How to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors

November 12, 2016

Remember that just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean the fun has to end.

Trying to come up with ideas on how to keep your dog busy can be more exhausting than actually getting up and doing it. 


So whether you’re looking for some fun indoor games to play with your dog or just some easy ways to keep your dog busy try out some of these indoor activities with your pup. They’re a simple way to help keep your dog mentally and physically active, even when indoors.

Here’s 33 simple ways to keep your dog busy indoors.


1. Play The Which Hand Game

If you’ve been thinking about teaching your dog some scent work games this is a great game to get you started. The only thing you’ll need is some dog treats. If you don’t have dog treats on hand you can use fruits & veggies, or make some simple dog treats of your own.

How to play the which hand game with your dog:

  • Place a treat in one of your hands.

  • Close your fists and hold them out in front of your dog.

  • Let the dog choose which hand it’s in.

  • When your dog sniffs or paws the correct hand open it up and give them the treat.

  • If he chooses incorrectly don’t discrouage him, it takes a few tries to catch on.

  • A gentle “touch” command will be helpful.

Our dogs have excellent noses but they need to learn to utilize them.

Just like us they’re used to relying on visual cues in their normal day to day activities. Simple nose work games help hone in their natural sniffing ability, and it’s a nice mental workout.

Tip: Chopped up carrots make excellent dog treats. We use them for scent work games and training. They’re low in calories, easy to prepare, and (most) dogs absolutely love them.

2. Try The Three Cup Game

One step up from the which hand game this game is also commonly referred to as the shell game. You place a treat under one of 3 cups and have your dog choose the correct one. Once they get the hang of it you can start mixing up the cups so they’re not just relying on visuals. Don’t let this cat put your pup to shame.


3. Play Hide and Seek With Your Dog

This is by far one of Laika’s favorite indoor games. Have your dog sit and wait while you go find a hiding spot. Call them once when you’re hidden and praise them enthusiastically when they find you.

4. Use the Stairs For a Workout

If you’re snowed in you might not have an opportunity to get in your regular amount of physical exercise with your dog. If you have stairs in your home utilize them. Have your dog follow along as you get in some exercise going up and down the stairs. If your dog isn’t clumsy you can also try playing fetch on the stairs.

5. Make a Scavenger Hunt or Play Find The Treats

Grab some smelly treats and have your dog stay while you go hide them around the house. Start with some easy hiding spots and work your way up once your dog is accustomed to using his nose.

When we started working on this game I would drag the treats along the carpet so my dog could easily pick up the scent. If you don’t have any dog treats on hand make some simple ones with 5 ingredients or less or use some fruits & veggies that are good for dogs.

Recommended: How to Teach Your Dog Some Basic Nose Work

6. Teach Your Dog to Fetch My Slippers/Paper

Dogs love having a job to do, even if it’s something as simple as fetching you your slippers. Make them feel extra useful by teaching them the names of some items you wouldn’t mind them retrieving for you. If you want to impress all of your friends teach your dog to fetch you something from the fridge. To make it easy on your dog tie a towel around the handle so it’s easy to pull open the door.

7. Use a Stuffed Kong For a Nice Challenge

If you’d like to keep your dog busy with a toy for awhile stuff a Kong with something yummy. You can freeze peanut butter or broth, or just put some treats inside and give your dog something to work for. There’s a ton of dog safe options, here’s 39 healthy foods you can stuff in a Kong.

I love using classic Kong’s because they’re nontoxic, indestructible, and dishwasher safe. If you’re looking for a great Kong alternative that’s just as durable check out the West Paw Zogoflex toy; their smaller size makes them perfect if you’re watching your dogs weight.

Recommended: Looking for some truly indestructible dog toys to keep your dog busy? Check our our top 5 picks for tough chewers.

8. Teach Your Dog The Names of Their Toys

Have you seen Chaser the Border Collie? She knows over 1,000 words and can pick out any given toy among 800 just by it’s name. We can’t all be overachievers like Chaser, but we can teach our dogs the names of their toys.

Start by playing with one specific toy and giving it a name while you do. After some practice & praise your dog will assign that verbal name with the chosen toy . Once your dog has learned that specific toys name you can test their skills by seeing if they can pick it out among their other toys.

Dogs have the ability to learn hundreds of words – start teaching your dog the names of his toys and play a game of go find it.

9. Teach Your Dog How to Play the “Go Find It” Game

Once your dog knows the names of some of their toys teach them the “go find it” game. Have your dogs toys in a pile or container and tell them to “go find” their favorite toy. Keep it fun for them by rewarding them handsomely with a treat or quick game of tug when they succeed. This game will give your dog a great mental workout.

10. Master the Basics of Obedience Training

Does your dog know all of the basic obedience commands? Does he have a reliable recalland stay? Even well trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. All dogs should have a reliable sit, down, stay, drop it, and come here.

11. Teach Your Dog a New Trick

Does your dog know how to weave through your legs and jump through a hoop? There’s always a new trick you can teach your dog. Here’s a list of 52 tricks with instructions that you can work on. Once your dog knows a bunch of tricks step it up a notch and combine their learned behaviors into new tricks.

