Rainy Day Dog Games

Tricks for keeping indoor pups engaged
By Elizabeth Kennedy, March 2012, Updated February 2015

My dog, Stella, thinks she’s made of sugar. With exposure to rain, snow or other inclement weather, she hunkers down as if she might melt. That’s why my canine companionship toolkit includes a few strategies for occupying my little busybody when the sun’s in a downstay.


Treat Search

We’ve done basic nosework together, but really any parent-dog team can play “search.”


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You’ll want to start the game with your dog in a sit or stay. Place a toy on the floor. When you release her, she’ll go to the toy. Reward this attention with a high-value treat. Do this a few more times, eventually introducing the name of the toy with your search cue.


Soon you’ll have an ever-growing list of searchable goodies in your dog’s repertoire.


Up the ante by placing the toy farther away or under things. Note that the higher you place something, the less easily she’ll be able to find it with her sense of smell.


Have a friend gently hold the dog while you go hide. Then *you* can be the prize.


Will Work for Food

Even if your dog doesn’t want to go out for a hike on a soggy Saturday, you can still keep her mentally stimulated. Instead of plopping her food down in a dog bowl, use a treat dispenser, such as the Tug-a-Jug, to make mealtime into playtime. These toys are often nearly indestructible, and they keep Stella engaged for hours. Literally.


Indoor Boot Camp

From a training perspective, reading on the couch is time wasted if you don’t seize the opportunity. Use this time in all kinds of creative ways to shore up your dog’s skills—lengthening the downstays your dog can handle, for example, or practicing this triad of super-important behavior cues: come, stay and leave it.


For even more playful ideas, check out JoAnna Lou’s Indoor Fun blog post or read up on Christina Sondermann’s Indoor Agility Exercises.


What are your secrets for rainy day fun with your dog(s)?

Elizabeth Kennedy is a freelance writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.