Keeping the Demon Inside

Every year when the temperatures leap into rapid decline, Shiva’s energy boosts way up. There is nothing like a winter chill to add an extra shot of vigour into her already too-vigorous step. This doesn’t work so well for my lazy human self.  While she is ready to run and bounce and take on the world, I am ready to sleep. The higher Shiva climbs the walls, the deeper I furrow into my blankets. To avoid permanent discord between us, I have a pretty decent arsenal of indoor activities that I can pull out when I’d rather let my dog jump on my head than go outside.

The Toilet Paper Roll Game

I shared a video of this game last year. Essentially, I just fill an empty toilet paper roll with treats, hide it somewhere in the house, and get Shiva to find it. It works really well and keeps her busy for a long time. K9 Nosework is a great way to tire her out. Well, it used to be. We have a small house and there are only so many places to tuck the roll away. Shiva is now pretty good at guessing all of my hiding spots. Either we are going to have to find a bigger house or I am going to have to come up with a better game.


I love training new tricks. I also love showing off Shiva’s now very impressive portfolio. (If I do say so myself.) There is nothing Shiva loves more than earning rewards. Learning tires out her brain long before it tires out her body but after a good five or ten minute session, she will at least lose the crazed look in her eyes. Unfortunately, the tricks I have chosen to work on lately are a little de-motivating for me and we’ve come to kind of a standstill. I need to come up with some new ideas, maybe find a simpler trick to learn that will be rewarding for both of us.

This handstand stuff is HARD!

Tugging, retrieving, and other traditional games

The only thing Shiva might like just as much as earning treats is tugging. Indoors, it is her favourite game and she is pretty much always up for it. She could tug for hours and hours if I let her. Sadly, my stamina is just not up to her level and my arms tire much too fast for her liking. That’s why I have taught her to not only tug, but to retrieve the tug toy when I throw it. After a good bout, I’ll toss the toy for her to chase and give my shoulders a break. She likes it because she gets to run and knows she will be rewarded with a new tugging game when she brings the toy back. The only problem is, our floors can be a little slippery for a speeding dog who feels no pain. I wince every time she bangs into a wall or slides down the stairs. I don’t think we’ll be able to keep this up as she ages.

Treat-dispensing toys

When all the toilet paper rolls are destroyed, when all my creative trick ideas are used up, and when my shoulders have completely collapsed, I turn to toys like the tricky treat ball and Nina Otosson’s Pyramid as a last resort. These toys always feel like cheating as they require no real interaction with me. But it’s good to have them around when I just can’t take the insanity any longer. With tonight’s predicted snow storm, I am grateful such things were invented!

How do you keep your dogs occupied when you’d rather not play outdoors? Do you have any fun trick suggestions? Any cool games to share? I’d love to hear them. It’s only November and already I am worried I will lose my mind!

17 thoughts on “Keeping the Demon Inside

  1. Sometimes I play hide-n-seek with them, most times I will try and initiate a game of tug with one but then coax the other into taking my place. 🙂 I do play hide the carrots which is a nose work game.

    I like the toilet paper roll game though…that sounds like something I would do.


  2. We do a lot of those same things, too. It’s so hard when the weather turns bad, isn’t it?! One thing I’ve been doing with Cooper is sort of a “chase the treat” game. I put him in a sit/wait or send him to his bed, then I throw a treat somewhere were he can’t see it. Then I release him with “go find.” After he locates it, I ask him to do something different (a down/wait or place or something) and repeat. It’s a good combo of mental exercise and a little running around that keeps him busy. Please share any other ideas because, sadly, winter is upon us! 🙂


  3. I converted half of our garage into what I call a ball studio. I put some mats on the floor and I have a few different inflatable “balls” that I do a variety of exercises with the dogs on. It definitely helps to mentally as well as physically get them some exercise. It’s not exactly cheap initially to get a variety of the balls, but if you don’t have to buy the biggest size of everything like I do, it’s a little more reasonable. Stair workouts are also good, depending on the surface of your stairs. Go up and down the stairs, but vary the speed that you have her doing it.


