Pet Parenting: Indoor playtime with the family dog


Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She trains animals and also answers pet questions sent in by NWA moms for us here on Motherlode. Denise has been training for 25 years and is passionate about pets. To send her a question, email it to: Here’s the latest question — for wintertime:

Dear Denise,

What are some games our family can play with our dog this winter while we’re all cooped up in the house?

Dear Mama,

There are lots of fun things you can do with your family and your dog this winter that will not only entertain you, but reinforce good behaviors and keep Fido’s mind working. The first game is what I call ‘puppy ping-pong.’ This game teaches your dog to come when called and everyone can play, even young kids.

ppets-3763999_alternate1_t96.jpgI have done this with children as young as two or three, but I usually have them sit in my lap or stand in front of me, and you will have to remind them to use their ‘big kid’ or ‘outside’ voice. Here’s how to play: each member of your family takes a few treats and spreads out in the room. One at time, you will each take a turn calling your dog to come. Kids can get excited with this one, and dogs confused, so make sure Fido has finished chewing, and you know who will call next. To advance this game, you can add a sit to the come. To advance further, move around the house or even hide. Hiding is great because it teaches your dog what is called a ‘blind recall,’ which means your dog will come even when he is out of eyesight. Remember, though, if you are hiding, you will need to keep calling until the dog finds you.

51npvsdsail_sl500_aa280_.jpgIf you have more than one dog or wish to invite friends with dogs of their own, you can play a game called ‘My Dog Can Do That.’ Available through, this is a fun board game that allows each player in turn to draw a ‘trick’ card. The player then has 30 seconds to get his dog to do the trick. The tricks range in difficulty, but the game is more fun than hard.

Lastly, one of the best suggestions I can offer is teaching tricks. It’s always fun to see what you can get your dog to do using positive reinforcement and a little encouragement. My favorite ‘game’ to play with any dog is ‘Fun with a Box.’ I especially enjoy using it with dogs that have been abused by other training methods or those that don’t have a lot of self confidence. This game encourages mental and physical flexibility and gives the dog courage to try something on its own. For details on getting started visit and search “101 Things to Do with a Box.” All you will need is a clicker, some treats and a little imagination.

Have fun!

Ain’t Misbehavin’ CDP, Inc
“You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery