You and your pooch will never be bored with all these playful indoor games and activities. 
Advertisement
dog doing an indoor obstacle course activity
Credit: Katja / Adobe Stock

Sometimes, it's either too hot or too cold for your pupper to scurry around outdoors safely. But daily exercise and playtime are essential to their wellbeing, so we consulted a pet professional about clever ways to keep your dog active—without ever leaving the house. 

Curtis Kelley, CPDT-KA, is a trainer, animal behavior expert, and owner of Pet Parent Allies in Philadelphia. He says indoor engagement is crucial for our canine companions, providing essential interest and novelty. "If the only excitement our dogs get is a walk twice daily, they might spend much of the day bored or waiting for their walk. Indoor entertainment gives you a wide array of tools to satisfy your dog." 

Try one—or all!—of these 10 indoor games for dogs to keep your pooch tip-top mentally and physically, regardless of the weather.

1. Build an Agility Course

If you can't use the agility equipment set up in your backyard, create one in the living room using everyday objects.

First, clear some space so your pup can run and jump without getting hurt or damaging any valuables. Then, create the course. Try an assortment of these:  

  • Stacked blankets, towels, and pillows to jump over
  • A hula hoop to jump through
  • A large, open-ended box your doggo can crawl through
  • A basket and a few toys they must place inside
  • A low ottoman or step stool to jump on
  • A pole or broom placed across two boxes to leap over
  • A ball or flying disc to catch

Walk your dog through the course a few times, and once they have the hang of it, stand at the end of it and call them. If your dog is a quick learner, have fun mixing up the path and adding more hurdles—and end with a mad dash down a hallway for a treat! 

2. Play Magic Cups

Find an open space with a hardwood floor (or a similar surface). Instruct your dog to "sit" and "lie down" while you set up the game.

Gather three large plastic cups and a tennis ball. Place the tennis ball under one of the cups, then shuffle all three cups in front of your canine pal. Then, tell them to "find it!" You might have to help your pup find the ball the first few times until their wits take over.

3. Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a fun indoor game to exercise your dog that the whole family will enjoy!  All you need is your dog's favorite toy. Have your dog stay in one room while you hide in another. Once you're settled, call out to them. When they find you, reward them with the toy.

4. Plan an Easter Egg Hunt

"An Easter egg hunt is a great way to activate your dog's sense of smell. Dogs have hundreds of millions of scent receptors, but sometimes they still need some practice with engaging them," Kelley says. "This game is engaging and calming for dogs, as sniffing helps lower their heart rate." 

However, it doesn't have to be Easter to play an egg hunt-inspired game. Just stuff a little of your dog's kibble inside a treat-holding toy and let them snuffle at it a few times so they pick up the scent. Then, when your pup isn't looking, hide it in another room. Then, ask them to "find it!" and watch them hunt down the treasure. 

5. Play Round Robin

Here's another great indoor game for dogs and kiddos. Have everyone sit together in a large circle with pupper in the same room. Each person has a piece or two of kibble, and takes turns calling their dog's name. Every time he goes to the right person, reward him with praise and (of course) the treat!  

"Round robin serves a double function of teaching dogs recall and sharpening their hearing and sound locating. This skill can be expanded into hide and seek as well," Kelley says. "It also benefits every member of the family and their relationship to the dog."

When the weather is nicer, continue playing this game outside, with all family members spread out even farther from one another. 

6. Do Safe Stair Sprints

Adult, active, and healthy dogs without back problems and who already climb stairs easily might enjoy this exercise diversion. Plus, it helps reinforce basic training skills.

Start at the bottom of the stairs and tell your pup to "sit" and "stay." Throw a ball at the top of the stairs, wait a moment, then say "go!" Let your pup dash up the stairs as fast as they can to retrieve the ball, then tell them again to stay. Call them back down the stairs. Repeat as often as they have the energy!

7. Try the Muffin Tin Game

This is simple to set up and perfect for dogs of all ages. Find an old muffin tin and enough balls to fill each hole—standard tennis balls work well. Now, using kibble or a smelly treat, hide a tiny bit of food in each hole, placing a tennis ball on top. 

When you have the tin set up, place it on the floor and encourage your pooch to check it out. The goal is for your pup to remove each ball to get to the nibbles, like a puzzle toy! One of the game's challenges is for the dog to remember where they found the food (and where they haven't, especially if they roll a ball from one hole to another).

You might need to assist them a few times until they understand how it works, but it shouldn't take too long before they're begging to play again.

8. Clean Up

This game starts by teaching your pet the cue "put it away". You'll need to train them to pick up a toy, carry it to a basket, then "drop it".

Once they understand these cues, the cleaning game can begin! Scatter a bunch of toys in a small area, point to one and say, "put it away". Repeat until your doggo deposits all the toys in the basket, giving them praise along the way. 

Kelley says this is a wonderful challenge for dogs and requires a lot of mental energy to gain mastery over. "There are several components to this skill used in everyday life. It's also great for saving you the frustration of having to pick up your dog's toys at the end of the day."

9. Ask for Something New

Grab some treats. Then, when your dog is paying attention, ask for "something new!" and give them a treat for whatever action they perform: sit, touch, down, spin, paw shake, roll over, stand, beg, and so on.

Once they've done something you feel is appropriate to pay for, ask for "something new!" again, offering a treat for any action different from the first. So if your dog sits the first time, reward them for anything other than that. The more tricks or actions your dog knows, the longer you can play.  

Kelley suggests this game for furry pals who like to guess before you've requested any action. "It helps them engage in a different kind of learning system. Many dogs are used to being asked to do something but don't often need to generate the action themselves," he says.

10. Build Snuffle Boxes

Similar to a snuffle mat, which really puts a dog's nose to the test, Kelley says snuffle boxes are also interesting ways to simulate foraging and sniffing through something to find a reward, and it engages your canine buddy's brain a little differently. 

Using two or three boxes of various sizes, stuff them with wads of tissue paper, packing paper, or spare dish towels. Sprinkle a smidgen of kibble within the folds of the paper or towels. Then place the boxes at various places throughout the house, with a tiny kibble clue between each one, so your pupper has to roam to find them.   

Additional reporting by Caitlin Scott.