Being stuck inside can make anyone a little stir-crazy — including your pet! When you can’t provide your pet with outdoor exercise, coming up with games and activities that work their mind and senses can give you both a little relief. Here are a few activities we recommend to keep your pet’s body and brain engaged. Pets greatly benefit from enrichment, which is defined as an opportunity to engage in species-specific behaviors that meet an animal’s needs in the wild. To learn more about the importance of enrichment, watch this presentation: Enrichment For Your Dogs & Cats.
The Indoor Workout: A game of fetch, tug or flirt pole can be a great way to mentally and physically exercise your pet, especially if you ask for a trick every time you start up the game again. For example, before throwing the ball during fetch, you could ask your pet to sit or shake. Or, if you have a hallway, ask your pet to do a trick and then throw a piece of kibble down the hall after each repetition to keep them running back and forth. This way, you are brushing up on skills while building impulse control and using the toy or the kibble as a reward.
Hide-and-Seek: A good game of hide-and-seek will not only entertain your pet but can provide the stimulation necessary for building reliable recall skills. If your pet knows “wait,” instruct them to wait in another room while you go hide. If your pet hasn’t yet learned this cue, have someone hold them while you hide. When you call your pet to you, they will experience fun mental stimulation while they search for you. Don’t forget to reward your pet with a treat for finding you!
Training and New Tricks: A day spent indoors is the perfect time to brush up on known skills or even to teach your pet some new tricks. Make time for several short training sessions throughout the day (5-10 minutes) to help strengthen behaviors and work your pet’s mind. Work with a trainer to add more play and games to your routine in our class The Engaged Canine.
There are several ways to teach your pet tricks using positive reinforcement (see this video for a quick definition and this article for an in-depth one). You can be as creative as you’d like by coming up with your own tricks, but if you need some ideas for new tricks or activities, check out these resources:
- Enrichment Resources (playlist developed by San Diego Humane Society)
- The Big Book of Tricks for the Best Dog Ever by Larry Kay and Chris Perondi
- Enrichment Games for High-Energy Dogs by Barbara Buchmayer
- How to Clicker Train Your Cat by Stephanie Mantilla
- The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw & Sarah Ellis
- Canine Enrichment (Facebook Group)
- Feline Enrichment (Facebook Group)
- Kikopup (YouTube Channel)
Puzzle Toys: These toys, also called puzzle feeders, provide enrichment and can sometimes help with behavior concerns such as destructive chewing, puppy chewing and barking. Any pet who spends time alone at home could benefit from having a mentally stimulating activity like puzzle feeders to help pass the time. You will likely have to teach your pet how the puzzle works, but after they get the hang of it, you can adjust the difficulty level to occupy your pet for longer periods of time. Here are some examples of toys and slow feeders that will keep your pet’s nose and mind busy:
Scent Games: Treat-hunting games can provide great mental enrichment for your pet. Make it easy at first by tossing treats and asking your pet to “find it.” Once they learn this cue, start making it more difficult to find the treats, bones or treat-dispensing toys. Get creative and hide them under furniture, on windowsills and on top of chairs. Steer clear of tables, electrical cords or other areas where you don’t want your pet. This type of mental activity requires a lot of energy and is sure to keep your pet busy and happy. Learn more by signing up for one of our K9 Nose Work classes!
Behavior Helpline: Contact our Behavior Team
For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out our Ask a Trainer form. San Diego Humane Society Adopters can fill out the Post Adoption Consultation form to schedule their troubleshooting session. We aim to respond within 7 days, but responses may take up to 2 weeks. Thank you for your patience!
Note: Due to the potential for serious injury, canine and feline aggression are best handled by a professional who specializes in aggressive behaviors. Because phone or email counseling is inadequate for addressing serious behavior concerns, we ask that you contact a qualified professional for help. Please refer to the list of behavior resources here.
Questions About Public Classes
San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.
Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, it will also strengthen the bond you share.
Our website includes a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961.
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