DOG GAMES A-Z LIST: Bad Weather Boredom Busters

Are you looking for some simple dog games to increase your dog’s physical and mental activity during bad weather? This article will share an A-Z list of dog games you can play with your dog.

Keeping your dog entertained and occupied can be especially challenging during bad weather.

We live in the Midwest so we have a lot of variety in temperature, precipitation, and wind. We also have 3 dogs: Frog, Jake and Finnegan. It can be challenging to get them all exercised and stimulated every single day. But simple, quick dog games are one thing we do to alleviate boredom indoors on those days.

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Advantages of Keeping Your Dog Busy

  • Dogs need exercise and stimulation to maintain their physical and mental well-being.
  • Keeping your dog busy can reduce or eliminate destructive behaviors in your home.
  • Humans have bred dogs as working companions, so it’s in their natures to keep active.
  • Regular physical and mental stimulation gives them a better life just like it does for us!
  • Dogs aren’t natural couch potatoes and we shouldn’t be either, so consider it time to get yourself active, too! Can anyone say “New Year’s resolution?”
  • Dogs don’t have to work for their food, our affection or toys. We readily give them what they need for free. Getting things for free is nice, but it leaves many of our dogs with a lot of downtime when they’d often rather work for something.
  • Doing something with our dogs can give us an excuse to interact with our furry best friends who give so much love in return.

Small Disclaimers

Some dogs may like some of these dog games more than others based on breed and their temperament. You’ll need to test them out to see what your dog likes.

Not all of the activities on this list are actual “dog games.” But with dogs, you can make a game out of anything!

Remember that these activities are dog games or can be gamelike.  Use lots of praise and healthy treats when needed. Don’t punish your dog if she doesn’t get something right. Otherwise, it takes the fun out the dog “game”, and who wants to play that?

Some of the dog game suggestions originate from the American Kennel Club (AKC) events. We work with a trainer to compete in AKC events. But we recognize that not everyone is into training their dogs at that level, and that’s fine. However, any dog game suggested here has modifications so it can be done by almost any dog indoors.

Criteria for Making the A-Z List of Dog Games

Easy to do. I wanted dog games or simple activities that we actually do ourselves or could do in our busy household with 3 dogs. While this dog can select a toy by name from over 1000 toys, it’s not reasonable for most of us to dedicate this kind of time to train our dogs to do this even in a dog game.

If you can do any extra training in your day, it could be to proof train your dog on sits, stays, downs, and recalls. Proof training is basically using different strategies to ensure your dog knows all of her basic commands. This will develop a dog you can really live with and enjoy in your home.

Easy equipment or no equipment. A few of the dog games and ideas below require some equipment. But in all cases, I try to provide alternate, inexpensive or common household items.

Takes 3-5 minutes. A 3-5 minute burst is all you need for a dog game!  We often think we need to do half an hour of something to make an activity worthwhile. We’ve been programmed to think this way with work, TV shows, meals, exercise and more. But 3-5 minutes can do wonders for any dog game.

So here we go!

Agility Course Dog Game

dog games

Make a simple agility dog game and teach your dog some fun tricks. The agility sport is essentially an obstacle course and is an AKC event for a dog and its handler (the person who runs the course with the dog).

This dog named “Trick” at an AKC agility trial can show you what an agility event looks like.

You can make a simple obstacle course dog game with common household items or items that are inexpensive and easy to stow away:

  • Weaves: Use small orange cones for weaving in and out of.
  • Tunnel: Use a child’s play tunnel which can work for zipping through a tunnel.
  • Jumps: Use brooms/mops or some PVC pipes placed over a book or two to create a jump.

Just a note on jumping, according to the AKC:

“Puppies, especially, shouldn’t be asked to jump until they’re at least a year old (or older for giant/slow-maturing breeds). This is because puppy growth plates aren’t closed until at least 12 months of age and jumping on open growth plates can cause long term damage.”


https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/think-dog-jump-safely/

Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure when is a good time to do jumps with your dog in any dog game.

Bubble Chase Dog Game

dog games

Some dogs get really jazzed by trying to catch bubbles. You don’t have to buy special bubbles since the bubbles that are available for children are nontoxic.

If you have a younger child, too, grab your camera for some great photo ops with kids, dogs, and bubbles!

Chew Time

dog games

Most dogs like and actually need to chew to keep their teeth clean. We have tried many bones and have settled on a few for their durability, safety and how much our dogs enjoy them.

A fan favorite of our dogs is the Benebone Real Flavor Wishbone Dog Chew. Be sure to select the right size for your dog.

