog can chase and fetch them. They can be used indoors or outside.

Your dog can be trained to return the balls to the funnel-shaped opening in the machine and enjoy hours of entertainment fetching balls without any involvement from you at all. Read “Automatic ball launchers for dogs” to learn more.

Puzzle toys

Puzzle toys are another excellent way to provide mental enrichment and stimulationtoy enrichment for your dog. A game I like to play with my dog using puzzle toys to have three or four different types of puzzle toy and hide them around the house. The first time you do this let your dog see where you are hiding the toys. See “Top 7 puzzle toys for dogs” and “How to use a Kong for dogs

Learning opportunities

Teach your dog some new commands or tricks or brush up on obedience commands. Even well-trained dogs need a refresher on some of the commands. Alternatively, you can play some learning games with them.

A great learning game for your dog is to teach them the names of their toys. Begin by playing with them with one specific toy and repeat the toy’s name as you do. Give praise and reward and your dog will associate that name with the toy.

Once they have accomplished this, put that toy with their other toys and see if they can bring you that particular toy. Repeat the process until they know the names of a few of their toys.The next step is to put the toys in a pile or container and tell them to fetch a particular toy. Once they are really good at this game you can really test them by asking for a toy that doesn’t exist and watch how they react.

Provide toys and play for your dog

Dogs can entertain themselves for a long time with toys either by themselves or by having a game with you. Playing with toys is a great way to burn energy for your dog.  See dog toys on Amazon

Give them a new toy as to your dog this is like meeting a new friend. Games you can play with your dog include;

Self Moving dog toys –  dog toys that move on their own are a great way to engage and stimulate your dog. Check out the reviews of my top picks

Self Playing dog toys – for times that you are too busy to entertain your dog there are many fun self-playing dog toys available. See here to learn more

Fetch – throw a ball or toy a dozen or so times when you have a spare minute. To increase the intensity throw down hill or stairs

Tug of War – play a game of Tug of War with your dog. Make them crouch and pull back using extra energy

Flirt Polea flirt pole is like a big cat tickler with a stick, rope and a lure or toy attached to the end. Move the lure around in circles or in all directions along the ground and your dog will chase it. Works with the dog’s natural prey instinct so will provide plenty of mental stimulation too. You will need a bit of space to use a flirt pole inside to avoid things getting broken.

Bubbles – chasing bubbles is a game many dogs love. You can even get bacon scented and other flavored bubble mixes, especially for dogs.

Other toys – provide lots of toys especially chew toys. Dogs can hold a lot of stress if their jaws and chewing helps release this stress and is very calming for a dog. For more on dog toys read “Secrets to maximize the benefit of your dog’s toys

Hide and Seek – play hide and seek with your dog. Your dog will need a good “stay” while you go and hide, or you may need someone else to help with this.

Play with other dogs – if you know someone else with a dog that may be bored cooped up inside, invite them over for a playdate.

Chew Toys – Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs and has many benefits including keeping them busy and occupying and stimulating their minds. To learn more about the benefits of and the best chew toys see here.

Find indoor exercise opportunities

Find ways that you can exercise your dog indoors and burn some of that pent-up energy. Exercise ideas for inside may include;

Walk on a treadmill

Walking on a treadmill is not going to be a substitute for going for a walk, but a least it will provide some release of physical energy. Once your dog is trained to walk on the treadmill you can fit in any other small tasks you have to do while they walk. Obviously, you will need to stay nearby and supervise for the safety.

Use the stairs

If you have stairs inside your house you can have your dog run up and down the stairs or even play a game of fetch down the stairs. Be sure to keep this a controlled activity to avoid injury. Stairs are a great way to build muscle and core strength for your dog.

For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.

Obstacle course

Make an inside obstacle course either with furniture or items around the house or use agility type obstacles such as tunnels and jumps. If you don’t want to build a full obstacle course you can play Under and Over. Have your dog go under an obstacle the first time and them to jump over the second. This burns energy fast.


Even if the weather is crappy there is no need for your dog to be bored or miss out on getting some exercise. Try some of these ideas or come up with some of your own to keep your dog happy

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  • Joseph Coleman

    A lifelong writer and proud dog dad. Joseph started this blog dedicated to helping other dog owners find accurate information on how to keep their pets at their healthiest through exercise and nutrition. His passion for all things canine shines through in his writing, and he believes that every dog deserves the best possible care. If you're a dog owner looking for reliable advice on how to keep your pup healthy and happy, be sure to check out Joseph's work.