One of the benefits of hiring a pet sitter for day visits is knowing that your dog’s exercise needs are being met while you’re at work. Usually day visits last from 20-45 minutes depending on the service you are using.
Visits often include a nice long walk outdoors or a trip to the dog park to give your pup the mental and physical stimulation they need to stay balanced and happy.
But what about when the weather doesn’t cooperate? This article will explore 5 great ideas for pet sitters to use to get your canine up off the couch and mentally engaged during their visit on a rainy day.
With a bit of preparation and some communication with your pet sitter, you can have some simple activities lined up to make the most of your dog’s favorite afternoon visitor.
Fetch – It’s not just an outdoor game!
Although the game of fetch is normally played outside on a pretty day, it can easily be modified for safe play indoors. One of the nice things about the game of fetch is that it can be adjusted for the size and exercise requirements of just about any dog.
Even 15 minutes of vigorous fetch will get your dog’s blood pumping and set her up nicely for that afternoon nap!
There are a few things you can do to get your space fetch-ready for when you pet sitter arrives.
First, the ball you use for outside games may be too bouncy to use indoors. Instead, find a toy that your dog enjoys fetching that is more appropriate for indoor play, such as a dog safe stuffed animal or soft squeaky toy.
Second, is there a good space for this game in your home? You might be able to set up a nice “runway” by moving a few pieces of furniture. Or, set up a few obstacles for your dog to jump over down a hallway . Or add more of a physical challenge for the more athletic pooches out there.
Tricks – Fun and rewarding!
If your dog already knows a few tricks, then running through her repertoire is a great way to engage her mind and body at the same time.
Does your pet sitter know your furry friend’s special talents? If not, consider writing down her tricks along with their verbal and nonverbal cues that you use. If you are tech savvy, consider making a video of running her through her paces to share with your dog’s caregiver.
Another thing to keep in mind for tricks is to make sure it is clear to your pet sitter what counts as approved rewards for trick sessions.
While some food motivated dogs are happy to work for a small portion of their kibble doled out one piece at a time. Others may need more encouragement with some tastier soft treats. Either way, portion out the amount of food rewards that you think will be appropriate before you leave that morning.
Find It! – Treasure hunts for dogs
This fun game is one that provides plenty of mental stimulation. One of the benefits of this game is that it can be played by dogs without any special training. It can even be adjusted for dogs that have mobility issues who can’t enjoy more vigorous physical activity, such as some senior dogs.
This game can be played by either hiding small food rewards or a favorite toy. The key is to start easy, slowly increasing the difficulty level of the hiding. If your pup knows “Stay!” on command, it’s more fun to hide the object in another room for an extra challenge.
Treadmill – A great tool for high energy canines
If you have a high energy dog that needs a vigorous workout each day, then consider training him to use the treadmill. This fitness tool is surprisingly easy to train, and most dogs will learn how to use it in a few short sessions if positive reinforcement methods are used.
Make sure to use plenty of reward when training your dog to use the treadmill. And, never attach her to the treadmill with a leash – it is dangerous and unnecessary.
Start with the machine off, practice the mount and dismount on command. When your dog is ready to walk on the machine, leave it on only for a second or two, reward, then turn it off and dismount. Over time you can increase the duration and speed your dog walks on the machine.
For dogs that love to run (Yes, Border Collies, we are talking to you!), the treadmill becomes its own reward once it is learned. You can gradually decrease food motivators and allow your dog to enjoy 10-15 minute trots on demand.
The Tug Game – Basic rules for a positive experience
Many dogs love the game of tug, but some owners worry that it will cause aggression. However, most modern dog trainers approve of this game that exercises natural drives in your dog. Plus, appropriate tug toys are inexpensive to buy, and even easier to make.
Here are a few tips to keep this game fun and safe:
- Keep the tug toy for supervised tug games only. Soft toys can become a choke hazard if a dog is allowed to chew them when bored.
- Practice the command “Drop it!” as part of your tug play so that you can maintain boundaries.
- End the game if your dog accidentally touches your hand with her teeth.
- Do not allow your dog to initiate the game. Instead, always start the game with the command “Tug it!” to give her permission to play.
- Let your dog win this game often. This builds confidence and keeps this game fun and rewarding for your dog. Dogs that never win tug quickly lose interest in it.
Conclusion: Be Prepared for a Rainy Day
With a little bit of prep work, you can make sure your pet sitter has ways to engage your dog’s mind and body during a visit regardless of the weather outside.
It is worth the time to train your dog these basic skills. Be sure to run through a quick checklist of the information and materials with your sitter, This’ll ensure they have fun inside play during their visit with your pup.
Your dog will thank you for it!
About the Author
Sharon is the lead author at wileypup.com. She received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.