How to Keep a Dog Entertained Indoors

Best Indoor Games for Dogs

It all started with a simple google search: “How to keep dog entertained indoors.” I was desperate. It had been bitterly cold outside for days and my dogs – especially the border collie mix – were bouncing off the walls. I needed indoor games for dogs – FAST.

My biggest problem was my border collie mix. If he doesn’t get exercise, he goes into hyper mode. As in hyper-vigilant, hyper-energized, hyper-obnoxious . . . you get the picture. On this day, he was driving me particularly crazy by standing in the middle of my family room, barking once every 30 seconds like a smoke alarm with a low battery.

So, in an effort to save my sanity, I discovered indoor dog games.

Happy dog!

Let’s face it: if you give your undivided attention to your dog, most dogs will be beside themselves with happiness. They LOVE attention. Throw in a game and you are immediately elevated to BEST.OWNER.EVER.

Ready to make your dog’s year? Start playing the games below. 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in your dog’s energy level.

Indoor Games for Dogs #1:
Dinnertime Games

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As the name suggests, these games make dinner time WAY more fun for your dog. Instead of giving your dog a bowl full of kibble, you are going to make them work for it.

  • Variation 1: Using a muffin tin and 12 tennis balls, choose 3 or 4 muffin holders and put some pieces of kibble in them. Put a tennis ball over each muffin holder. Your dog has to find the ones with the kibble. Keep refilling until their meal is gone.
  • Variation 2: Put 3 identical cups on the floor. Next, put 3 kibbles under one of the cups, then slide them around. Have your dog find the one with the food under it. Continue until meal is gone.
  • Variation 3: Choose 2 or 3 rooms and hide a set number of kibble in each room. Bring your dog to the room and tell him to “Find it!” Count as he finds and eats so you know when to move to the next room.

If you feed your dog a homemade diet, you can modify variation 1 and have small spoonfuls of their meal hidden in the muffin tin. For the cups variation, put the cups on a flat cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet on the counter when you hide the spoonful of food so your dog doesn’t see where it went. For variation 3, hide a dog dish for them to find in each room with a portion of their meal in it.

Indoor Games for Dogs #2:
Have a Pretend Obedience Class

Girl and Dog showing how to keep dog entertained indoors

This is somewhat self-explanatory, but here is the secret ingredient that makes it a hit: your over-the-top excited attitude. You are going to ask your dog to do obedience in the tone of asking him to go on a walk: “Tico! Want to do obedience? Oooooo! This is gonna be so much fun! Just you and ME! What should we do first, heel? OK! (heel around the house) Look at you! Oh BOY!”

If your dog hears your voice overflowing with excitement and joy, guess what? He’ll be thinking, “Heeling! Oh boy! I LOVE heeling!” He’ll be focused. He’ll learn. He’ll have fun.

Be creative. Sit stays or down stays can go to an all-new level when you leave the room and then release them to come to your new location. Heeling up the stairs takes focus.

Have you ever tried clicker training your dog? Give it a try, you will be amazed how effective is. Use it for basic obedience, or teach your dog some cool tricks!

Indoor Games for Dogs #3:
Find It!

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I saved the best for last. My border collie mix LOVES this game. He loved it so much that after one day – ONE DAY – he was hooked. As in, the next day at the same time (after his dinner), he went to his toy bin, selected the same toy, then barked one hopeful time and when I looked to see what was up, gave me this look that clearly said “Can we PLEASE play it again Mom? PLEASE?”

dog begging to play indoor game for bored dogs

Here’s how it goes:

Pick one of your dog’s favorite toys (or tell them to pick one!). Put your dog in a sit or down stay, and walk to a nearby room that is out of sight. Hide the toy. If it’s the first time, be a little obvious; think of it like hiding an Easter egg for a 5-year-old.

Release the dog and call them to the room you’re in. You can say things like “Find it!” or “Where’s your toy?” When they find the toy, have a party! Cheer, get wildly excited, throw the toy a few times. Then, put them on a sit stay in that room and walk to a new room to hide the toy. As you keep playing, make the hiding place progressively more difficult.

You will notice that your dog will transition from looking for the toy to smelling for the toy. I am amazed at how Tico has started using his nose: he will walk in a room now and sniff his way around. If he gets a whiff of the toy, he’ll stop suddenly and start sniffing up and down and side to side trying to zero in on where the scent is coming from.

When we are done, he is much more relaxed and content. It’s great mental stimulation for him, and he loves the challenge of the “hunt.”

Here is a video to show you an example of this game:

Turn up volume and you will hear him sniffing everywhere he looks!

Fun variations:

  • Find the Kid (have your kids go hide and then release your dog to go and find them. They can make little noises in the beginning to give hints to the dog.) Note the added bonus, dog and kids are entertained.
  • Find the treat (hide a nice smelly treat, or just a piece of kibble, in the room instead)

Can Multiple Dogs Play at the Same Time?

Most of these games are pretty easy to modify for 2 dogs, I think more than that will get too hard. In my house, 2 of the dogs play Find It! They each chose a toy, and it’s amazing: if one dog finds the other dog’s tennis ball, he leaves it in it’s hiding spot and keeps sniffing for his toy.

Obedience class can be modified as well. Heel with 1 dog on each side, or put both in a sit stay and release them together.

Food games may work depending on the dogs, if they keep trying to eat the other dog’s food then you may have to make that a one dog game, or set the food games in separate rooms.

Now You Know How to Keep a Dog Entertained Indoors!

Golden Doodle waiting to play indoor games for bored dogs.
Photo by Jay Wennington

What started as a desperate “how to keep dog entertained indoors” google search became a discovery of one of my dog’s favorite things to do with me. He loves the games. He loves that I play with him. I love the calmer, more balanced dog that results.

When your dog has your undivided attention, they soak it up like a sponge and glow with happiness.

So the next time it’s monsoon-ing outside, or (depending on your climate) there is a windchill that makes your eyelashes freeze together (this is a real thing people), take a day off! Stay inside, and get to know your dog in a whole new way.

Looking for more ideas to keep your dog busy? Read about mentally stimulating activities for dogs to discover toys that will keep your dog entertained for hours.

Here’s to the discovery of new ways to enjoy spending time with our dogs.

Naturally,

Karen

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Karen Pedersen Written by:

Karen is an independent copywriter who loves dogs and everything about them. She is married to Scott, has 4 kids, and likes to take a natural and holistic approach to living and pet ownership.

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