Friday, August 7, 2015

Indoor Exercise and Impulse Control for Dogs

Have you ever been sick or hurt yourself? Maybe it's too hot or too cold for going out. What if you have a breed that can't tolerate the climate you live in? Maybe you're disabled and you can't always walk your dog. Your dog might be reactive and you just can't handle another day of barking and lunging.

I think we've all been there at some point in our lives where getting outside just isn't going to happen. I've had days where I was sick, days where it was way too hot and days where it was pouring rain. My dogs absolutely hate going out in the rain and they don't like being cold. Dogs still need exercise and mental stimulation and that's where coming up with indoor games is critical.

Recently I signed up for Susan Garrett's "freecaller" program. You got a portion of her "recaller" class for free. Sadly, her program is way too expensive for us and we couldn't continue with it but at the end of the free portion she did a live webinar. During the webinar Susan did a demonstration of her puppy playing an impulse control game that she dubbed the WOW! game. We've played a lot of impulse control games before and I really liked the way she did that game so about two weeks ago we started playing it, too.

Here's a video of my dogs playing the game. 

Note: In the video, you can see that Zoe does not like having her collar grabbed and she does not like being restrained. She is more weirded out about the restraint and doesn't like it when I use it to "drive her forward". I'm definitely planning on working on this!

After doing this game for about twenty minutes they were both ready for naps. They were exhausted and since the game is mentally and physically challenging it's win-win! They love playing this game and it's a great alternative for going outside. It also makes feeding time a lot more interesting than just pouring a bunch of kibble into a bowl and setting it down. Since they also have to "search" for the kibble it gives them a job to do and dogs love jobs.

Teaching Impulse Control is such an important aspect of dog training. They have to learn how to control themselves and that not everything dropped on the ground is for them. It's also helpful in so many other ways and makes living with dogs much easier. I plan on doing another post about this important topic so stay tuned.

Now for some directions. If your dog is new to playing impulse control games I would recommend taking a look at the It's Yer Choice tutorial. Kikopup also has a great one about teaching them not to mug your hand. I would recommend working on those two things first before proceeding on to the more advanced version of what I did in my video. You can still toss kibble and have them chase it for the exercise, though! I also do a version of It's Yer Choice (with the treats in my hand first and then near me on the ground) before I start the WOW! game to warm them up for it. 

Do you play indoor games with your dogs? What's your favorite?

Happy Fit Dog Friday everyone!


  1. Fantastic, good job! We play this as well!

  2. Great points! Many dogs really need to work on this. We never trained impulse control specifically, but learned it as a by product of other things and we are pretty good at it except for outside when there is a wabbit or squirrel.

  3. Great video - I love Zoe watching Phoenix on the couch. Interesting to see the different speeds to. I think this is something I can try with Jack.

  4. This is a great idea; especially for the winter when we can't play with and walk the dogs as often. One thing that I find wears the dogs out is letting them explore our property early in the morning when there are fresh scents. We live in a rural area and during the night, dear, coyote, skunks, rabbits, squirrels and more have been having a party on our land. The dogs run around sniffing everything.

    I just need to be awake for this adventure, because they can sense when I'm not 100% and will head over to our neighbors to follow a scent. I always carry training treats in my pocket (Open Farm dry food) to keep them from cross the property line.

  5. Great post! We should work on some of those things! There are definitely times when the dogs can't go out and run off steam, like when it's 20 below and blowing! Thanks!

  6. I love this game, too!

    Wow, I used to find Zoe and Phoenix hard to tell apart in pictures, but the difference is so obvious in video! They have really different energies and attitudes--even the way they wag their tails is different! I also really liked the way that you switched from collar grabs to rough petting when you noticed that Zoe hated them--really nice to see, and Zoe obviously liked it much more. :D We've been working a lot on opposition reflex, collar grabs, etc. lately, too.

  7. Love that video! What a great idea!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  8. We play a version of this too. Now if only I could get him to do that with squirrels.

  9. This is my favorite game for Nola! Recently I've been working on having her come back to me for either a down/stay or a hand target. She is VERY food motivated and can get a little single minded with just staring and waiting for release, so that's helped her a lot.

  10. Love that game, thanks for sharing, will have to try it with Hailey (Phod doesn't care enough about food to play things like this for more than 1 or 2 trials!)

  11. Great video!!! I couldn't watch the webinar due to my lousy slow and expensive (pay by the MB) internet. I love this version of the game, and I'll be working on it with my pups. They both have the version that was shown in the "game day" down pat (it's too easy). Adding the motion will be really interesting. Thanks!!!

  12. Hey, I played the game with Shyla, exactly like you set it up in your video with Phoenix. I threw treats from one side to the other, saying "get it" each time, just like you did. I got her in the groove to expect me to say "get it". Then, I said "sit" as she crossed in front of me to get the next treat. I expected to need to physically restrain Shyla - but I was shocked to find that she sat. We played for about 5 min, and she's a star! What a fun game. I can guarantee that it will be much harder with R. Impulse control is not his strong suit! Thanks again!

    1. That's so awesome! Good job, Shyla! Good luck with R! Zoe is the same way, lol!

  13. I'm going to have to try this. Our go to games in crappy weather are either scent work with boxes, or I hide cookies all over the house and they have to find them.

    I really need to pencil some time in to start researching, there are so many amazing resources available.

  14. This is great! I also get Donna to chase kibble on slow days, but we don't know the impulse control game. Definitely something I would love to try!! :)


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