Stuck inside? Are your dogs bored and driving you a bit stir crazy?
Whether it’s raining outside or you’re self-isolating because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), being stuck inside all day with a restless (and bored) dog can brew trouble.
I’m talking chewed up shoes, hysterical barking, constant whining for attention, being high-fived in the face by your dog’s paw…you get the picture.
If you’re pent up in the house with your dog(s) and trying to think of ways that you can entertain them (and yourself), I’ve got a couple of great ideas for you. I’ve played these partnership games with my dogs for years, going back to the old days when I lived in an apartment in Chicago with my first dog, a Standard Poodle named Max.
So, here’s a great game that I loved to play with Max whenever we were inside the apartment because of a raging thunder storm or when we just wanted to have some fun hanging out together.
The Find It Game
Max adored this game. It makes me smile just thinking about how excited he would get when I played it with him and many of my dogs since Max have loved it too.
If there’s something you need to know about Max, it’s that Max had the memory of an elephant. He had a very good memory and would’ve been great on a dog quiz show if such a thing existed!
But anyways, Max knew the names of 50 different toys and objects. Whenever I asked him to fetch me a certain item, he would venture off and search for it, before bringing it back to me. Every time he brought it to me upon request, I couldn’t help but beam with pride. This was a very smart dog but don’t worry, you can help your dog become familiar with different objects and toys to the point where they will remember the names, too!
“The ‘Find It’ game helps develop our ability to co-regulate with our dogs”
The Find It game is a great way to engage with your dog, develop your bond, and improve your communication. It gives your dog a mental challenge. It makes them think things through and because it’s so mentally stimulating for dogs, they tend to enjoy it even more than tedious games like fetch.
Here are the five steps you can take to start playing the find it game with your dog:
First, you need to start with one toy. Give it a name. Let’s say it’s a blue ball. Maybe it’s your dog’s favorite blue ball, in which case, they’re going to love this game even more. Every time you give the toy to your dog, make sure you refer to it with the name you’ve given it.
Repetition is key! So, if you’re playing with the blue ball, call it the ‘blue ball.’ It won’t take long before your dog begins to associate the name with that particular toy or object.
The next step is to make things more difficult for your dog. So, maybe you’ll take the blue ball and hide it behind your back. The only rule at this stage is that you must make sure your dog sees you hiding it. They need to know that you just put the blue ball behind your back.
Then, ask your dog, “where’s your blue ball?” or “find your blue ball.” Motivate your dog to find the ball by drawing attention to it. If it’s a squeaky toy, squeeze it! Try to encourage your dog to find the toy and give it back to you. When they do it, praise them and celebrate their success!
The third step is to turn up the difficulty by pretending to throw a fake ball when in reality, you’ve hid it behind your back. Tell your dog to “find the blue ball” and see what happens. If your dog doesn’t respond, repeat the playful encouragement.
Feel free to give your dog some helpful hints if you think they need it. And, when they find the toy, throw them a huge party. Throw your hands up in the air, make a fuss over them, they’ll love it.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to move the toy to a more challenging location. You could try hiding it behind a cushion or under the couch. Repeat the process. As your dog gets better at the game, you can try hiding the toy further away. Keep repeating this until your dog becomes an expert!
Now, you can turn to your dog and say, “find the blue ball,” and they’ll go off and find it for you.
The final step is to repeat the entire process over again with a new toy. Eventually, your dog can learn the names of multiple toys and objects. You can even hide a few toys at once and ask your dog to find a particular one.
Remember to celebrate each time your dog gets it right!
Why play games like this with your dog?
Most dogs will love this game and even though you might be fed up inside the house, playing games like this can really help you to bond with your dog. Not to mention, it gives you an excuse to work on some important life skills with your dog without all of the distractions of the outside world.
“Most dogs really love this game.”
This type of game is a great way to learn how to co-regulate along with our dogs. We can develop our ability as our dog’s leader, and it acts as a unique learning opportunity to model being calm, relaxed, and centred around our dogs (while also having lots of fun together!).
I hope these games serve you well and they keep you and your dog entertained when you’re pent up inside!
If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrolment!
You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 101, which you can listen to here.
Watch a short video trailer of the episode below: