When the weather is great, it's easy to rely on walks and hikes and trips to the dog park for exercise; we like the tired-dog-is-a-good-dog results and we enjoy being out in the nice weather, as well. However, with some of the recent, gross, snowy, windy, wet, icy, and downright dangerous weather conditions we've had over the past few weeks in Wisconsin, those walks, hikes, and trips to the dog park have been nearly impossible. A lot of my friends, family, clients, and acquaintances on Facebook have been scratching their heads and wondering just what they can do with their dogs to prevent everyone from going stir-crazy!
My answer, when I'm asked how my Ruby gets exercise in these weather conditions, may be a bit of a shock to some folks (and is, possibly, something I shouldn't put in writing, being a dog trainer and all). Walking outside is not the main mode of exercise in our house and, if I'm being honest, Ruby is lucky to get a walk once every couple of weeks; our hikes are confined to the Summer months and are even less frequent than walks around the neighborhood; AND we don't frequent the dog park (despite living not far from one).
How is it possible, then, that our high-energy, cattle dog mix isn't bouncing off the walls or destroying our house, looking for ways to burn off excess energy and boredom...? The short answer: Indoor Recess!
The long answer is that there is SO much you can do with or for your SideKick to ensure they're getting exercise when you can't get outside! Below is a list of 5 indoor recess ideas for you and your SideKick!
1) Tug of war
Playing tug is a great way to work out some of the sillies and burn some energy indoors! If that isn't a good enough reason to play tug all on its own, playing a good 'ole game of tug-o-war has even more benefits:
You can practice or teach your SideKick cues (such as Drop It, Sit, or Wait) and the two of you opportunity to work on impulse control.
As an interactive game that you and your SideKick can play together, tug-o-war is also a relationship-building game!
A tug toy has the added benefit of giving you a foot or so of extra toy to work with; your hands can get a break from sharp puppy teeth if your young SideKick is teething and/or still learning how to play well with fragile human skin!
And you can use the tug toy to distract, redirect, or grab your SideKick's attention when it's needed (such as when the cat walks in the room)!
Can't use a rope tug toy because your SideKick likes to eat bits of the rope (...and weird things happen when they're going to the bathroom later on)? Don't fret; my SideKick is one of those, too! That's why Ruby has a rubber tug toy instead of rope or fleece tug toy (Kong makes an excellent one that has lasted us several years so far)!
2) Playing ball
This one is pretty self-explanatory - we're all familiar with playing Fetch. BUT, if your SideKick doesn't already know how to fetch, you don't have to try teaching that overnight to reap the indoor exercise benefits of playing ball! If your SideKick shows any interest in chasing things, a ball is really easy to chase and burn some of your SideKick's energy. Roll it away from you; chuck it far across the room; or bounce it down the hallway! There are also plenty of toy balls on the market that are odd-shaped and that bounce in unpredictable manners, adding a little extra fun and thought into a game of playing ball!
Does your SideKick like to nibble at the tennis ball and pull at the fibers they're able to dislodge? Again, I've got one of those, too (we call it "troll-dolling the tennis ball" in our house); and you can easily find solid or textured rubber, nylon, or even canvas balls at any pet store or online!