Boredom Busters

By Amy Wence
Winter can be a challenging time of year for many dog owners. Due to the extreme weather, most dogs don’t get out as much and can suffer from boredom during our long winter months. Boredom can many times result in destructive behaviors. If your dog doesn’t have something constructive to do, he will find his own source of entertainment, such as counter surfing, dumpster diving, cat chasing, etc. Fortunately, there are some fun indoor games that you can play with your dog to burn his predatory energy and provide mental stimulation.

Hide & Seek:

The object of this game is to hide a toy or treat and cue the dog to find it. You can use treats, a stuffed Kong, tennis ball, or anything that motivates your dog. You can even hide yourself! Start the game with your dog in a sit-stay position where he will not be able to see the hiding spot, or you can shut the dog in another room. Start off with
easy hiding spots and gradually make them tougher. Once the object is hidden, you can kick off the search by asking him, “where’s your toy?!” You may need to help him out the first few times and coach him towards the hiding spot. Upon finding the reward you can allow the dog to play fetch or tug with the toy, or let him enjoy the treat before starting another round. It doesn’t take long for your dog to learn that he is looking for something of high value to him.
Once your dog gets the hang of it, stop helping and allow him to find the object on his own. This will help build his confidence and allow him to use his nose to make the find. If you continue to bail him out, then he may learn that giving up is the best strategy. Play this game for 15 to 30 minutes with your dog and you will be surprised how much energy
he burns. You can also plant toys and treats around the house before leaving. This will give your dog
something constructive to do while you are gone. This game allows your dog to use his predatory
search instincts, which is why he finds the game so stimulating. The other great thing about playing hide
n’ seek with your dog is that you are also proofing his sit-stay and teaching him self-control when he is
excited. Therefore the game doubles as a fun training tool!


Tug-of-war is one of the best energy burners and outlets available to your dog. It’s a perfect activity to play indoors on rainy days or when it’s cold outside because it doesn’t require a lot of space. It’s an intense game and burns lots of predatory energy. Contrary to popular belief, tug does not increase aggression or dominance in your
dog. In fact, it should do just the opposite because your dog will be both exercised and stimulated after
playing tug. In her book, “The Culture Clash”, Jean Donaldson states:
“Played with rules, tug-of-war is a tremendous predatory energy burner and good exercise for both dog and owner. Like structured roughhousing, it serves as a good barometer of the kind of control you have over the dog, most importantly over his jaws. The game doesn’t make the dog a predator: he already is one. The game is an outlet.”
As Donaldson states, the game should always be played with rules. The dog must know the following commands before engaging in tug: sit-stay, take it, and leave it or drop it. I would also suggest having a special toy just for playing tug. The dog will learn to associate that toy with the game and become excited upon seeing the toy. They sell tug toys with handles for the owner and some have two ends to play with more than one dog at a time. You can also easily make your own tug toys (see attached instructions). Begin the game by presenting the toy and asking the dog to sit-stay. Once the dog is in a sit-stay, you can invite him to play by excitedly asking him to “Take it!” However, if your dog’s teeth come into contact with skin during the game, then screech, “OUCH!” Abruptly put the toy away and end the game for at least a few minutes. This will teach
the dog that any inappropriate behavior always ends the game. The dog will quickly learn the rules and to control his jaws. You can also frequently interrupt the game by asking the dog to “leave or drop it.” You can practice his obedience skills by asking him to perform a trick or task before inviting him to play again. The dog must learn that he can only take hold of the toy when invited. When played with rules, Tug-of-War can be very beneficial and provide
a great outlet for your dog’s energy.
Source: The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson