As we’ve been pet sitting full time since 2018, caring for over 100 dogs in that time, we know how difficult it can be to keep any breed of dog entertained indoors. On a few occasions owners have asked us not to walk their dog during our stay, because their dog is reactive or elderly, and in these cases we need to find ways to make sure our pooch isn’t bored at home. Whether a dangerous storm is blowing outside, your dog is laid up on bed rest, or just doesn’t like going out in the rain, we’re sharing our favourite ways to keep your dog entertained in the house, and our personal recommendations for toys and activities! Read on for ways to exercise and entertain your doggo at home when you can’t get out for walkies, whether you’re a dog owner or a dog sitter.


Trust us when we say we’ve seen every kind of dog toy there is! Depending on the breed and their temperament, your dog may have different toy preferences and for a rainy day, there’s nothing better than playing games with a few of their favourites. While caring for Cocker Spaniel Samba at a house sit in Dorset, her working temperament meant she loved playing with toys that squeaked – the louder the better! Her favourite was a squeaking duck toy – it had a soft head with a harder and more durable body, with 4 squeakers in different parts to keep her busy! If your dog responds to noisy toys, a squeaky or crinkly toy is guaranteed to keep them occupied.

For little dogs that love chasing a ball, we give them a mini tennis ball to play with. Not just because they are impossibly cute in size (and we love to see teeny dogs carry them!) but they’re strong and will last for outdoor games of fetch when you’re able to go out again. We roll them around the home and let those little paws rush around after it! Just don’t leave a dog that loves to chew unattended with a tennis ball, unless you want to see a trails of fuzzy tennis ball fluff around your home! For small-medium dogs, these spiky balls have a squeaker and are soft on their teeth and gums. If your dog is larger and needs more hard-wearing toys, you can’t go wrong with a Kong toy. We’ve seen these Kong Wubba toys at dozens of house sits over the years, and we realise now it’s because they’re made to last! There’s a tiny size for puppies too – useful if your little one loves to tear toys to pieces. If you like your dog’s toys to look a little cuter, these animal-shaped ones come in a range of designs and are filled with strong, knotted rope for durability when playing endless rounds of tug of war!

While buying a new toy might help to keep your dog occupied inside, some dogs are simply happy with toys that you can ‘make’ from items at home. We’ve spent hours throwing balled up socks for dogs that love to pinch items of clothing, using them as a makeshift tennis balls. If you have an old t-shirt that you’re going to throw out, you can easily make a braided fabric rope toy for your pooch. Just make sure the fabric isn’t prone to fraying to avoid little pieces of thread getting caught in your dog’s teeth.

Alternating a dog’s toys ensures they don’t get bored of the same ones – try keeping a few out at a time and swapping them out for different ones every now and again so the dog stays stimulated at play time.

Enrichment games

We will never stop talking about the value of playing enrichment games with your dog! We’ve read that just 20 minutes of playing with a puzzle toy is equivalent to an hour’s walk in terms of brain stimulation for your dog – it’s an easy way to keep them entertained and ensure they get a good sleep afterwards. Our favourite enrichment toy we always recommend is this snuffle ball. We discovered these at a dog sit with 3 Flat-Coated Retrievers, who had a snuffle ball each. We were amazed that this simple toy kept all 3 dogs busy for well over half an hour! We’re now total advocates for them – simply roll up treats into the fabric strips of the ball and let your dog have fun digging them out. Similarly, a snuffle mat does the same job – these textured felt mats have pockets to hide treats for your dog to find, and are a fantastic way to mentally stimulate your dog while indoors. There are plastic versions of these puzzle games, but we often see these at house sits with pieces missing or broken. In our opinion, these don’t last as long as the fabric ones and we’d be worried about the plastic pieces hurting a dog’s mouth should they shatter.

