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Keep Your Dog Happy This Winter With Inside Games


My dog, Kasey, and I have been enjoying the winter weather. He's a big dog, which means big dog activities in the snow -- going for walks in wind chill temperatures of 20 degrees below zero, playing "find the snowball" and, our newest game, "I've got your snow shovel, chase me."

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Kasey picked up a plastic snow shovel and happily trotted off with it, tail wagging and eyes sparkling. Since keeping his mind busy burns up energy too, he and I have been playing indoor games to keep him busy and happy during the cold weather. A dog trainer once told me, "A tired dog is a happy dog." So true.

Emily Refermat, Fetch magazine, suggests a variety of games to play with your dog. These games can be played inside the house, which makes them good to play in cold weather. Reformat's games include Hide and Seek, Find It, Button, Button, Who's got the Button, and Red, Green Light.

Teaching Hide and Seek can be taught to two people. One person to hide and one to initially hold the dog. With everyone starting in the same room, hide behind a piece a furniture. The person holding the dog releases him and says, "go find …" and call your dog. When he finds you, lavish him with praise and maybe some treats.

Gradually make the hiding places harder and stop calling him. He will have to use his nose and mind to find you. A variation of this is to call your dog to come. This game is even more fun when your dog will "stay" while you hide. Both games are opportunities to work on the basic training commands of come and stay.

Find It is a game that can be the basis for teaching your dog to fetch your slippers or the newspaper. Place a treat or favorite toy under a towel in front of your dog, then tell your dog to "find it."

Steadily increase the difficulty of where you hide the item. Once your dog learns this task, pair the treat or toy with something else, always naming the item you want your dog to find.

You can also play games in a group. In the game Button, Button, Whose Got the Button, your dog is it. Players sit in a circle with your dog in the middle. Decide who is going to hold the treat, passing it behind your backs without the dog sees.

Everyone holds their closed fists out in front of them and your dog sniffs out the treat. Everyone likes this game, children, and adults, as well our dogs.

Another group game is Simon Says. This is the game you and your dog may have played in dog training class to practice basic obedience commands. This game needs a caller and pairs of dogs and people. The caller, "Simon," calls out commands like "circle right" or "sit your dog and circle him twice." Unless the command is proceeded by "Simon says," no one does it or you're out.

H-O-U-N-D is another group game. Similar to the basketball game H-O-R-S-E, this game is also played with pairs of dogs and people.

Instead of difficult basketball shots, this game is doing dog tricks. One person starts and does an action with her dog (an agility move, a command, a trick) that she thinks no one else can do.

When a pair can't imitate the leader, they get a letter. When you get all five letters of HOUND, you and your dog are out of the game, becoming part of the audience watching the fun.

Playing Red Light, Green Light may get your dog revved up. "Yell green light and act crazy, inciting your dog to wiggle and go nuts," suggests Refermat. Then yell "red light" and freeze.

The first several times, teach your dog to stop by teaching him to sit for a red light. When he sits, say "green light" and everyone acts silly again.

Not all games with your dog need rules. Reformat suggests enlisting your dog to be the alarm clock, waking up family members with slobbery kisses, jumping on the bed and pulling off the blankets.

"Anything you already do with your dog can be a game," she notes.

My dog and I like to play inside hide and seek and Find Mousie. He hunts for his hidden mouse squeaky toy in our house. Everyone likes to play games and have fun. Our dogs do, too.

• The Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 shelter. Call (847) 290-5806 or visit www.thebuddyfoundation.org.


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