Benebone Wishbone Durable Dog Chew Toy for Aggressive Chewers, Made in USA, Large, Real Bacon Flavordog games

Dancing

dog games

This isn’t for every dog and we certainly do not want to encourage jumping up on people. But if your dog has basic obedience training, they can generally learn about context when it’s OK to jump up in a dog game.

Our dogs know they can jump onto the crappy old basement furniture, but generally not the nicer furniture in the living room. They also usually know they can only jump up on us if they are invited in a dog game.

When you allow them to dance with you, some may love this as a simple dog game!  

Having our dog Jake stretch up to us was actually recommended after he had to have surgery on both of his shoulders. It helped to keep his back end strong while he was healing and doing physical therapy.

Be sure to fully support your dog’s upper body so she can balance well on her back end when dancing with you.  

Everyday Tasks as a Dog Game

dog games

Many dogs will follow you around your house while you do things. Others do not. Either way, encourage your dog to be with you and just follow you around with everyday tasks.

They can head out with you to get the mail. Or go up and down stairs as you do laundry. Make a dog game out of anything you do around the house!

Our little guy Finnegan picks up random socks that we drop and brings them to us during laundry time. We praise him, which reinforces the behavior of bringing things to us, rather than him sneaking away to destroy the object.

Be aware of anything your dog puts in his mouth, though.

You can talk to your dog while you do chores, but if you want your dog to actually do something, you need to teach it as a command.  Break down the task into small steps and use praise and rewards consistently. This dog has learned a lot of simple household chores.

Find It Dog Game

dog games

This is a fan favorite dog game in our house, especially with our dog, Jake. It’s a great dog game that we play with our dogs indoors and outdoors.

You first hide a toy or a ball somewhere in the house or outside. Then you train your dog to find it and bring it back to you. They get very excited by the mental stimulation of searching for the ball or the toy. And ultimately bringing it back to you is a great reward for them. They feel like they’re working and that they have a job to do.

Start easy by placing the object to be found in a pretty obvious location, then increase the level of difficulty as your dog progresses. Keep it fun for them by rewarding with praise, a treat or toy tug session when they find the prize.

The find it dog game can give your dog a great physical and mental workout!

Grooming Session

dog games

Although your dog might not find a grooming session as exciting as an actual dog game, it is something that needs to be done pretty regularly. It can alleviate boredom and provide stimulation.

Think about when you get a massage or haircut. It does get you out of your head with something physical and it can do the same for our dogs.  

Our dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their teeth brushed and have their nails trimmed before they get too long.

Some dogs accept grooming better than others. Be sure to give your dog some treats when different parts of the grooming session are complete. Then he will associate it with being a pleasurable experience and get used to it more easily over time.

Hide-n-Seek Dog Game

Hide-n-seek can be as exciting as the “Find It” dog game, only they are looking for YOU instead of an object and their reward is your excitement when they succeed. If your dog doesn’t have a good stay command yet, have another person help by having them distract your dog so you can go and hide.  

A video went viral a couple of years ago where a girl hid behind a door and played hide and seek with her dog. This was not a true “hide and seek” dog game because the dog never actually found the girl.

When a dog doesn’t get “rewarded” for finding something, it can possibly disrupt their tracking instinct. This is why laser pointers are actually a bad idea for dog games.

Dogs need dog games and commands broken down into small steps for effective training. Reward your dog by popping out from your hiding place and getting excited. Your dog doesn’t need to find you every single time or quickly in a dog game, but ultimately he should.

It’s OK to increase the level of difficulty in hiding places, too. But it needs to be scaffolded so they can grow and learn with the complexity of the dog game.

Interactive Dog Feeder as a Dog Game

Our dogs get a warm home, love and affection, and their meals and treats pretty easily. But our dogs were bred to work alongside us and are often missing out on some mentally stimulating activities.

One of the easiest ways to challenge your dog’s mind is to encourage her to work for her meals. You can also have your dog perform some tricks before she gets dinner.

Or you can have her eat from a food dispensing toy or slow-down bowl. This is a good way to prevent bloat, which is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your dog and can actually kill them.

Try a slow-down bowl for meal time!

Slow feeder bowls with shaved carrots can also keep your dog entertained for a while. They can usually get the first pieces out easily, but after a while, the bowl gets slippery from all the licking and then it becomes more challenging to get the remaining pieces.

Be sure to select the right size for your dog.

