Dog Games: Social Distancing Approved!

by Dr. Noelle Weeks, Veterinary Resource Center

Are you and your dog bored staying at home while you practice social distancing?  Here are some ideas to help relieve some boredom for your dog. 

If your dog will chase and retrieve a toy, throw it down the hall. 

If you have a flight of stairs in your home you, and your dog can safely go up and down the stairs, you can play ‘Stair Ball’ (or ‘Stair Toy’).  My dogs love this game.  I play this game with one dog at a time.  I sit at the top of the stairs and roll the ball, or gently toss the toy, down the stairs.  The dog goes down gets the ball or toy and brings it back to me.  I play this game until my dog is going slower up and down the stairs. 


If your dog isn’t toy motivated, you can play with food.  Rather than feed your dog his meal in a dish, plan to use the food as games.  I recommend using your dog’s meal so that your dog is more motivated to eat and you decrease the chance that your dog will gain weight with extra food.  If your dog isn’t motivated to eat kibble, or eats canned food, you can always cut string cheese into kibble sized pieces and do the same activities listed below.

You can easily roll a few pieces of kibble into a room or down a hall to let your dog chase after the food.  Make sure if you do this that your dog has good footing on the floor so they don’t fall.  Once your dog has eaten the scattered food, call your dog back to you and drop a few pieces of kibble at your feet.  Then repeat.  As your dog understands this game, you can throw food further and further away to get more activity from your dog. 

Another game you can play with your dog and his kibble is hiding his food.  You need to make this game very simple at first.  Have your dog sit and watch you put a few pieces of kibble in front of a chair.  Then encourage your dog to go get the food.  Have your dog sit again and put the kibble under the chair but make sure that your dog can comfortably get under the chair to get the food.  Alternatively, you can put the food behind the chair.  Encourage your dog to go find the food.  You want your dog to start using his nose to look for his kibble.  Once your dog seems to understand this game, you can put food in other places, such as on top of a sofa cushion, on a step, or in your dog’s toy box. 

If you have a big cardboard box, you can toss some dry dog food in it to encourage your dog to put his head in the box to eat the kibble.  Be patient as some dogs find putting their head into something intimidating.  As your dog confidently dives into the box to eat the kibble, you can slowly start adding in cleaned empty plastic water bottles into the box.  The purpose of the bottles is to have your dog have to push the bottles around in order to get the food.  If your dog is afraid of the bottles, the movement of the bottles or the noise the bottles make, do not do this.


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