Canine cabin fever: Tips and toys to keep dogs busy inside

Wondering how to keep your dog busy indoors when you’re working from home and can’t sneak away from your computer to play with them? Don’t worry—we’ve got you.

Doggy boredom is a real thing. If you’re coming home to big messes and constant restlessness, these are often signs of a dog with nothing to do. Left to their own devices, a bored dog might decide, “Hey, I’ll make my own fun!” and start gnawing on shoes, shredding pillows, or unrolling toilet paper. That’s not great news for your shoes or your sanity.

Environmental enrichment can go a long way to curing canine cabin fever. More time spent playing usually means less time spent chewing.

How to keep your dog entertained

Here are five of our favourite ways to keep your dog from misbehaving out of boredom:

1. Go foraging for treats.

There are countless snuffle and activity mats on the market to cure doggy boredom. However, you can achieve the same effect on a budget using regular household items like the humble cardboard box.

First, gather your supplies. To start, you’ll need:

  • A cardboard box
  • Newspaper or tissue paper (the biodegradable tissue from your Waggle Mail subscription box is an excellent choice, if we do say so ourselves)
  • Several small containers you’re okay with getting destroyed (like a take-out box, for example)
  • Food or treats

Next, show your dog a treat and then hide it in the cardboard box under some bits of newspaper. Let them rummage around to find the hidden prize. Things might get a little messy, but think of it as controlled chaos—a bit like ripping open presents on Christmas morning.

Once your dog understands the game (and reaps the rewards), up the ante by adding in some balls of paper, wrapping treats in paper bags, or concealing them in toys like Kongs. The more, the merrier.

If you have a senior dog or a dog whose mobility issues prevent them from digging, try using a smaller box or cut one side out so they, too, can partake in the foraging fun.

2. Play seek and chase… with bubbles!

Bubbles are an underrated, low-risk, and inexpensive toy to keep dogs busy.

Did you know there are flavoured bubble solutions (peanut butter and bacon, for example) for dogs? Better yet—make your own. It’s the one game of fetch they’ll never win, but we can promise you they’ll have a ton of fun trying.

DIY dog-safe bubbles

What you’ll need:

  • ½ cup natural, biodegradable dish detergent (Dawn is a suitable alternative)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vegetable glycerin (substitute with corn syrup if needed)
  • 1 tsp broth (optional) for flavour

What you’ll do:

  • Mix ingredients in a resealable container and store in a safe place (out of any pets’ or children’s reach).
  • For best results, let stand overnight.

NOTE: Please note that dish soap is an ingredient (just like kids bubbles). Soap is not meant to be eaten so keep the mixture in a safe place to prevent drinking. The minimal concentration per bubble is not a concern; so just be a responsible dog owner and monitor during bubble time!

You can use a simple handheld bubble blower or a bubble machine for a hands-free option. Although the minimal concentration of dish soap per bubble is not a concern, it’s best to monitor your dog during playtime.

3. Give your dog’s kennel a makeover.

Kennels don’t have to be boring. In fact, your dog’s kennel should be a space they look forward to and feel safe spending time in.

If your dog has to spend short periods of time in a kennel during the day, make it a sensory experience. Place visually stimulating objects nearby (a TV with their favourite cartoon playing, a running fan with streamers, or even a birdhouse for some midday bird watching).

If you can, try to place your dog’s kennel near a window or patio door so they can enjoy the natural light—but always ensure they’re not in direct sunlight, especially during hot days. For some dogs, having visual access to the outside of their kennel den gives them an all-important sense of security.

4. Create a toy box free-for-all.

Grab a cardboard box (an old Waggle Mail box will do the trick), crate, or a size-appropriate container from around the house and fill it with your dog’s favourite toys. Rubber bones, squeaky balls, plush toys, chews, treats… if they love it, include it!

Place the box where your dog can easily access it and let them play their own way. Their old favourites will feel new again, especially when you regularly change out the toys (daily, if possible). Best of all, this free-for-all does wonders for your dog’s senses.

If you love data as much as we do, create an enrichment schedule to help you track preferences as you experiment with new treats and toys to keep your dog busy.

5. Indulge in the sound of music.

Music affects dogs’ moods in the same way it affects ours. It can be uplifting, healing, soothing… the list goes on.

A bored dog full of pent-up, restless energy to burn may benefit from a calming, soothing soundtrack.

Before you press play, a few things to keep in mind. Make sure you offer your dog a varied musical selection—and at different times of the day, too. If the music becomes too repetitive it will lose its auditory impact. Also, avoid music that might inspire your pup to sing along. It might seem funny at first, but the point is to help calm them down vs. keep them up (your neighbours might also not appreciate the canine solo).

If you found these tips and toys to prevent doggy boredom helpful, subscribe to Waggle (e)Mail for more fun, easy, and effective ways to promote a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy pet-parent bond.

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