Five Fun Indoor Activities You Can Do With Your Dog

There are times when you just can’t take your dog outside for a walk or to play. Sometimes it’s due to the weather, like the summer heat we’re now having. Whatever the reason, your dog definitely has different ideas. He knows what time it is and looks at you pathetically, pleading for something to do. Games and other activities are a great way to relieve his boredom and provide mental stimulation for him — and fun for both of you! Games also help develop a bond between the two of you and reinforce the relationship you already have. Plus, they work well for an older dog who has difficulty moving, keeping him engaged and mentally active.

I spoke with Phil Lassiter, dog trainer and owner of Respect on Both Ends, and these are five games/activities he recommends for keeping your dog engaged, active, and having fun!

1) Hide and Seek

Start with your dog in a fixed position, e.g., holding a “sit” or “down,” or have another person hold her collar. Hide somewhere where she can access you, call her and let her find you. When she does, celebrate and reward it! Most dogs have a lot of fun doing this, plus it teaches her to come when you call! When you’re done playing, and this is true for all the games described below, let her know that you’re finished. (I tell my dogs, “all done.”)

2) Find It

If your dog plays with toys, he probably will love this game! Like “hide and seek,” start with him in a fixed position/have another person hold him. Take one of his favorite toys and place it where he can see it and give the command “find it” or “search” (or whatever word you want to use). When he finds it, praise him and give him a treat, or reward him by playing with the toy. Once he gets the hang of it, you can gradually make it harder to find the toy. First, hide the toy in a room that he can see you enter without seeing exactly where you’re placing it. When he can find it easily, hide it on different levels of your house. The toy always needs to be in place where he can access it, e.g., not behind a closed door. And he always gets a reward when he finds it!

If you’re going to try scent work with your dog, described below, “find it” is a good precursor.

3) Beginning Scent Work

Use an essential oil that is safe for dogs, e.g., lavender, and put it on a towel or a piece of wood. Begin with your dog in a fixed position/have another person hold her. Start off easy so she has immediate success. Put the scented item next to some treats and let your dog see where you put it. Do that several times, and then move the item out of sight, release her, and give a command, e.g., search or find. (Use a different command word than the one you use for “find it.”) Initially, she will be looking for the treats, but the scent is always present, so she will start to associate the two and tie the scent to the command. Keep progressing, making the item harder to find, but keeping the treats on or next to the item. And always celebrate when she finds it, with praise or attention, too.

On the second day, use the same oil on the same item and on her first search for it, put the treats on or next to it. If she finds it successfully, place the item out of sight but without the treats on it and give the command to search for it. As soon as she finds it, reward her with treats.

Continue to progress this way, challenging your pup by making it harder as she becomes more successful at finding the item. You can reward her with treats, praise/attention, or her favorite toy when she finds the item. In addition to being a fun and challenging game, it teaches your dog to decipher different smells within the house.

4)  Tug

If your pup has the desire to play tug, and not all dogs do, it is an easy game to play with him. You don’t need a lot of space, although you do need a clear area (or hello broken stuff!). The best tugs are about 12” long, either jute or leather, with handles at both ends. You grab one end, your dog grabs the other and he pulls. You provide some resistance while still going with the direction he is pulling, not pulling in the other direction! (You don’t tug, just provide tension.) When he pulls hard, you let go, and he “wins.”

One of the most important things to know about tug: it is designed for the dog to win. He wins, is happy, and brings it back to you, essentially saying, “Let’s play again; I’ll give you another chance.” If you’re just starting out playing tug, you can put your pup on a leash so he doesn’t go off with the tug toy. Your dog also has to know how to release on command. And he can’t put his mouth on you, even accidentally; if he does, stop and take a break before re-engaging.

5) Training

Many dogs, mine included, love to train. They get super excited when I say, “Let’s go work.” It is fun and challenging for them, plus they get a lot of treats! If you don’t have experience training your dog, work with a trainer who can teach you the best way to do it. They can work sit, down, stand, bow, place, shake, etc., whatever you want them to learn.

Training with your dog is great for bonding! It puts you in control as your dog is working for you. It gives her a specific job, which is mentally stimulating as she has to think, applying an action to the terminology she hears. And it’s beneficial to you in long run because it teaches her to be obedient.

Photo of Phil Lassiter, dog trainer and owner of Respect on Both Ends

Phil Lassiter, Dog Trainer and Owner, Respect on Both Ends, offers private dog training sessions as well as board and train. He teaches a variety of different skills, including teaching people how to: manage their dogs in and out of the house; interact with their dog appropriately; and have their dogs behave in an appropriate and respectful manner in public.

You can learn more about Phil’s offerings on his website, or Facebook, You can text or call him at 703-431-5881 or email at

I would love to photograph  your dogs and capture the relationship you have with them and their personalities. Feel free to email or call me at 703-727-3368 if you would like to schedule a photo session. I have a safe, private, and beautiful outside setting, so it is easy to keep a safe distance, and because it is private, there are no other people or pets nearby. I create much of my landscaping thinking about how it will look in photos, and I have one-of-a-kind props, which you won’t find elsewhere. (I would be happy to come to your house or meet somewhere else outside if you prefer that.)

Ellen Zangla Photography: Your pet’s personality, your bond, captured forever!Photo of award-winning pet photographer Ellen Zangla, owner of Ellen Zangla Photography

M.Photog., Certified Professional Photographer, Accredited Professional of Animal Imagery

Professional Photographers of America: 2016 Silver Medal Photographer of the Year; 2018 Bronze Medal Photographer of the Year

My pets, one dog and four cats, are an integral part of my life. I absolutely adore them. Like other family members whom we love, I feel that it is incredibly important to have portraits of them that capture the essence of who they are, whether they’re regal or goofy (or both!) or somewhere in between. If you feel the same way about your dog, cat or other fur or scaled kid, here’s how you can learn more about a pet photoshoot with me works. Or feel free to contact me.

I am a pet photographer, specializing in photographs of pets and pets with their people. I serve all of Northern Virginia, including Loudoun, Fairfax, Leesburg, Ashburn, and Reston, as well the DC Metro area, and I would love to create portraits of your pets that reflect how you feel about them and that you will treasure for a lifetime!