In an ideal world, I know that we would all walk our dogs twice a day, for 30 minutes to an hour each time. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not always ideal; in fact, it's sometimes downright inconvenient! When harsh weather hits, or circumstances make it difficult or impossible to venture outside for physical exercise, don't despair! There are activities that you can enjoy with your dog right in the comfort of your own home.
Treadmill – The treadmill is a fantastic and very convenient way for your dog to get the exercise from the all-important walk without leaving home. Although not a full-time replacement for the walk, the treadmill can be used to supplement daily exercise, or, in the case of bad weather, substitute it for a short period. Remember to take it slow and allow your dog to get accustomed to the treadmill before leaping right into a running regimen. Once your dog has the hang of it, don't be surprised if you enter the room one morning to find him sitting expectantly, waiting to be allowed to play with it! If you're having trouble adjusting your dog to a treadmill running routine, check out the helpful tips in the new Common Canine Misbehaviors DVD.
Practice Calm Submission with Basic Commands – Your dog's physical needs aren't the only aspect of him that requires fulfilling. He has psychological needs, too! One activity that doesn't demand a lot of room to move is the practice of basic training commands. Giving your dog a psychological challenge that forces him to focus and keeps his attention can be a very effective way to drain his energy and strengthen the bond that you share. Remember to keep a bag of his favorite treats on hand as a reward for calm submission… when he responds to a command with the correct behavior, that's the right time to give affection!
Toys and Games – There is a wide range of toys and games for dogs that have been carefully engineered specifically to engage and improve cognitive functions. Most of these toys involve an incentive like a treat or a provocative scent to keep the dog interested and to reward him for playing. Check with your local pet retail stores and online for the kinds of toys you can use to make keeping your dog psychologically fulfilled into a game!
Use the Stairs – A stairway is a great place to give your dog a physical challenge. You can begin by having one person at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. Each of you can call him and reward him for making the trip. Eventually, train him to go up and down the stairs to get his reward. Make sure it is clear when the activity begins and ends. You don't want your dog to associate the stairway with excitement or it can lead to accidents down the road. If you need help, contact a local professional.
Hide and Seek – You can play this with family members or treats. Ask your dog to use his nose to find the hidden items or people, and reward him. This can be a fun way to get bored kids involved. Again, be clear when the activity begins and ends. When you decide the game is over, it's over!
Doga – It may sound silly, but this combination of dog training and yoga can be a lot of fun! Yoga and other meditation exercises help you to maintain balance, so what better activity to share with our canine companions? Find out if there are clubs offering Doga in your area.
Grooming – As simple as it sounds, a bath or a brushing session is a wonderful activity for a day spent inside. Any kind of grooming, done with care and love, is a kind of affection, and sharing that affection can bring you two closer together. Be sure to satisfy exercise and discipline as much as possible beforehand, though!
Do you have other ideas? Share them in the comments below.