Top 10 Indoor Games for Dogs That Need Motivation

11 Minute Read
Updated January 9, 2022

If your dog hates going out in freezing weather, we can hardly blame them – even we prefer staying bundled up indoors whenever we can. Check out some of our favourite indoor dog games for dogs that prefer to play inside when it's cold.

When the weather starts dropping below zero degrees Celsius, you start needing to take into consideration several factors such as your pet’s coat type, age, the current windchill and conditions outside amongst several others.

Not sure if your dog can handle the cold? Check out How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog so that you can always be prepared for weather changes. 

Not having a thick fur coat aside, some dogs hate the cold because they’re not built for navigating huge snowdrifts – plus, everything smells, looks and feels different from what they’re used to when it’s cold and snowy out.

Even with the best winter dog gear, the icy chill of winter can deter your dog from wanting to spend more than a few minutes trudging through the snow.

That doesn’t mean that we can use -30-degree weather as an excuse to skip out on keeping your dog fit and occupied – pets with extra energy and nothing to do might end up bored and decide to redecorate your house (AKA by tearing up cushions and chewing up shoes.) Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to hang out with their dog

Additionally, exercise and stimulation will help teach your pooch self-control, memory and problem-solving, especially if your dog is still a rambunctious puppy.


The Importance of Indoor Playtime for Dogs

Regular dog exercise helps your dog stay fit, build and maintain muscle, and support joint health as they age. It also helps to use up some of that energy that would otherwise be directed toward disruptive and destructive behaviours when your dog gets bored. 

Exploring different environments and smells, and meeting new friends is also a great way to keep your dog well-socialized, reduce anxiety, and help maintain cognitive function. 

Exercise is more than just physical activity, it provides your dog with mental stimulation that helps keep them healthy and happy. Playing and spending time with your dog will help you develop a stronger bond while curtailing destructive behaviours and developing desirable behaviours. 

Maintaining their normal physical routines indoors is a little different than their normal outdoor dog activities, but it’s still important and not that difficult with the right tips and tools. 

Find out more about your dog's exercise needs in our Ultimate Guide to Exercising Your Dog. You can also check out our exercise calculator to help you determine if your dog is getting the activity he needs to stay healthy. 

Is Your Dog Getting Enough Exercise?


10 Indoor Games for Dogs to Stay Active in Winter

If you’re wondering what exactly you can do inside the house without causing chaos, don’t worry – we’ve gathered a list of games to play that we think your cold-avoiding dog will be happy to do without wrecking your living room.

There are plenty of dog puzzle games to play and chew toys that your dog can use to occupy his time, but the games below are perfect for spending one-on-one time with your dog. 

1. Bubble Chasing

If there’s something that both dogs and kids love, it’s bubbles. This easy indoor dog game is great for dogs that have a lot of energy and a natural hunting instinct. If you’re worried about your furry friend eating suds, check out a recipe that uses non-toxic ingredients.

These floating intruders are sure to get your dog ready to chase. Stick to easy-to-clean spaces, like the kitchen, just in case the bubbles leave behind any soapy residue.

2. Scent Training

While dogs can be trained to detect a wide array of scents, many people start off by having their dogs sniff out treats. To get started with scent training your dog, you’ll need your dog’s favourite treats (or kibble) and two boxes – you can either leave the top on or top off depending on the difficulty level you want to set for your dog. 

Place a dog treat in one of the boxes and set it alongside the empty box on the floor in front of your dog – the rest is up to your pup to figure out. If you want to up the difficulty even more, add more empty boxes and close all the lids on the boxes.

You can even expand on this cup game by hiding treats around the house and telling your pup to go find it – be sure to start with something strongly scented, though, or you might end up finding these treats way past their expiration date when you do spring cleaning.

CTAs_Jerky Dog Treats


3. Make an Obstacle Course

Your dog doesn’t have to be in a show to try out an agility course! You can make one out of things you have lying around in your household objects – stuff like boxes, pillows, books, blankets and chairs. You could have your dog jump over a pillow stack or duck under a chair – anything goes as long as it’s safe and fun indoors for your furry friend.

Check out this DIY Indoor Dog Obstacle Course for some tips and ideas for making your living room into a lot of fun and exciting game room for your pooch. 

4. Towel Unrolling Game

Here’s another shell game for dogs that are really food motivated – simply get a towel, place a treat or kibble in the center near the end, roll it up a little, add another treat and repeat until the towel is all rolled up. Next, show your dog how to play the game by unrolling the towel a little bit and showing them that there’s a treat inside. 

As they learn how to play this indoor dog game, you can reduce the number of treats so that they’ll need to unroll the entire towel to get a reward. You can also reduce the size of the treats to help your dog learn to hunt more. 

This natural foraging technique is both mentally and physically enriching. For a store-bought option that is a bit more challenging, look for a dog play mat or a snuffle mat. You can also make your own snuffle ball or mat by checking out our DIY Dog Toys article

5. Find-It: Ball Pit Edition


If you have a kiddie pool and a bunch of colourful plastic balls left over from your childhood or your child’s birthday, you can give them new life by turning them into entertainment for your dog. Simply place a few treats or your dog's favourite toy in the bottom of the kiddie pool, fill it with tennis balls and let your dog go to town.

Feel free to throw any balls that fall out of the kiddie pool back at your pup for a bonus game of catch! Just make sure your dog isn’t chewing on these balls, as they could easily be a choking or digestive hazard if your dog starts to tear them up.

