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Foul Weather Fun

Indoor Games and Activities for You and Your Dog

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.”― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog 

Even on beautiful Nantucket we have occasional days when walking your dog is just not practical—last winter’s 3 blizzards, and this week’s frigid temperatures come to mind. But that doesn’t mean the dogs can just be put away in the closet with your walking shoes until the weather clears. They want and need exercise, activity, and stimulation on a daily basis—no matter the weather. And if the dogs you live with are anything like the ones I live with, they let you know it! I get the pitiful stares, the sighs, and then when all else fails beds and forelegs start getting chewed!

Training new tricks with small treats is something that anyone can do to stimulate your dog’s interest and intelligence. Choose a behavior you would like your dog to be able to do (like shake a paw) and slowly reward the behaviors that would get them there (sitting, then lifting the paw up, and finally putting it your hand). You will be amazed at how quickly they pick up new tricks. Be sure not to exceed 3-5 minutes of such training. Too much is not fun, and you want these activities to be fun. 

I also like to go into a room, close the door, and hide small treats in different places. Then I open the door and let them have at it. It doesn’t take them long to find the “usual” spots, so be sure to mix it up.

But fun activities to do with your dog are only limited by your imagination. Here are other ideas from dog lovers both near and far (and in their own words) for fun activities to keep your dogs happy in the foulest Nantucket weather.

I have visited assisted living facilities as a 'therapy animal team'...Highly recommend this for all those with dogs that have the right temperament - it is incredibly gratifying & fun.—Kristin

Gwen is on our bed with her multitude of toys, I "pounce" in front of her by lightly pounding my hands on the mattress in front of her... she then scurries/twirls around the bed, picks out a toy and shakes it as hard as she can... I then "pounce" again and the whole process begins again.... Gwen loves doing this and will do it for as long as I keep "pouncing" her!—Susan

LOVE to dance with my dogs, doing spins and twirls thru my legs! Great entertainment! My dogs’ favorite might be Easter Egg hunts. I have a paper bag of plastic eggs, fill with kibble and treats and hide them all over the yard, up on things, on ladder, under things. You'd be surprised how quickly they seem to learn to open them w/o breaking them. Ally is a machine at it! They also enjoy puzzles, where we fill all the puzzles and put them on the floor (good game for a rainy day).—Lori

Tobey and I play ball in the house....I throw the ball up the stairs and he chases it, then he drops it on the top step and pushes it with his nose back down the stairs so I can throw it back up to him. Sometimes he will nose it down the stairs and try to race me to get to it first. Love that dog!—Christine R.

We play hide and seek in the house on rainy days:) They get such a kick out of finding me then they run off and hide, such a riot!!!—Christine S.

We play "shaping" games. Right now I’m working on "put your toys away." Since I do agility, I also have weave poles and a tunnel in the basement and we do those for fun. I also teach "left" and "right' by sending them around the columns in the basement. Sometimes I put their breakfast in a bowl and dump the entire bowl on the floor and let them hunt for it. I [also] teach my dogs to get in and out of a large feed bucket or box. I might turn that into a trick…hide in a box or maybe a suitcase. Lots of trick ideas on youtube.—Joyce

As you can see the activities you choose don’t need to be taken from a Montessori curriculum or from a Harvard law school syllabus. Just give your dogs something to do. Give them something to strive for. And most importantly give them you—your attention, your affection, your praise. They’ll do just about anything once they have that. 

So next time it rains or snows or hails here on Nantucket, open your imagination and let the games begin!

A Dog’s Life, Nantucket, will explore the many dog (and other animal)-related issues on Nantucket. Stephanie Henke co-founded Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals and created and manages Nantucket Dog Walk (www.nantucketdogwalk.com), a website dedicated to the many glorious dog walks on Nantucket.