Rescue in Style

Homemade activities to keep your dog busy during quarantine

Well, day 30 of quarantine and we’re doing just dandy. Our foster Frodo was adopted last weekend so it’s *just* the five of us again. It’s been nice getting back into our routines. And by routines, I mean binge-watching TV and sleeping in until 9 am. Oops. Don’t judge our quarantine lifestyle!! In addition, we’ve also been trying to tackle a few projects while we have the time.

One of those aforementioned projects is doing more enrichment activities with Rawlings. According to Purdue University, “Environmental enrichment is a concept that describes how the environments of captive animals can be changed for the benefit of the inhabitants…Enrichment is important for canine well-being by helping to keep dogs in good physical and psychological condition.” In a nutshell, enrichment is exciting work for dogs and tires them out so they don’t turn to unwanted behaviors. Or as my dad explains it, “A good dog is a tired dog.”

Most people think long walks, runs, and physical exercise are the only ways to tire out dogs. However, some of the most tiring activities are actually mental. So, while you’re all stuck at home, why not play around with some of these fun games to play with your dog? Here are some ideas of things to do with your dog during quarantine using things found around your home!

Feeding time:

Someone once told me a dog should never eat out of its bowl. While it sounds like a strange theory, it actually makes a lot of sense. Rawlings is extremely food motivated so we use her feedings as ways to tire her out. Normally we use this slow feeder, (or this one) but sometimes we get more creative. Here are some feeding time activities below! A big thank you to Margaret Fraser for helping compile this list!

Spread the kibble on a rug (beginner)

dog enrichment

This one makes me laugh because it’s like real life Pac-Man. As demonstrated by our friends Gambit and Bea. Place the kibble around your rug. You can do it in a pattern or just randomly. It works best if you can spread the kibble out a bit. Once all the kibble is down, let your dog eat the kibble one by one off the ground. Guaranteed to take time and be a great video. 

Towel spiral (intermediate)

Lay a large towel (one you don’t mind getting dirty) flat on the floor. Sprinkle your dog’s kibble across the towel. Pinch the middle of the towel and rotate your hand in a circle. The towel will start to create a spiral. Keep rotating your hand until the entire towel is in a spiral shape. The kibble should now be hidden in the folds of the towel. Let your dog eat the kibble from the towel and ta-da! An enriching and easy activity for all.

Towel roll (intermediate)

This is one of our favorites that our friends Larry and Frank showed us! Start like the spiral towel above. Sprinkle your dog’s kibble across the towel. Start on one end of the towel and roll the towel towards the other end. The kibble will be rolled into the towel. Your dog will use its nose to unroll the towel to eat the food. 

Hide the kibble (advanced)

If your dog has mastered the above, try hiding your dog’s food around the house. Strange? Sure. Effective? Yes. Our friend Belle is a pro at this now. Her mom will put her in the bathroom and then “hide” kibble around the house. Once Belle is free, it’s her job to find all the food. On chairs, under tables, behind household items, get creative! Just make sure you remember if you hide any tricky ones!

Snacks and treats

Between mealtime, there are things you can do with your dog! Here are some of my favorite activities for dogs during the day.

Lickimats (beginner)

I wish I had bought a lickimat for Rawlings but my friends Finn and Iris showed us how we can do it at home! Simply spread some peanut butter/plain greek yogurt on a tupperware and let your dog enjoy!

Hide the treats (beginner)

Similar to hiding kibble around the house, you can also hide treats. We do this a lot with Rawlings and hide treats in her toy basket. We’ll shove treats to the bottom, between toys, etc. Rawlings spends a good amount of time digging around for them. 

Hide the treats (intermediate)

You can get creative and hide treats in boxes (we are all ordering plenty of things to our homes so you must have a box to spare)! Place a treat in a box and your dog will have to figure out how to open the box. The cool thing about this activity is you can make it harder as your dog learns. Put other items in the box to dig through (scarves, toys, etc) or put something heavy on top of the box for your dog to knock off. You can make this as hard or as easy as your dog needs!

Tennis balls in a muffin tin (intermediate/advanced)

Another one we just discovered how to do with Rawlings (lord knows I’m not using my muffin tin to bake…) If you have a muffin tin and tennis balls laying around this, one is great. Place treats in the muffin tin and place the tennis balls on top of the treats in the muffin spots. We had to help Rawlings learn how to move the balls at first, but now she’s a pro. You can add toys, scarves, boxes to make this harder!

Towels/toilet paper rolls (advanced)

My friends Pippen and Payton are not only the most photogenic, but they’re also incredibly smart (brains AND beauty!) They recently shared an enrichment activity for the intelligent pups. Spread a dish towel out, place a few treats on the towel and roll the towel up. Once rolled up, thread the towel through empty toilet paper rolls. Your pup will have to get the towel out of the cardboard rolls to get to the treats!

Toy Time

If you happen to have a dog that is not motivated by food, but toys, there are still plenty of things you can do! Instead of hiding food items, hide your dog’s favorite toy in places. If he likes balls, hide the ball in places that will take him a while to find. Basically, you can substitute a ball/toy in most of the activities above and your dog will get the same benefits!

If you are interested in purchasing some puzzle toys during quarantine. Here are a few of my favorites:

Snuffle mat – Beginner

Tornado Puzzle Toy – Intermediate

Twister Puzzle Toy – Advanced

What are some of your favorite enrichment activities?! Let me know in the comments below!

Stay well and safe!



Main photo: Mandy Dempsey Photography


Whether it's a rainy day or you're just looking for stimulating enrichment for your pup, here are ideas to play with your dog. These activities are great for high energy dogs to help tire them out! Click through for a list of games to play with your dog.

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