Here in Minnesota, there are always at least 2 weeks of below zero temperatures and this year it seems like almost every part of the United States is getting hit with below average temperatures. For my two short-haired dogs, that means no walks and racing back inside after doing their business (and sometimes pooping inside when mom thinks you’ve already pooped and leaves you alone for 5 minutes *ahem Adam*). By around day 4 of subzero temperatures, we are all going a bit stir crazy.

Here are my top 5 favorite games to play when stuck inside on a cold day:

  •  Hide and Seek

This one is pretty self-explanatory and works best if you have two people but is doable with just one person. Have someone hold your dog or put them in a stay. Find somewhere to hide (start off easy and get harder as your dog learns the game). Once you are hidden, call your dog and wait for them to find you. If you hear them start to slow down or wander off, try calling them again or making another noise. When they find you, have a party! Either play with their favorite toy or give them their favorite treat. Bonus: this strengthens your come when called behavior!

  • Scent Work

I will always maintain that scent work is one of the best activities you can do with your dog. Scenting is such a natural behavior for our dogs and is also a great way to wear them out mentally. Gather an empty cardboard box and while your dog is in a stay, put a few pieces of something really tasty inside while they watch. Say “search!” or “find it!” and release them from their stay. When they eat the food out of the box, tell them how smart and wonderful they are. Once they get the hang of that, put another cardboard box near the first box. Put food in the first box, but not the second and tell them to search. Work up to having many boxes out and just one or two containing food. Bonus: find a local class to take together to learn the art of true Nosework! 

  • Vito’s Game

This is a great way to work your dog’s mind and body at the same time. Simply sit against a wall or other object (so they can’t go behind you), put some of their dinner on one side and wait for them to make a step toward your other side. When they do, reward on that new side. Repeat and go back and forth until they catch on that the game is to alternate between sides. Add a short barrier in front of you and see if they can still alternate sides. Slowly add in more barriers so they have to go further around to get back to you.

  • 101 things to do with a box

Shaping can be a tricky thing for some dogs and owners to catch on to but is a fun way to help your dog learn how to experiment and use their brain. For this simple game, make sure your dog understands that the clicker means they did something correct and a treat is coming. Then get an empty box and click whenever your dog interacts with the box in some way. Maybe they look at it, take a step toward it, nudge it, or even hop inside. Anything they do with the box gets rewarded! This is a dog-led activity so wait to see what your dog offers. If they seem like they are getting frustrated or aren’t trying, find the smallest thing to reward! Even if it’s just an ear flick toward the box.

  • Mini indoor obstacle course

Get your kids involved and make an obstacle course for your dog to navigate! Use pillows as jumps, boxes as tunnels, and different furniture to help them wind around the house. Lead them through with their favorite treat and finish with their favorite game.

While the cold can put a damper on some of our plans to enjoy the great outdoors with our furry friends, there’s still so much that you can do with them to bond and stave off some of the cabin fever.

What are your favorite games to play with your pooch?