If you’re uncomfortably hot during the “dogs days of summer,” imagine how your pet feels. “When temperatures approach 90 degrees, even a casual walk can lead to heatstroke, especially for older dogs, puppies or overweight dogs,” says trainer Christine Pazdalski of Puppy Love Positive Dog Training in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. “Many people don’t even realize that their dog is overheating. That happy, long tongue is letting you know your dog is hot!” So, when it’s steaming outside, bring the fun indoors. We asked Pazdalski and other trainers to give pet parents some cool ideas for playing with your dog. And don’t worry—these games for dogs won’t wreck your house or take a lot of time to set up.
The Name Game: Start by calling out your dog’s name in a happy, excited voice. Give him a chance to respond before repeating his name over and over again. When he arrives in front of you, reward him with lots of praise, pets and belly rubs; his favorite toy; a yummy treat; or anything your dog loves. Next, move into different rooms in the house. Each person in the house takes turns calling your dog’s name, from different corners of the room, then from different rooms in the house. “This is a wonderful way to teach your pup to come reliably when called,” notes Pazdalski.
Trick-and-Treat: This game for dogs will help burn physical and mental energy. “Burning mental energy is sometimes way more exhausting than physical exercise, and that’s a good thing when it is too hot to play outside,” says trainer Lisa Hartman, author of Tales of Compassion, Love, and Friendship. Rotate the commands your dog already knows: You can ask your dog to sit, then down, then sit again (doggy push-ups!) for praise and a treat. Mix up the order of the commands to keep it fresh, and incorporate whatever tricks you taught him. “But only ask for the behavior once, so your dog has to focus on what you want and think, strengthening his listening and learning skills and burning some mental energy,” says Hartman.
Tug-Fetch Combo: Stand at the top of your steps and throw a chew toy for dogs, like the Kong Classic dog toy, (which also dispenses treats), down the stairs. Ask your pooch to fetch the dog toy and run back up the stairs with it, suggests trainer Chad Culp, founder of the Thriving Canine YouTube channel. Then play tug-of-war with the toy and toss it back down the stairs. “This will tire out your dog really fast,” says Culp.
Or Just Fetch: A lot of dog toys, especially balls, are made for outdoor use. But it’s okay to play ball in the house with the ChuckIt! Indoor Ball toy. This lightweight ball is covered in textured chenille, so it’s easy on floor—and the ears.
Hide and Go Seek: You can hide balls and stuffed animals behind furniture, under a throw pillow, or in another room, and then send your dog off to find them, says Mary Burch, Ph.D., director of Canine Good Citizen, a program of the American Kennel Club. She also recommends dog puzzles for a different kind of highly stimulating hide-and-go-seek game. For instance, when using Outward Hound’s Hide A Squirrel Puzzle dog toy, you hide squeaky squirrels in the tree trunk, and your dog will sniff them out.
Shell Game: This is an upgraded, doggie version of the popular find-the-ball game. Pull out three cups. Let your dog see you place a treat under one of the cups. Then shuffle the cups around and see if your dog picks the right one!
Go Chase: Can’t join in the play? Keep your dog happy and occupied with the Starmark Bob-a-Lot dog toy. You simply fill the toy with treats or kibble, and adjust the opening to control the difficulty of retrieving the goodies. As your dog paws, nudges and chases the toy, he gets rewarded!
Scavanger Hunt: There’s no rule that says you have to feed your dog from a bowl. Make it fun and much more interesting by placing your dog’s food, along with a few treats, in several different cups in various places in the house. “You can say, ‘Ok, find your food!’ Then just watch him go to work. This game helps our dogs relearn how to use their noses to find their food rather than simply scarfing it all out of a bowl,” says Pazdalski. “Some breeds will immediately sniff out where each morsel is hiding, while others need a little help.”
DIY Obstacle Course: Head to your garage or basement, or clear some space in the living room, and set up an obstacle course for your pooch. The Outward Hound Indoor Agility Kit includes a square tunnel, an adjustable high jump and four weave poles. When you’re done, just slip the kit back into its case for easy storage.