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Playing Indoors with Your Dog

If you and your dogs have cabin fever, here are some ideas for physical and mental stimulation. And you can play these games with your dogs all year round. These rewarding indoor games come from "Talking Dog: Indoor Games" by Lisa Moore, an article that volunteer Judy McClain found in the Modesto Bee.

* Find the food:
Instead of placing meals in a food bowl, divide it up into small portions and hide handfuls of kibble around the room. Initially placing them in easy to find spots, like under a chair. As the dog's search skills improve, add challenge by hiding the food out of sight or expanding the treasure hunt to more than one room.

* Hide and seek:
Begin by having a family member hold on to the dog, or leave him in a sit-stay while you go and hide in another room. Then call his name. Remain quiet as he approaches. When he's off the track, call again. The reward when he finds you should be praise and some animated, excited play. As the dog's finding skills improve, hide in other places to challenge his abilities.

* Find the toy:
Choose a favorite toy, then send your dog out of the room so you can hide it. Initially, remove other toys from the area, and "hide" the chosen toy in plain sight. Next, let the dog back into the room, and tell him to "Find your (name of toy)!"

Tip: Give toys specific names. As he gets better at finding his toys, place them in more remote. Rotate several toys over a few weeks, calling each by name.

* Find the toy - advanced:
The next challenge is to hide several toys, and direct him to find only the one you name. If you repeat excitedly "Find the elephant!" and he comes back with a tennis ball, do not reward him. Take it away, and redirect him toward the elephant's hidden location. Once he finds the correct toy, he earns lots of praise and a cookie.

You can make it easier by using toys that you can load with food. For example, a beehive-shaped Kong; you can insert a swab of peanut butter, pieces of cheese or another treat he can smell to make finding by scent a lot easier.

* Pick the toy:
Another variation is to place a pile of toys in plain sight. Each toy should have a specific name, and all toys must have been used individually first. Named toys go into this pile when you are sure your dog recognizes it by name. Send him to the pile with "Find your ----!"

If he comes back from the pile with the wrong toy, say "Ah-ah" in a neutral tone. Keep repeating the "Find your ----!" and send him back to the pile. When he brings the right one, reward with praise and play.

* Round-robin recall:
Each family member goes into a separate room of the house, with treats in hand. One at a time, each person calls the dog by name with repeated, enthusiastic "Come!" commands. When the dog comes to the right person, he is rewarded with treats and praise. When the person with the dog gives an "All done" signal, the next family member begins calling.

Last Updated: July 02, 2013 (LET) PawSupport