Brake-Fast Dog Food Slow Feed Bowl – Medium Bluedog games

This interactive dog feeder works well and can keep your dog busy for a while like a dog game, too. You can adjust the “flow” of kibble with a slide of the toggle opening near the bottom of the toy. Be sure to select the right size for your dog.

StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Pet Toy, Largedog games

If you don’t have an interactive feeder, you can freeze treats or sliced carrots in ice. You can also make some ice cubes from beef or chicken broth.

Our dog Jake is allergic to anything with chicken in it. So even with food items like chicken broth, it’s important to know if your dog is allergic or not.

Jolly Ball

Any big ball toy can be a lot of fun inside or outside in a dog game.  Smaller dogs will need balls appropriate for their size, of course.  A regular tennis ball can be large for some smaller dogs.

We’ve not used a Jolly Ball before, but they have good reviews, what seems to be decent customer service, product testing with their dog Rocco and other sites refer to them as being fun for dogs.

We limit dog games with balls in the house because they tend to roll under furniture and then our dogs and we are scrambling to retrieve them. If anyone has used one of these, we’d love to know how they have worked out for you!

Kongs with Treats or a Whole Meal Inside

The Kong toy’s opening is small enough to provide dogs with a challenge, but also big enough for a treat to fall out before your dog becomes frustrated. And the Kongs last a long time which is great for any dog game.

Pay attention to the sizes when ordering.

KONG – Classic Dog Toy – Durable Natural Rubber – Fun to Chew, Chase and Fetch – for Extra Large Dogsdog games

We fill ours with peanut butter laced with pieces of kibble or mixed with mushy banana. You can freeze these to make them last longer. We also have shoved parts of mozzarella cheese sticks into Kong toys for our dogs.  

Lure Pole (“flirt” pole) Dog Game

“L” will not stand for laser pointer dog games even though many people think laser pointer dog games are a fun and easy way to burn off steam. Laser pointer dog games are actually a bad idea.

A lure pole dog game can do what the laser pointer does and it’s a lot safer. The name lure pole makes more sense to me, but the marketing and dog toy industry often call it a “flirt” pole.

Dogs naturally love to chase moving objects and a flirt pole can provide the object without requiring a lot of space for the chase, so it’s a perfect dog game for indoors. A flirt pole is a bit like a fishing rod. It has a rigid stick section with a string or rope attached to the end. You can buy flirt poles in pet stores or online.

You can also tie a toy to the end of the rope and drag it around for your dog to chase and tug with once he’s caught it as a dog game. Be sure to eventually allow your dog to catch it a few times so their tracking instinct is not disrupted during this dog game.

Mental Challenge Toys as Dog Games

Keep your dog mentally stimulated by giving them a puzzle to solve as a dog game. There are a ton of dog puzzle toys available. Be sure to read the descriptions and reviews so you can get an idea if the toy is appropriate for your dog.

There are also a lot of DIY toy dog games you can make, like the muffin tin dog game:

Use an old muffin tin and place some yummy treats in a few of the holes. Cover all of the holes with tennis balls and let him figure out how to remove the balls to get to the treats. If your dog needs to lose some weight or you don’t want him putting on weight, use carrot coins (just thicker carrot slices) as prizes.

The muffin tin dog game is just one way to do nose work!

Nosework Dog Game  

dog games

Your dog’s nose is very powerful and his sense of smell is incredibly strong. So it’s good to take advantage of that when coming up with ways to stimulate him in dog games. In dog events, nosework is a sport where dogs search for specific odors.

Get your dog’s absolute favorite treat for this dog game. This will be the target for your dog’s search.

Use 3-4 old containers like shoe boxes, smaller gift boxes or used stand-up gift bags. You want to contain the odor in the box or bag, but leave a little ventilation for the dog to be able to smell it. Place the boxes or bags on one end of a room.

Then send your dog out to find the box with the treat to start the dog game. The reward is the treat itself. If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight, keep the treats very small (even tasty pieces of their kibble can work).

Obedience Dog Games

dog games

If your dog doesn’t have a reliable sit, down, stay, drop it and recall, it’s always a good priority to teach these commands so you can have a dog you can live with.

Even our well-trained dogs above (Frog, Obi – our daughter’s dog, Finnegan, and Jake) need regular short bursts of training to keep their skills sharp and making a dog game out of it helps with reinforcing any skill.

Training your dog any new command or refreshing an old one is a great way to keep them active and relieve boredom during bad weather. A few 3-5 minute sessions a day working with your dog on new tricks or commands can do just that and can always be made to be like a dog game.

