We’ve all been there… Your puppy has morphed from an adorable angel into a holy terror, tearing through your home, chewing on your prized possessions, and finding endless ways to make mischief. The good news – this is normal! Puppies have a lot of energy that they need to burn off! A tired dog is a happy dog, as they say.
The challenge for many is that not everyone has access to wide open spaces for their puppy to romp around, nor time to take their dog on an extensive walk. How, then, to work off the wiggles? We have some helpful tricks on how to tire out your puppy.
1. Try a Flirt Pole
A flirt pole is, in essence, an oversized version of a cat’s feather toy. They can be found for sale online, or you can even make one yourself! They are essentially a tug toy lure attached to a pole with a long (durable) string. Most are designed for outdoor use, but miniaturized versions can also be bought or made for exercise inside. By moving the lure around, you can prompt your dog to chase it around, tiring them out without exhausting yourself. This toy is especially appealing to dogs that have a strong prey drive, such as terriers, shepherds, and hound dogs.
Playing with a flirt pole can also double to reinforce desired behaviors in your pup. Make them sit and wait before beginning the game, and when your dog successfully catches the toy, require them to drop it before the game resumes. By doing this, you engage not only your dog’s body, but its mind, which in turn can also help to tucker out your four-legged friend.
Benefits of using a Flirt Pole:
- Tire out your dog without exhausting yourself
- Practice cues for your puppy like sit down, wait, drop it
- Test ability to change gears, revving up and practicing patience (wait)
2. The Nose Knows Best
Your puppy has an amazing nose – up to 100 times more sensitive than their own! Novel scents stimulate their brain like few other things can, and this mental exercise can be equally effective in tiring your dog. Next time you’re on a walk, take some time to let your puppy get in a good sniff!
You can challenge your dog’s sense of smell inside your home as well! Hide toys or treats around the house and encourage your puppy to seek them out. As they become more adept at this game, add additional challenges by creating more distractions or teaching them to find a particular scent. The possibilities are endless! For step-by-step instructions on how to get your puppy started with nose work, check out this tutorial!
3. Will Work for Food
Feeding your puppy does not have to be as simple as putting a scoop into a bowl. Use it instead as an opportunity to give your dog a mental workout! Put your dog’s food in a treat dispenser toy and make them play or chew to get their food. You could also try a snuffle mat, a toy that makes your puppy search for food by sniffing through strands of fleece. Learn how to make your own here. For the clever dogs who would master a simple food dispenser toy in a snap, there are a vast variety of puzzle toys available that might help spark their brains. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your puppy is pooped out after a good session with these toys!
4. Play Games
There are a whole host of games that you can play with your puppy that will help them burn off their excess energy. Here are a few to help you get started:
Tug Of War
Tug of War can be an excellent way to bond with your puppy and to engage in their natural desire to chew and wrestle, as they would with their brothers and sisters. However, it is important to exercise caution during this game and ensure that it does not encourage aggression or get them overexcited. Set forth ground rules before beginning. The game begins on your terms, your dog is required to drop the toy on your command, and if any biting occurs during the game play will immediately stop. For more details on how to safely play tug of war with your dog, visit this article.
Round Robin Recalls
Gather a few friends and make a circle, making sure each person has plenty of treats available. Place the puppy in the middle of the circle. One person calls the puppy by its name and says “Puppy come here” in a friendly voice. When the puppy goes to the person who called them, reward the puppy with a treat. The next person then calls the same “Puppy come here” and the process repeats. Practice this and as the puppy gets better make the circle larger and the puppy will get quicker at reacting to the calls to come here. Not only is this a good way to tire out your dog, but also gets your puppy used to interacting with other people and taking cues from others. This game is an excellent way to socialize your puppy with strangers and get them accustomed to coming to your call.
Hide and Seek
This game requires your dog to know how to sit, stay, and come. Command them to sit and stay while you run off in the house or yard to find a hiding place. When you are hidden, call your dog to release them from the stay, then do your best to fight down giggles as your puppy pal searches for you. When they find you, praise them in an excited tone and reward them with a treat.
This game can also be pulled off if you have the chance to distract your dog with a fetch while you run and hide. Don’t be too hurt if your dog doesn’t come running for you right away. Some dogs are easily distracted, but regardless they will enjoy the attention!
Try hiding objects like their favorite ball in boxes or under different cups to see if you can fool them. This game can last for a long time if you keep up the engagement with them. Where did the ball go?! Is it here? Is it here? Make them sniff it out and praise their ability to track!
5. Obedience Training Session
Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best. If you’re looking to tire out your puppy, try tiring their mind by engaging them with a training session. Practice basic obedience commands with them – sit, lay down, stand stay, come, drop it, etc. If your puppy already has these down, try out some puppy pushups or move onto more advanced tricks such as shake and roll over. You can even give free shaping a try! Free-shaping behaviors are a facet of training that focuses on building upon itself step by step. A great way to start free-shaping is to teach “Go to Your Place” by setting out a marker such as a bed, rug, or blanket to mark the place. The goal is to teach them the act of going to something on your command. You can build upon this by taking the command further with more actions.
Each of these exercises will get your doggy’s brain working and surely tire them out, so be careful not to over-do it! A puppy should get about 15 minutes of training every day. If you would like to do more, be sure to break it up into sessions and give them big rewards to keep them engaged.
Regardless of the way you choose how to tire out your puppy, they are going to be ecstatic to have your attention! Remember to keep it upbeat and fun and always praise them when they do well. The goal is to have a happy, tired puppy at the end of the day. If they gain some skills and manners along the way, that means you’re doing a great job.