12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

Restlessness, whining, sulky, destructive, and disobedient behavior are all the top signs of canine cabin fever. Yes, it’s a thing, and if your pups are feeling this, they will behave a lot like unruly kids with cabin fever! Cabin fever sets in during the winter when you spend more time inside. Your dog has built up energy from not being active physically or mentally due to being stuck inside and needs a way to let it out. A lack of activity can cause your dog to display unwanted behavior and do things they wouldn’t normally do. Or they may revert to behaviors they have outgrown (chewing on shoes, furniture, etc.), leaving you wondering what is happening. 

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So, what’s the solution? Keep their minds and bodies active. This solution works for both kids and dogs! And while it may require a little effort, it will keep your sanity intact, which is well WORTH IT!

Finding ways to keep the whole family entertained can be exhausting, especially if you’re experiencing seasonally low energy or are impacted by Seasonal Depression yourself. To keep it simple, I’ve put together a list of 12 indoor dog games to keep your pup occupied this winter!

1. Obedience Training Skills

Does your dog consistently perform these basic commands: Sit, down, stay, come, heel, off, and no? If not, now is the perfect time for a refresher! A few brief training sessions (15 minutes or less) should keep your dog’s skills on point. Continuous training keeps your dog focused mentally, and mastering obedience skills will tucker them out appropriately.

2. New Tricks

While you’re at it, teaching your dog new tricks is a great way to keep their senses sharp. You could teach your dog how to weave through your legs, help with chores (like closing a door), or fetch an item for you. There’s always something fun your dog can learn. With simple and inexpensive resources available now, like I Train Academy with celebrity trainer Jas Leverette, it is much easier than it sounds.

12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

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3. Toy Refreshers

This one is super simple! Just stuff a Kong with new treats. Hear me out; playing with a Kong may already be a regular occurrence in your household, but change it up by using NEW and exciting treats. Dishing up unexpected surprises is a great way to keep their minds engaged and out of trouble too! Get creative with what you stuff inside to keep your pup guessing.

4. Play "Which Hand?"

This game is an oldie but a goodie that you can play anywhere. You already have everything you need to play this game right at home. You only need a handful of treats or chopped-up fruits and vegetables that your dog enjoys. Dogs have powerful sniffers, and we tend to underestimate how much they enjoy using their sense of smell. Your dog will love this simple scent work game!

  • Place a treat in one hand.
  • Close both fists and hold them out in front of your dog.
  • Bring your fists close to his nose for a quick sniff. While he sniffs, say, “Find it!”
  • Once your dog chooses the right hand, give him the treat.
  • Switch things up by alternating hands and repeating the phrase “find it” to help your dog understand the game.
  • It may take a few tries to catch on, but don’t worry; he’ll get it! Offer lots of praise and play a few times to reward your dog.
  • Tip: Choose items with a strong scent, like meat, cheese, or veggies, versus dried dog food.
12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

5. Hide & Seek: Doggo Style

In this game, you are the reward! While your dog is distracted, hide somewhere he wouldn’t expect you to be (in the shower, under the bed, etc.). Then wait for him to find you. When your dog finds you, offer praise and reward him with a treat! Note: If you are behind a closed door and hear him sniffing at the door, you can pop out and offer him some praise and a reward for his work.

6. Dinner Duty

We work hard to provide a comfortable life for our dogs. There is no denying that my doggos are my fur babies. However, not long ago, our dogs were self-reliant in finding their own food. Now, it’s provided to them in the same spot at the same time every day. Since they are natural scavengers, they may find this boring. They will find working for their food mentally stimulating, not mean or cruel. You can try a food dispensing toy or move the location of his food bowl from the usual spot. Your dog will be very motivated to locate it!

Start simply by placing it in another spot in the same room, then move it to another room for the next meal. Then hide the bowl somewhere else and call him to eat. Once your dog catches on that this is a game, continue to change the location of your dog’s food a few times a week. This activity will keep him actively utilizing his scenting skills.

12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

7. The Cup Game

This idea is a more challenging version of the “which hand” game above. You’ll need four sturdy plastic cups. Start just one cup and your dog’s attention. As your dog watches, place a treat under the cup. You’ll want him to see and understand there’s a treat at stake! Move the cup around and ask your dog to find it. When your dog indicates he understands by sniffing or pawing, let him eat the treat!

You can play multiple rounds by adding additional cups to increase the difficulty level. You are still going to use only one treat per round. Place the treat under one of the cups and move them back and forth until the cups are in a different position than where they started. Give the command to “find it!” and let your dog sniff each cup to find the treat. The more you repeat this process, the more he will learn to regularly pick the correct cup and receive a reward.

8. Tag, You're It!

Recall can be challenging for some dogs, but this game reinforces that skill and is fun for your dog. You will need two people to play. Each person needs to be on the opposite side of the room from the other. Each person should also have various toys and treats that your dog enjoys. Alternate calling your dog over to you and then allowing the other person to do the same. Each time your dog comes, be sure to praise him and offer a reward. 

9. Bless-A-Chew

No, not the same as “gazoontite” (wink, wink). Seriously though, there are a plethora of chewy treat options available to delight your dog’s teeth. Both benebones and bully sticks are relatively long-lasting. My only tip with bully sticks would be that they can have an unpleasant scent. Your dog may love that, but for this reason, I opt for the unscented ones. It’s also a rare treat because they tend to be pricier than other options.

12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

10. Puzzles

Try a dog behaviorist-recommended puzzle toy. Rover conducted an excellent review of 19 of the best puzzle toys for dogs. These toys work well as boredom busters because they are interactive, mentally challenging, and rewarding, plus it keeps them physically active. We love the brick puzzle toy for our dogs. There are also some DIY options if that’s more your style. We have tried the snuffle ball game linked here, and our dogs enjoyed the challenge. A quick google search will turn up more ideas for you.

11. Obstacle Courses

Have you ever created your own indoor obstacle course? You and your dog will find this interactive game to be very rewarding. And it is a great way to encourage mental focus. You can use items you already have sitting around the house or hit up the dollar store for a few supplies.

You can make a tunnel out of boxes, have your pup jump over stacks of toilet paper, weave through piles of toys and jump through a hula hoop as the finisher! A quick Pinterest search will generate a dozen ideas if you need additional inspiration. Have fun and happy creating!

12. Play Dates

Lately, consider visiting an indoor dog park or scheduling a doggie play date with friends. Search your local area for an indoor off-leash park where you can let your dog play safely and make some friends. Or schedule a play date with some of your dog friends. Invite a dog friend over to play or throw a dog pawty and invite several! Let them play together and tire each other out. Both you and your dog will get to see some friends, which will boost everyone’s mood! 

12 Indoor Dog Games for Winter Days

If you are not an outdoorsy person who enjoys the cold, the temptation to stay indoors is strong during winter. However, playing games and intentionally engaging your dog will help to keep you both active and in good spirits until better weather returns. Nothing beats that time spent with your furry best friend! Whatever activities you choose to do, doing it together is what matters most.

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Attention: Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible. Click here to see if you qualify.