Play Date

dog games

Plan a playdate with your friends or family to provide your dog with some meaningful interaction and relieve boredom.

Our son Sean will sometimes visit just to see our dog Jake (not us ha!), his favorite of our pups. Jake is our highest-energy dog and he Sean play fetch, find it or other dog games inside and outside the house.

If there are some friendly dogs in your neighborhood or you have a friendly dog that your dog likes in the family, you can arrange for supervised play time at either house. Make sure that you actually know the dog pretty well.

Watch the dogs carefully as it’s easy for one dog to accidentally hook a tooth or nail on another dog and cause the dog to become reactive instinctively. The harmed dog isn’t mad or trying to “get back” at the other dog, but they can respond aggressively out of instinct, which is something to be aware of during dog play dates.

Quick Reflexes and Commands as Dog Games

Have your dog do some tricks or commands very quickly as a dog game!

One trick that’s fun to teach your dog is to have her balance and catch a treat off her own nose when you give a command. Our dog Eli loved doing this dog game and was a master at it!

You can have them sit quickly or down quickly while heeling. To get them to do this, you give the same commands as usual, but in a quick, snappy manner with higher energy and lots of praise. They like the shift in your energy even though it’s the same old command!

Red Light/Green Light Dog Game

You can use alternating come and sit commands for a dog game version of red light/green light.  

Have your dog sit on one end of the room, call them to come over, then partway to you command them to sit quickly. Then repeat alternating come and sit commands until they reach you. This also helps reinforce your dog obeying your commands better at a distance.

Sometimes the quickness of the commands can get dogs excited.  Know your dog’s energy level. If there’s any nipping on you during the play, then use the word “easy” in a slower, lower tone or end the dog game calmly.

Rally Dog Games

Rally is a fun, competitive dog sport that came onto the dog world scene in 2005. We believe many dog owners wanted an easier and sometimes more exciting entry point into dog events other than strict obedience events. Here’s an example of a rally event for beginners. Rally events can be for any dog, not just the purebred dog.

It’s easy to set up a simple rally dog game course in your home. You and your dog navigate a course, mostly side-by-side, of 10-20 printed signs. The signs provide instructions regarding the next exercise (skill or task) that is to be performed. The dog and you (the handler) move continuously throughout the course. In your own home, you can decide if you want to use a leash or not when you do a rally course dog game.

Because these are just signs you print out, you can change your dog game course configuration to be anything you want!  You can print the rally signs for the beginner level which is called Novice (notice the “N” at the top of those signs). There are 36 novice signs which are explained well here, too.

Most of the signs at the Novice level are pretty self-explanatory, but there are rally video tutorials for each sign if you want to look at those.  For some of the signs you will need some small cones or some other items that you can weave around or through with your dog.

Spinning While Heeling as a Dog Game

A fun and easy dog game requiring no equipment is spinning while heeling. It’s great to work both directions for your dog to improve her balance.

Our dog Finn is extremely “right pawed” and having him practice spinning to the left improves his balance and coordination. Most dogs tend to favor going one direction over the other if you take notice.

Basically, have your dog walk or heel at your side for a few steps. Then using a treat to guide the direction you want them to go, have your dog pause and spin in place then immediately resume heeling.

Your dog will go whatever direction you dictate when you use the treat. So vary circling your hand with the treat left and right.

Spinning while heeling is definitely a fun pick up dog game that most dogs will love!

Tag Dog Game

Playing a tag dog game will require a partner. Each of you should sit or stand at one end of a room with a toy or some treats. Take turns calling the dog over and rewarding him when he comes. Make sure to use lots of praise. This is such a simple and fun way to proof train (reinforce) a reliable recall command.

Utility Obedience Dog Game (scent discrimination portion)

dog games

Don’t let the title of this section scare you! It truly is not too hard at all. And you will totally amaze your friends when you can show them your dog can do this trick.

Be ready to video record this when your dog masters this dog game!

Obedience events show a dog’s ability to follow routines and emphasize the usefulness of the dog as a companion to people. The most challenging level of obedience is called utility. It includes a part on scent discrimination, which is fairly easy to teach your dog because you are working with your dog’s best sense: smell.

How it Works

When you teach your dog to discriminate a scent, you are not teaching the dog to actually detect a scent. That comes very naturally to your dog.

What you are teaching them is to choose one scent over another and then what to do with that information.

We unload lots of skin cells every day and everywhere. All of them have our scent. So when dogs try to find our scent on objects, what we are really asking them to do is find the object that smells THE MOST like you.  