  4. Hi, my brother Owen and I love stuffed toys so if there’s a new one around or a really old one that we haven’t seen for awhile, then we can chew on that for awhile. We also have a plastic bottle toy that my mom bought that has a rope sticking out of the top. My mom unscrews the bottle, drops some smallish treats in, screws the bottom back on the bottle and then it’s up to me to tosh it around, tip in so that the treats inside slide past the piece of rope in the bottle’s neck and into my tummy. You might try “beef chews” but unfortunately we got cut off all beef products. Then there’s almond butter and yougurt stuffed inside a Kong and frozen that works well too. Oh yeah, the shelties only care about food. If there’s no food, they’ll lie down and sleep 🙂


  5. Luckily Song lives to sleep around 16 hours each day, so a quick 10 minutes play with her squeaky a couple of times a day and she’s happy. Oh and she loves to come and just stand in front of me, so I can pat her and stroke her ears until she decides she’s had enough:)


  6. Maybe its time to graduate from hiding treats in the paper towel roll to choosing a different scent for her to find to get the treats? Like, you could train her to be a mushroom hunting dog or something, and start having her find mushrooms around the house to get her treats.

    On the ball work is pretty much out indoor physical activity. Depending on what we do and how long we do it, the dogs can get pretty tired out from ball work. And then I’ll encourage the dogs to tug with each other, with me cheering them on the whole time. But, they still very much need a good long run at the park most days.


  7. what a timely post! I was just writing how the winter months are slow for us and I need ways to occupy the crazy pup. I am going to have to look into those puzzle games


  8. The joy of being a retired laid back greyhound is that I just like a spot of garden play and a couple of walks a day – and then I just like lots and lots of cuddles indoors.

    My friend Frankie is very energetic so I will tell her mum about your ideas though. She’d love them.

    Love and licks, Winnie


  9. We have the same problem around here. I will have to try out a few of your ideas on Ryker.
    Thanks and have a great holiday weekend!


  10. Indoor tricks and activities can be fun to come up with, or a pain! I’m working (albeit slowly) with Elka to get her Intermediate Trick Dog title, so I’ve got a list to work from, anyway. Sometimes, though, it’s a matter of motivation on my part; sometimes I just want to veg on the couch, not count out some treats and bust out a target to get her closer to turning out the light!


  11. Ha ha, I play hide and seek with Cali too! I throw her toy and then run and hide in one of the rooms . .she loves it 😉 Our weather has been horrible the last few days – cold, rainy, and windy – and Cali has no problem heading out for a walk – UGH!!


  12. I’m with Crystal – teach her to differentiate scents. You can do something simple like different tea bags, and like Crystal said, if you have any local edible mushrooms, you can train her to find them (or any other local edible anythings).

    Puppy push ups (sit, down, stand, down, stand, sit, down, stand, etc.) might help somewhat, and you could cue them from a horizontal position.

    Teach her to put her toys away and then scatter like 50 toys.

    Get her going up the stairs backwards.

    Get her a backpack?

    How do you feed her? I feed my dogs out of Kongs (which I freeze) and it takes them 1 1/2 hrs to destuff them. Might give you more time than the puzzle toys, and you could do it every day! And also hide the Kongs so she has to find them in the first place, and hide several at once.

    That’s all I’ve got for now.


  13. We did start learning to stack a childs toy, you know plastic or wooden rings stacked onto a stake. The friends with larger Shiva size dogs had more success than me, the stake was a tad high for a border terrier. Took ages, lots of patience and thought. Need a good retrieve for starters.


  14. One of those great posts where the comments are as good as the actual post.

    If you’re looking for tricks, why not teach Shiva the things service dogs learn–how to open a refrigerator (well, maybe not that one), turning lights on and off, opening and closing drawers, untying your shoelaces, fetching a beer from a cooler…

    Maybe you’ll end up with a viral youtube video. 🙂


  15. ha ha ha! we do all those same things with crazy desmond over here. well, we haven’t done the “treats in TP roll” thing–yet–but that’s a good idea.

    i LOLed when i read the part about your slippery floors. we have no rugs in the one area of our house that’s big enough to run in, because desmond has urinated them all to death. so, what we do have is a hodgepodge of hardwood, laminate, and what i’m pretty sure are peel & stick tiles. he slides all over the place when we play and hits everything–walls, door frames, furniture, trash cans, etc. he has, however, gotten pretty good at the sliding part now and can begin his breaking/stopping far enough away from objects to not completely smash into them like he used to.


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