5 Ways to Keep Dogs Occupied on Rainy Days
Spring is here! This seems to be the first sentence in many of my blog posts recently, but please excuse this as Spring makes me really happy. As wonderful as Spring is, however, springtime does mean that we will have more rainy days than during the rest of the year. Sometimes it can be fun to let our dogs run around in the rain and get wet and muddy, but other times we don’t want to keep up with wiping down wet dogs with soggy feet and cleaning up mud prints from our floor.
So, how do we keep our energetic dogs occupied indoors when all they want to do is play a game of fetch in the yard on a rainy day?
Dogs Are Meant to Work
“Why is it my job to provide a task for my dog on a rainy day?” you may ask. “She’s a dog, doesn’t she know what dogs are supposed to do already?”
It would be nice if our dogs would sleep through the rain, or quietly and patiently wait for us to finish up some work on our laptops. However, as much as we may want our 2-year-old lab to lay down and sleep for a little while, she probably won’t do so until she’s good and tired.
Don’t forget, all dogs want something to do! They want a job or a task or a command to follow. It is our job as pack leader to provide our dogs with their job for the day. Also, a job well done causes our dogs to feel mentally and physically stimulated and tired while at the same time increasing their confidence.
And, as we’ve all probably found out at some point, if we don’t provide a job for our dogs to do, they may find one on their own. Unfortunately for us, that job may be pulling all of the stuffing out of our sofa or chewing our blinds to bits!
Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep my dogs busy when the weather turns nasty:
1. Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys (and slow feeders) are a great way for us to feed our dogs and provide them with something to do while we wait for any storm to pass. They are also a lot of fun.
Nina Ottosson puzzle toys have varying levels of difficulty and require different methods for solving each toy. Some dogs (and cats!) will have a natural instinct and curiosity for solving these puzzles, and others may need a little help from us to get started. Either way, puzzle toys are a great way for our dogs to kill time indoors and work out their mental muscles at the same time.
No matter what our dog’s strategy for solving the puzzles, once they’re solved she will find the treats or kibble we have hidden inside for her. We can even break our dog’s mealtimes into several smaller meals throughout the day, giving her more opportunities to play and focus on solving puzzles, and less time whining at the back door.
Change things up on your dog by getting more than one puzzle toy and rotating through them at playtime or meal time. This way she won’t become too fast at solving the puzzles and will have to figure each puzzle out separately to find her reward. We can also change things up by changing the treats we’re putting in the puzzle, making it new and exciting to find out what’s hidden each time she plays with her puzzle toy.
2. Stuffed Kongs
I have definitely written about the wonderful, stuffable Kong toy before! These are one of my favorites. They are SO durable, that they will last a dog’s lifetime.
Kongs are also so easy to stuff with treats, jerky, kibble, or peanut butter and then just pass along to your pooch for possibly hours of entertainment (depending on how good your dog is at emptying it) on a rainy day. Shop Kongs here.
I also like to stuff Kongs with plain yogurt and then stick them in the freezer. It’s like a popsicle for your doggy when it comes out. Just make sure your dog is not cleaning out his Kong on your carpet, or it may get messy. This is a great treat for our dogs to enjoy while crated, as well.
3. Rope Toys
What if we want to play with our dogs, but don’t want to go in the rain?
I can’t play fetch in my house. Even though this is a favorite game for my dogs, my house is too small and they are too rambunctious for that. Instead, we enjoy playing with a rope toy together indoors.
All three of my dogs enjoy a good game of tug-of-war, and I think it’s fun to play with them (plus I get a little bicep workout). And if you have more than one dog who is willing, then they can also play tug with each other…although my three prefer to play with me more than with each other.
I would advise against leaving rope toys (or soft rubber or plush stuffed toys) out with dogs when they are unsupervised. Some toys are way more durable than others, and no one likes to come home from work to find a mess they weren’t expecting to have to clean up or a sick dog with a bowel obstruction. Check out Hollywood Feed's selection of rope toys for sale here.
4. Rawhides and Bones
Good ole’ rawhides and bones are also a great choice for keeping dogs occupied on rainy days. Big, thick, high-quality rawhides can last some dogs all day or longer. We can also find different rawhide flavors, such as bacon, beef and peanut butter to give our dogs some variety. Read about why we should always make sure to buy American made rawhides here.
Butcher's Block Bones are also great for providing long stretches of entertainment, and your dog will probably want to chew on the same bone for days. Remember to take bones away from dogs and put them in the trash if they start fragmenting, breaking or splintering.
5. Weighted Backpacks
When we have one of those dogs with lots of energy and stamina, and no off-switch, then we may want to consider giving her an extra job on a rainy day. Besides providing her with something to chew on or play with, we can also try strapping a backpack to her.
Most doggy backpacks have zippered pockets to which we can add weights or other heavy objects we have around the house to make sure the backpack is the right weight for our dog. This could include canned food or a tool from the garage….anything that won’t bust inside the backpack if our dog runs into something. There may be a learning curve to getting through tight spaces if our dog hasn’t realized that she’s a little wider with her backpack on.
Weighted backpacks are great for younger dogs, and they are great for dogs we plan to take camping and hiking with us, because then our dogs can learn to carry their own pack with food and water! We should always make sure we are not putting too much weight in our dog’s backpack. We don’t want to cause any injuries or strain her back or joints.
A weighted backpack is a great tool for wearing out an energetic puppy because she will have to exert extra energy for each task she performs. Working twice as hard to stand up, sit down and walk across the room will tire any dog out twice as quickly!
Please Don’t Hate, It’s OK to Crate
If we have a highly destructive dog that can’t be left out when we are sleeping or leaving the house, and also cannot be trusted to behave when we are sitting right next to her…then crate training is a great option for a rainy day or any work day.
I know that some people don’t like crates, but they do not have to be a scary, sad place for our dogs unless we make them that way. If we only use a crate as punishment after our dog has done something we don’t like, or if the only time we put our dog in her crate is when we leave the house for a long work day, then she will probably learn to associate her crate with punishment or separation from us….pretty simple.
If we instead turn the crate into a happy, safe place where our dog gets to rest quietly and have a treat while we are sitting near her, but occupied with something else (and especially if we start crate training immediately) then it becomes a calm, happy, restful retreat for our dog anytime we tell her it’s that time. Learn how to introduce your dog to her new crate here.
Many dogs learn to love their crates and seem to think of it as their own personal space (or canine space). Some dogs even go into their crates on their own when they’re feeling tired, because it’s their favorite place to nap. Check out crates here.
These are my favorite ideas for keeping dogs occupied indoors when the weather is bad, but I know there are lots of other options out there. What is your favorite way to entertain your dog indoors? Let us know in the comment section below!