If you are willing to spend a little money to make this game extra special, you can invest in a large shallow storage bin and fill it with your dog's favourite tennis balls. With or without hidden treats, this doggy ball pit is an exciting game for dogs. 

6. Indoor Digging

If you’ve noticed your dog likes to dig, but you’re not a fan of holes in your garden, indoor digging lets your dog have all the fun of digging, minus the mess.

All you’ll need are some blankets, towels or sheets (make sure that you don’t mind them being scratched up or chewed on.) Simply layer your blankets on top of each other and hide some toys or treats in between the layers.

Show your dog that there are treats in between the layers – if they can’t seem to figure it out, try using fewer blankets or sheets to start. You can continue to add more layers to add difficulty and keep your dog guessing.

7. Hide and Seek

Here’s an activity that engages your pup’s body and mind – plus it doesn’t cost anything! The only catch is that your dog will need to know the stay command really well.

The first few times you try hide-and-seek with your pal, you probably want to hide somewhere that isn’t entirely out of sight so your dog isn’t completely lost on how to find you.

Once you feel like they get how to play, you can progress to more difficult hiding spots – simply get your dog to stay until you’re in position and then say your dog’s release word.

8. Flirt Pole

This is basically a feather teaser, but for dogs – all you need is a stick, some string and one of your dog’s favourite toys. Simply tie the string to the end of the stick and a toy to the end of the string and wave it like you would wave a feather teaser – your pup’s bound to give chase.

Even better, flirt poles are pretty easy to make. Here are some DIY flirt pole instructions and some easy tips for tuckering your dog out. 

Obviously, for indoor play sessions, you’ll want to find a more open space like a basement or make yourself a mini flirt pole to limit the amount of room you’ll need to use this toy indoors without trashing your household items. 

9. Stairs Dashing

For most people, running upstairs is pretty exhausting – so it makes sense of smell that it’s a great way to tire your dog out if they’ve been cooped up inside for too long. For this activity, you’ll want your dog to start at the bottom of the stairs – have them sit while you throw a toy or treat to the top landing. Whenever you’re ready, tell your dog to go fetch!

It’s important to note that starting at the bottom of the stairs will lessen the risk of stress on your dog’s joints – additionally, make sure to encourage your dog to come back down the stairs at their own pace. 

Lastly, this game should only be played with dogs that are more than a year older dogs – very young dogs don’t have joints that are developed enough to take the impact of racing up the stairs. Additionally, smooth stairs, like hardwood or linoleum, can be slippery, so this game is best on carpeted stairs that give your dog plenty of grips to bound up and down the steps. 

10. Clean Up

If your dog likes to leave their toys strewn all over the floor, you’ll probably appreciate this game. Plus, it helps stimulate their mind and learn new skills and words. 

To start, you can give your dog his favourite toy. While it’s still in their mouth, offer them a treat or another one of their favourite toys – as soon as their mouth opens to take the treat or toy, say drop. You can practice this until your dog can drop their toy with just the drop command and without you needing to use food as a bribe.

Next, have your dog pick up a rope toy right by a storage container and tell them to drop the toy while they’re standing over the toy bin or storage container. When they drop the toy, reward them with praise or treats to reinforce this behaviour.

Once they get the hang of this, try tossing the toy farther away and see if they can put the toy in themselves. Whenever they drop the toy inside the container without you cueing them, give them a treat or praise.

At this stage, you can try the process with a new toy – if they don’t seem to get it, you can always place the new toy right by your storage container and have them stand over it again while practicing the drop command.

By the end of this dog training, you may never have to tidy away dog toys for the rest of your life! Stick to simple vocal commands like drop, bin, or a way to help them associate the action with the request. 


Keep Indoor Playtime Fresh and Exciting


Now that you have a few options to help your dog stay active when the cold weather has you stuck indoors, you can start testing out which games your dog responds best to. Some dogs will be drawn to certain games depending on their obedience training and attention span.

Another way to keep your dog engaged is to keep their routine fresh. Don’t play fetch the same games over and over again, as your dog will lose interest over our long Canadian winters. Playing outside has the benefit of a more dynamic range of sights, sounds, and scents for your dog to discover, but your house will stay relatively static. 

Changing the types of games you play daily will keep the routine exciting and allow your dog to rediscover different ways to play with you, your family, and even some of his favourite toys. You can work in some common indoor games, like fetch and tug-o-war tug toy


Indoor Dog Games FAQs 

What are indoor dog games that require motivation?

Indoor games that require motivation are interactive activities designed to mentally stimulate and engage your dog so they can stay moderately physically active indoors.

Why are indoor games important for dogs that need motivation?

Indoor games provide mental enrichment, reduce boredom, and help dogs stay active even indoors, such as during the long Canadian winters. 

What types of indoor games can motivate my dog?

Various games like hide-and-seek, treat puzzles, scent games, tug-of-war, and obedience training can motivate dogs and keep your dog entertained.

How do I choose the right indoor game for my dog's motivation level?

When selecting indoor games, consider your dog's age, breed, energy level, and preferences. Pick games that your dog enjoys and which motivate the pooch. 

Can indoor games help with behavioural issues in dogs?

Yes, indoor games that require motivation can help with other behavioural problems like excessive barking, chewing, or digging by diverting the dog's attention in a positive way. 

Are there safety precautions I should take when playing indoor games with my dog?

Always supervise indoor games and choose appropriate toys. 

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Written by

Matt Peters

Matt is a writer for, a product review and comparison site that helps buyers find the best version of what they’re looking for. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going on walks to find outdoor cats that he can pet and spoil with chicken flavoured treats.


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