How to Teach Basic Scent Discrimination as a Dog Game

You need 4-5 objects that are all the same, like tennis balls. Take the tennis balls and set them in a spread out arrangement on the other side of a room from your dog.

Then select one of the balls and rub your hands all over it for a minute or so. Try not to touch the other balls so you avoid “scenting” them too much.

Lay that scented ball somewhere in the arrangement. To start the dog game, go back to your dog and give a command like “find it” or “get.”

Scent discrimination is only one part of utility obedience training, but it’s pretty obvious that it works your dog’s mind and naturally heightened sense of smell. This also helps your dog to learn to about making choices among objects in general.

Have fun with this dog game and capture it on video when your dog gets the hang of it!

Views

dog games

Dogs like to know what’s happening in their surroundings which includes the outside of your home. Many also love a cozy nap in warm sunlight as it flows through windows and doors.

Our Finny (above) especially loves to just stare out the front or back door when I open it.

Open the front or back door so they can see out (without actually getting out).  If you have a screen door, it can also air out the house and get rid of stale air when the weather isn’t so great.

Which Hand Dog Game

This is another fun scent work dog game.  You just need some dog treats, chopped up fruits or vegetables or even cheese sticks. We use cheese sticks a lot in our dog training and dog games, especially with puppies.

Place a treat in one of your hands.  Close your hands to make fists and hold both hands out in front of your dog. Let her choose which hand she thinks it’s in.  When she sniffs or paws at the correct hand, open it up and give her the treat as her reward.

It may take her a few tries to catch on, so be patient with this dog game!

eXplore New Smells Dog Game

Ok, give me a break with X, alright?  It’s a tough letter in any A-Z list!

Bring some of the outside elements into your house during bad weather. A garage works nicely to minimize any messes.

Our dogs love the trail that’s near us.  Every smell is like a magical wonderland for them!

Grab leaves and sticks from a park or your yard and set them in your garage or on your porch or deck for your dog to sniff out. Just monitor so your dog doesn’t actually eat anything. Sniffs only for this dog game!

YouTube Videos and Music

dog games

Videos

Another option for stimulation (not a dog game) are dog-centered YouTube channels or videos. DOGTV is on YouTube and as a Roku channel.  

Dogs respond to other dogs, animals and nature sounds on TV.

I checked out the samples available on the Roku channel with our 3 dogs, and they seemed to like it. Both Jake and Finn perked up, watched and in some cases actually responded to what was on screen.

DOGTV claims to base their video on 60 scientific studies. Their videos have colors on the screen which fall into the dog’s range of vision, so they may look a little off to us, so don’t adjust the color on your screen.

The samples we watched together had other dogs and constant motion on the screen because dog’s like that.

The makers also claim that they avoid sudden noises that would freak dogs out. So they only hears sounds that calm and relax.

They also have videos for unfamiliar sounds like sirens and fireworks to help dogs be exposed to those sounds and hopefully become less sensitive to them.

Sometimes dogs may lunge at a screen if they see something they don’t like.  I recommend watching a few with your dog to see how and if she reacts to them.

Music

Our dogs also really respond to slow classical piano music (think Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven). It’s practically hypnotic to them because we played it for them when they were puppies when we needed them to settle in their crates.

It’s something worth trying when you want to calm your dog when she is cooped up during bad weather. We call it “Baby Einstein” music for dogs.

Just like with us, TV doesn’t replace actual exercise or your companionship. Try the other dog games or activities suggested on this list before going to the TV or device. But a little dog-themed programming might not hurt once in awhile when you are busy.

Zany Dress Up Time

dog games

Finally, dressing up your dog in fun and zany costumes can be entertaining for everyone. Not all dogs like to do this, but some do.  

This is our Finnegan above.

You can do pet portrait poses or videos that are holiday themed or just zany and random.

Make sure the objects or clothing you use don’t have any sharp edges that could be uncomfortable for your dog. And since these aren’t toys, they should be well out of their reach when you’re done with your photo shoot.

This site will allow you to make a meme with your image that you can share on social media. Who knows? Maybe your next pooch pic or video will go viral!

Remember, an active dog is a healthy dog in more ways than one. And with our own physical activity goals, look at playing dog games as an excuse to get moving with your dog!

What do you do to keep your dog busy and entertained? How do you relieve dog boredom? Do you have any dog games not listed here that you play with your dog?

Resources

Why do dogs play? Function and welfare implications of play in the domestic dog (it actually serves several purposes) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159117302575?via%3Dihub

Why do adult dogs ‘play’? https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376635714002289?via%3Dihub

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