Your pooch will have fun while burning off energy at home.

By Caitlin Scott
Updated December 30, 2020
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Humans aren't the only ones practicing social distancing due to COVID-19. Our dogs are also spending more time inside as the pandemic keeps many of us at home. However, there are plenty of ways to get your pup moving without leaving your house. We found a few pooch-approved games to play with your four-legged friend, including a clean-up activity that owners will enjoy just as much as their pets. Make sure you give your pup some time to learn these games, as some require basic commands they might be learning for the first time. (Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks!)

Credit: Tara Moore/Getty Images

1. Agility Course

It would be nice to buy a fancy agility course, but not everyone has the money or space for it. But you can get creative by making a DIY obstacle course with everyday objects such as old pillows, blankets and stools.

Clear out your living room so that your dog can run and jump without getting hurt or damaging any valuables. You'll want to walk your dog through the course a few times, but once they have the hang of it, you can stand at the end of the course and call them. If your dog is a quick learner, have fun mixing up the path and adding more hurdles. Here are a few ideas for your at-home agility course:

  • Old blankets, towels, and pillows to jump over
  • A hula hoop to jump through
  • A large, open-ended box that your dog can crawl through
  • A basket and a few toys that your dog must place inside
  • A kitchen chair or stool to jump on
  • A pole on two boxes to leap over
  • A ball or flying disc to catch

2. Magic Cups

You'll want to find an open space with a hardwood floor (or a similar surface) to play magic cups. Instruct your dog to "sit" and "lie down" while you set up the game.

Gather three large cups and a tennis ball. Place the tennis ball under one of the cups and then shuffle all three cups in front of your canine companion. Then, tell them to "find it." You might have to help your pup find the ball the first few times until they get the hang of it. 

3. Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is an excellent game for the entire family, and that includes your pup. All you need is your dog's favorite toy. Have your dog sit and stay in one room while you hide in another. Once you're settled, call your canine. When he finds you, reward him with the toy.

4. "Easter Egg" Hunt

It doesn't have to be Easter to play an egg-hunt inspired game. Stuff your dog's kibble inside of a treat-holding toy and hide it in your house or backyard. Make sure your pooch is in another room, so your hiding spot stays secret. Then, bring your pup out, and watch him hunt down the treasure.

5. Round Robin

This is another fun game for the whole family. Have each person grab a handful of kibble and then sit down around the living room. Take turns calling your dog's name. Each time he comes, reward him with praise. When your pooch has become an expert at the game indoors, take him outside where you can spread out even further from one another.

6. Stair Sprints

To play this game, you'll need a stairwell and a ball. Start at the bottom of the stairs and tell your pup, "Sit," and then, "Stay." Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, "Go!" Let your pup dash up the stairs as fast they can, but have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury. This game is an excellent energy burner, but it's only for dogs who are more than a year old. (Younger dogs have developing joints and are at risk for long-term injury.)

7. The Muffin Tin Game

The muffin tin game is a household favorite, and for a good reason. It's simple to set up and perfect for dogs of all ages. You'll need a muffin tin and a ball to fit in each hole. Standard tennis balls work great. You'll also need kibble or smelly food. Put a piece of kibble into each tin. Then, hide the kibble by putting the tennis balls on top of each one. Once you have the game set up, place the entire tin on the floor, and encourage your pup to check it out. The goal of the game is for your dog to remove the ball so that they can get to the food. One of the game's challenges is for the dog to remember where they've found the food and where they haven't, especially if they roll a ball from one hole to another. Your canine might need help on the first few rounds to get the hang of it, but don't make it too easy for them. When they've found all of the food, feel free to play it again.

8. Cleanup

Cleanup time is way more fun when your dog can help. You'll need to train your dog to understand the command, "Put it away." Teach your pooch to pick up a toy, carry it to a basket, and drop it inside. To play the game, scatter a bunch of toys in a small area, point to one, and say, "Put it away." Repeat until your dog has deposited all of the toys in the basket, giving them praise along the way. Increase the difficulty by spreading out the toys or even hiding them. Pretty soon, you'll have a canine cleaning companion!

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