A rainy day doesn’t have to mean a boring day for your dog. There are plenty of indoor activities to keep them busy while helping them use their brains for optimal enrichment. Here are a few great ways to stay occupied no matter the weather outside.
1. Snuffle mat
Whether you make your own or buy one, a snuffle mat is a fantastic quiet activity. Add kibble in and around all the pieces of fabric, making it fun yet tricky for your dog to find every last piece. Because the mat is heavy and durable, it’ll stay in place while keeping your furry friend busy.
2. Learn a fun trick
Training doesn’t have to be all about obedience. It’s actually a great way to bond with your dog even if the trick is seemingly useless. A few great ones are sitting pretty (sitting on hind legs), shaking on command (shaking excess water, not paw), and stretching. Sitting pretty is great for impressing your friends while shaking and stretching on command can actually help your dog calm down when you’re out and about.
3. Scavenger hunt
A dog can have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose – put them to good use! Have your dog wait in another room that is out of sight and place treats or kibble in a variety of places in your home. I suggest making sure they’re accessible areas that aren’t too high (to not encourage jumping) or near fragile items. Once you’ve placed a good number of treats, let your dog into the room. They may need assistance finding the first one, and encouragement to keep going. Once they get the hang of it, they’ll love finding every last piece.
4. Health training
Does your dog hate his paws touched? What about his ears or belly or teeth? While we don’t want to make our dogs unhappy, these are all areas that are routinely checked by the vet, especially if there’s a problem. You can help ease their anxiety at the vet by working it into their training. Begin by bringing your hand near the sensitive area and use your clicker or a marker word and a reward when your dog ignores your movement. Slowly get closer to the area, rewarding each time your touch is ignored. Eventually, your dog will be A-Okay with your hands on these parts of their body. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, make sure you go back to step one and go slowly to build up their confidence and comfort.
5. Treat towels
Rather than drying off your dog after a wet walk, you can put a towel to even better use on a rainy day with your dog. Begin by laying the towel flat on the floor. Place some kibble all over one half (we use the long side) and fold the other half of the towel over it. Then, add more kibble along the entire towel. Roll it up like you would a sleeping bag and let your dog at it! No two dogs do it the same, but they’ll use their nose and paws to unravel and unfold the towel to find all the food. You can change up the design to keep your dog on his toes.
6. Make homemade toys
A great enrichment toy doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost anything at all! Pick through your recycling to find any cardboard/paper-based items. Make sure not to use anything with plastic, metal, or other materials. Place treats or kibble inside boxes, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, tissue boxes, or anywhere else. Then, fold or close the containers, put little ones inside big ones, or create any sort of puzzle you’d like. The next step is to let your dog loose on the recycling! They’ll love using their nose to find every last scrap of food. Make sure to keep an eye on your dog for this activity and to remove the recycling and ripped pieces once they’re done.
7. Mat training
A massively useful command, mat training not only helps you keep your pup out of your way, it can also help your dog learn how to self-settle. Grab their bed, a doormat, a towel, or even a small rug. Reward your dog for moving towards the mat, using either a clicker or a marker word. Slowly change the requirements, decreasing the allowed distance and increasing the time on the mat. You can then pair the behavior to a word or phrase (something like “on your mat!” will do just fine). Practice makes perfect, of course, and practicing while you’re cooking is a great time to perfect it.
8. Essentials training
A rainy day is a great time to brush up on some essential training. Whether your dog has slowly forgotten what a command means or your timing has diminished, working in the confines of your home can help reduce distractions. For recall, you can start in the same room as your dog and slowly move about the house. To kick it up a notch, you can turn it into a game of hide and seek! For leave it, you can use your mealtime as a reminder to leave certain objects and food alone on command.
Another useful bit of training is teaching your dog to help them interact with their environment in a useful way. Start by drawing and coloring in a circle on an index card. Add some tape to the back and stick it to your hand. Reward your dog for their interest in the card and eventually for their nose coming in contact with it. Then, move your hand further away and reward for each interaction. Once they get the hang of it, you can name it. I chose “spot.” As soon as your dog can correlate the command, the circle, and the action, you can have some fun. Tape the card to things like cupboards and drawers and doors and work your dog up to closing them (make sure to have plenty of rewards at the ready!).
10. Go for a walk anyway
Sometimes a walk in the rain can offer plenty of enrichment. From all-new scents around the neighborhood to splashing in puddles, it doesn’t even need to be a long one. Plus, you can work on having your dog remain still when it’s time to dry off once you’re home.
Do you have any must-try rainy day activities? I’d love to hear them!