Indoor Games for People and Dogs

Get ideas for games to play with your dog when ugly weather keeps you indoors.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #16

Take a 6-muffin tin and put a treat in each cup. Place tennis balls in about half the cups. Once a dog has found the uncovered treats, he usually figures out that knocking away the tennis balls reveals more goodies. As your dog gains experience, you can start hiding treats under only some of the tennis balls and using a 12-muffin or 24-muffin tin. Some dogs, Amy tells me, find it’s the most fun to smack the muffin tin and send all the balls and treats flying -- which you could go with, assuming your breakables are somewhere else. Or you could take Amy’s suggestion of screwing the muffin tin to a large piece of plywood. Keep your dog hard at work!

Go Wild and Freeze

A famous game is “Go Wild and Freeze,” first developed by the trainer September Morn. You can find September’s e-mail address at the bottom of this page. There are many ways to play “Go Wild and Freeze” – here’s one. Start by dancing around and acting excited till your dog gets going, too. After a minute or so, you all of a sudden stop moving. Ask your dog to sit, or down, or do another behavior she knows well. The moment she does it, start dancing around again; when your dog joins in, stop, ask for that sit or down again, and reward her by re-starting the party.

Mix things up by varying what behaviors you ask for and how long you wait before re-starting the game. If your dog is super-excitable and likely to mouth you or ricochet off you, start with a pale-vanilla version of “going wild” -- your dog’s introduction to this game can be “Take a Single Step and Freeze.” You can also retreat behind a baby gate if need be.

“Go Wild and Freeze” is not only fun, it helps teach your dog self-control as she learns to respond to your cues even when excited. End the game clearly, for example by saying “All done!” and sitting down with a book. If you say the same phrase every time, your dog will learn that it signifies the end of play for now. Ignore any attempts to reel you back in -- otherwise, she’ll learn that pestering works.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).