12. Work With Your Dog on Some Clicker Training

If you don’t have a clicker I’d recommend picking one up next time you’re at the pet store. When training a dog every second matters; it’s so easy to miss the chance to communicate with our dogs the instant they do the behavior you desire. When you use a clicker you can mark the exact moment your dog made the right choice.

13. Play a Game of Tug of War With Your Dog

Tug of war is extremely tiring, both mentally and physically. The good news is you don’t need a ton of room to play so it can be done indoors. Make sure your dog has a good “drop it” or “leave it” command and have some fun with it.

Contrary to what some people have said for years playing tug will not make your dog aggressive. It’s a simple way to exercise your dog as long as you follow a few basic rules. Earn some bonus fun points with your dog by letting them win sometimes.

Recommended: Why playing tug is my favorite dog training reward.

14. Teach Your Dog to Clean Up His Toys

If your dogs toys are kept in a container or bin teach them to clean up after themselves. If your dog already knows “drop it” have them pick up a toy and give them their drop it command once they’re standing over the container. Praise them like crazy, then rinse and repeat. Eventually with consistency you’ll have a dog that will be able to clean up after himself.

15. Get Some Puzzle Toys For Your Dog

Keep you dog mentally stimulated by giving them a puzzle to solve. There are a ton of dog puzzle toys available, as well as treat dispensing toys like the Kong Wobbler. There’s also a ton of great DIY toys out there you can make. I love the simple muffin tin game – if you have a muffin tin and some tennis balls you’re ready to play.

If you want to give your dog something high quality to chew on for awhile we’ve had luck with Best Bully Sticks and Benebones. (and if you’re sensitive to smell get the odor free bully sticks)

16. Make Your Dog Work for His Food

We give our dogs a nice comfy life – they get a warm bed, lots of attention, and their meals for free. But our dogs were bred to work alongside us, many of our dogs are missing out on some mentally stimulating activities. One of the easiest ways to challenge their minds is to make them work for their meals. You can make your dog perform some tricks before he gets his dinner, or you can have them eat from a food dispensing toy.

Keep your dog interested in hos toys by engaging in a game of tug or fetch.

17. Play a Game of Fetch With Your Dog

Most of us do have some extra room indoors for a simple game of fetch, but if you live on the 5th floor with a St. Bernard you should probably skip this game. Hallways, stairways, and big living rooms are popular choices. My dog and I love playing soccer in the basement with her Jolly ball. Be careful with heavy toys around anything that’s fragile or able to be tipped over, and it’s probably not a good idea to play fetch inside the kitchen.

If you don’t like the idea of playing fetch indoors you could turn it into a simple game of catch.

18. Master The Art of Doggie Massage

Learning how to give a dog massage is enriching for owner and dog alike. A nice massage can help soothe and relax nearly any dog. Daily dog massages are great for older dogs or those with arthritis, it helps soothe sore and achy joints. Giving your dog a massage reduces anxiety, relieves stress, improves circulation, and creates a great bond between you and your dog.

Tip: If your dog has a hard time settling down for a massage you can practice the relaxation protocol.

19. Try Some Free Shaping Games

If you haven’t heard of 101 things to do with a box you’ve been missing out on some fun training opportunities. It’s a great foundation for learning how to practice free shaping techniques, and it only requires a box and a clicker. The basic principle of shaping games is to encourage our dogs to try something new. They get to make their own decisions and increase their mental and physical flexibility. You start out with a box on the ground and without any cues let your dog investigate and decide what to do.

Shaping can be used with any item, not just a box. Here’s a great video of shape training a dog to crawl under an object.

20. Give Your Dog Regular Grooming Sessions

Although your dog won’t find a grooming session as exciting as a game of tug it is something that needs to be done from time to time. Our dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their teeth brushed, and have their nails trimmed when they start to get long.

Some dogs tolerate grooming better than others, and the more you practice using positive rewards the easier it will become. Don’t be afraid to hand out lots of treats during a grooming session – you want to ensure your dog will associate grooming habits with a positive experience.

21. Play a Game of Tag With Your Dog

Playing tag will require a partner. Each of you will sit or stand at one side of the room with a toy or some treats. Take turns calling the dog over and rewarding them when he comes. Make sure your dog is receiving lots of positive reinforcement each time they obey. This is a simple and fun way to reinforce a reliable recall.

22. Create Your Own Indoor Obstacle Course For Your Dog

Create your own obstacle course inside your home. Have your dog jump over some towels, weave through his toys, and then lay down on a blanket. Use your imagination and come up with a set of obstacles for your dog to follow. Once your dog has learned how to jump over the towels you then move onto the toy weave. Building on prior tricks will keep your dog mentally stimulated and encourages focus.

Brush up on dog tricks, make some yummy treats, and playing a game of fetch are all simple ways to keep your dog busy.

23. Blow Bubbles For Your Dog

This is my absolute favorite activity to use when I’m under the weather. It’s such a simple way to keep my dog happy, entertained & exercised.

I don’t know why but some dogs are fascinated by catching bubbles. There’s even a wide selection of pet bubble making toys on the market. You don’t have to go out and buy special bubbles either – the bubbles that are available for children are nontoxic. If you have a child in the home here’s proof that babies, dogs, and bubbles are the most adorable thing on the planet.