If you have an active dog (or dogs) like I do, the hot summers of Phoenix are extra brutal. My dogs and I come down with summertime cabin fever, but we are trapped in the A/C most of the time. Insert…Dog Games! I had to learn to change my own perspective on exercising my dogs to find options for safely tiring out my high-energy dogs without having to leave the house.
Most dogs love physical exertion, but all dogs need mental stimulation. I have discovered over the years that if you can achieve mental stimulation and really make your dog think hard you are also physically tiring your dog. I know that my dogs find exercise reinforcing, so I want to make sure I’m rewarding the right mindset when we exercise.
Option One: Go for a walk around the house.
Just because it’s too hot to go for a walk outside doesn’t mean you can’t go for a walk at all. You can give your dog a mental and physical workout by teaching them to follow you as you maneuver around obstacles in your house. The bonus of this game is that it improves your dog’s loose leash skills overall.
- Exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body.
- Play loose leash walking drills inside that teach your dog to follow you.
- Add extra effort to simple trips outdoors with dog-parkour behaviors.
In Phoenix it gets too hot to walk our dogs even with dog-boots and waiting for nightfall. Walking inside the house can allow you to exercise your dog while improving their loose-leash skills and overall body awareness.
Option Two: Making the most use of your space for activity and exercise.
No matter how tiny your condo, there really is a way to find room for activities! Like with Game One, we’re focusing on working our dog’s brain even more than their body. You can make obstacle courses and puzzle games out of almost any interior.
- Long hallways are super useful for “send-away & return to me” games.
- Grass in the yard is a built-in snuffle mat. Toss a handful of kibble across the grass.
- Pool noodles make inexpensive and safe obstacles for your dog to jump over or crawl under.
Option Three: Your dog can work for their food.
Your dog will actually love it. Working for their food helps give them purpose or fulfillment. Our goal is not to frustrate our dogs, nor to limit how much their eating, but instead to challenge them in a fun way.
- Slow feed bowls are a great investment. Slowing your dog’s meals down helps prevent dangerous conditions like bloating while making the most of their favorite time of day.
Meal time can become training time. Have your dog search for their food or take half for a training session. You can practice your dog’s wait, or have someone hold their collar while you carry their bowl around the corner to a hiding spot.
- Variety is important. Take Kong-stuffing to the next level with this idea.
- Try free-shaping new behaviors. Play 101 things to do with a box.
Option Four: Set a new goal for you and your dog.
This could be a new sport or even just a new trick. Having something specific to work on will help you stay engaged with your dog. Taking a class at an indoor training facility is a great way to make sure you and your pup follow-through on your new goals. I’m working on canine freestyle tricks with one of my dogs, and taking indoor agility classes at AZDS.
- Look on social media for inspiration and how-to’s.
- Facebook pages and challenge groups can be a wealth of information.
- Design a dog-work out plan with the help of Canine Conditioning & Body Awareness page on Facebook.
Get crafty. If you have a Pinterest account then you don’t have an excuse for not making tons of simple DIY options for new treats, toys, and puzzle games. Variety is the spice of life, mix things up for you and your dog.
Last but not least, remember that the summer can only last so long. In just a few more weeks outdoor training classes will start up again, and the blacktop will stop being hot enough to fry eggs. We’ll be watching the rest of the country surviving winter on the news again and having fun with our dogs in the Valley of the Sun.