A dog playing with a toy on the floor.

Frigid winter weather. Torrential spring rain. Blazing summer days. Severe fall storms. No matter the season, there are going to be times throughout the year when your outdoor-loving dog is stuck indoors. After longingly staring out the window for a while, your canine companion is probably going to get bored. And that’s not good because a bored dog can quickly become a naughty dog. Especially if they’re a young pup or you’re not home.

So how can you keep your dog entertained indoors on the days that they can’t go outdoors? With plenty of physical and mental stimulation. In the sections below, we’ve listed some fun things to do with your dog at home, as well as some ways to mentally stimulate your dog — and keep boredom away.

Why Do Dogs Need Mental Stimulation?

Dogs need physical exercise to stay healthy and at an ideal weight, but they also need to exercise their brain. Indoor entertainment can be a great opportunity to give their brain a workout and can also help with separation anxiety.

Dog Treats Aren’t the Only Rewards You Can Use

Before we get into the indoor activities, a quick word about treats. A lot of brain games and indoor activities require a reward. If you regularly use dog treats as the reward, it may cause your dog to pack on the pounds. So instead of giving your dog the whole treat, break it into smaller pieces. They’ll still be rewarded but they won’t be consuming as many extra calories. Remember that treats should provide no more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories.

You could also use low-calorie treats. Healthy snack choices for dogs include carrots, celery, bananas and blueberries, along with many more fruits and vegetables. Freezing treats is also an option. Puree fruits and vegetables and freeze them inside your dog’s toys and puzzles. But don’t feed too many fruits and veggies because it could upset their digestive system. And you don’t want that to happen while you’re indoors!

Another food to use as a reward is your dog’s kibble. Measure out their daily kibble ration and then use some of it in a treat dispensing toy. That way they’re not consuming extra calories on top of their recommended daily calorie intake. Make them work for their dinner!

Indoor Games for Dogs

If you have a long hallway, a basement or stairs, indoor fetch with a soft toy or ball is a fun activity to play. Keep in mind that playing on carpet will give your dog better traction and stop them sliding everywhere. And make sure you don’t play near any breakable family heirlooms!

Another option is to use household items to build your own canine obstacle or agility course in your living room, basement or even the whole house. For example, make a hurdle with a broomstick, use cardboard boxes and blankets to make tunnels, and put plastic cups three feet apart to make a slalom course. You may have to teach your dog how to do the course at first and use plenty of positive reinforcement, but they’ll soon get the hang of it. If they really enjoy the obstacle course, you could try competitive agility. Guiding your dog through agility courses gets you exercising, too!

Toys and Food Puzzles Keep Dogs Entertained

Puzzle toys help with mental stimulation and they keep your dog busy for a while. In this situation “a while” depends on your dog’s problem-solving skills — it might be hours for some dogs and minutes for others. If your dog is on the smarter end of the scale, there are food dispensing toys and puzzles that require two steps to be completed before they dispense the treat.

Speaking of toys, make sure you’re rotating them every week or so. It’s boring playing with the same toys all of the time, so switch it up for them. You should also look for toys that your dog doesn’t play with. There’s no point having them in the rotation if they’re never used, so replace them with new versions of your dog’s favorite toys. That way they’ve always got a few toys available that they love to play with.

Stimulate Your Dog’s Sense of Smell

A scavenger hunt with treats or toys can give your dog’s nose a workout and is a great way to keep a working dog entertained. Keep your dog out of sight and hide treats (smelly ones work best) or their favorite toys around the room. Put a couple in plain sight and point them out so your dog understands the game. Once they get the idea, encourage them to look for hidden goodies. Make sure you mix up the hiding places each time because smart dogs will always go to where they previously found the treasure.

Fun Games for Both You and Your Dog

Hide-and-seek is a great indoor game to play if multiple family members are home but can also be played with just the two of you. Ask your dog to “stay” and have everyone hide in places around your home that your dog can easily get to. If your dog isn’t great at “stay,” have one person stay with your dog in a different room while everyone else hides. Once everyone is in place, call your dog to find you.

Chase the red dot is another favorite game. It’s not just cats who love to chase the red dot — most dogs love to chase the laser all over the house, too. You could even combine it with the obstacle course.

Brush Up on Your Dog’s Obedience Training

A short training session each day can help keep your dog’s mind active. Dog training indoors is often easier because your dog is typically less distracted than when you do training sessions outdoors. You can have your dog practice their basic obedience commands or you could teach your dog some new tricks.

Physical Exercise Is a Good Idea, Too

Exercising your dog indoors can also relieve boredom and burn off some pent-up energy. Try doing a few quick laps of your house or apartment while your dog walks beside you. If you have them, stairs are a great cardio workout for both of you and they engage different muscles than walking. However, you shouldn’t exercise on the stairs if your dog has joint or balance issues.

You could also invite a furry friend over for a playdate. It’s good for socialization and gives your dog plenty of opportunities to exercise in a fun way.

Now You Know How to Entertain Your Dog Indoors

Playing games with your dog or giving them a puzzle toy is a great way to keep your dog active in winter, entertained in the summer when it’s too hot to play outside, and mentally stimulated during all of the other times that you’re stuck indoors. It will help stop you from getting antsy, too!

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.