If you are in need of a hard-wearing enrichment toy, for example if your large dog tends to rip up fabric ones, we highly recommend a Kong wobbler. (There’s a bit of a pattern here – Kong is the go-to brand we trust for durable toys!!) This rubber, treat-dispensing wobbly toy is built for larger dogs – you just fill it with treats and watch your dog paw and dig them out. For smaller dogs, we recommend these little rubber Kong toys. It’s not an exaggeration to say we must’ve seen these at the majority of the house sits we’ve completed! They’re a fantastic way to keep dogs occupied and stimulated on a rainy day. Paired with Kong biscuit treats that have been designed to fit inside, or the Kong Easy Treat cheese that you simply squeeze inside, your dog will be kept busy puzzling it out for a while and will enjoy a tasty treat at the same time.

As with all our recommendations, it’s possible to make your own enrichment toys from items in your home! A few tennis balls paired with a muffin baking tin can double up as a snuffle mat, as your dog nudges the tennis balls out of the recesses of the tin to find tasty treats underneath. At one of our repeat house sits with 3-legged rescue dog Leah, we needed to find ways to tire her out as she can’t easily get the exercise she needs to burn off her energy. We wrapped up a few of her biscuits in a towel, and gave it to her to nudge the biscuits out and unroll the towel to reveal the food! It kept her busy and she could play with it while lying down, so she didn’t have to balance on her 3 legs.

Get creative and find ways to stimulate your dog that suit their preferences. If your dog doesn’t have biscuits for their meals, try freezing ice cubes containing broth or dog-friendly fruits such as apples, strawberries or blueberries for your dog to lick and find. It should go without saying that you should always supervise your dog with these kind of treats, and make sure the ice cubes are an appropriate size for your dog.

Hide and seek

This one needs no additional equipment, though you’ll have to get more involved with the activity! We love playing hide and seek with a dog on days at home – one of us stays with the pup while the other one hides, then the hider calls the dog and lets them sniff us out. It’s so much fun seeing a dog get to work to discover where we’re hiding, and how excited they get when they do find us! We give them lots of praise and sometimes a little treat if the hiding spot was a difficult one, to keep the dog engaged in the game.

In the past we’ve also enjoyed making scavenger hunts for dogs using treats. Our favourite time to do this is at Easter, when we get out our little plastic Easter eggs that can be opened and filled with biscuits. We place them all around the house and let dogs sniff around to find the treasure! You can also place a single biscuit underneath tables, next to chair legs or behind curtains with no equipment required. To give your dog a really good mental workout, find increasingly obscure places to hide them and watch your pooch snuffle out the treat!

Learn a new trick

Teaching a dog a new command, no matter their age or breed, is a fun way to pass the time indoors and helps you bond too! Remember to keep training sessions short, and make sure they’re also fun for your dog – learning new tricks takes time and patience but if you have lots of days indoors lined up, it’s a fun way to spend them together.

There are endless videos on YouTube that can guide you through the specifics of teaching a dog a new trick, from roll over and shake paws to sit pretty and fetch an item. Again, play into what your dog loves to do and teach them a command they’ll love to perform. Start with easy beginner moves and see how creative you can get by the time you’re ready to go out again! If you’re a dog sitter, imagine how fun it would be for a dog’s owner to come back and discover their pooch knows a new party trick.

When all else fails… Snuggles!

You’ve played with toys, tried out some training, spent time playing games together, and your dog still wants some attention! There’s nothing we love more at the end of a busy day than curling up on the sofa with a dog and giving them lots of fuss while we watch a film. When we pet sit affectionate Cockapoo Archie, he follows us all over the house, opting to join in with whatever activity we’re doing. We lay out snuggly blankets on the sofa and he jumps up to lay his head in our laps, seemingly watching whatever we’re watching (he loves The Dog House, and Harry Potter!). We’ve mentioned them in previous posts, but we love to cosy up in our Oodies in the evenings, and you can even get matching ones for your dog too! The perfect way to spend a quiet night in – cosy cuddles and lots of belly rubs and fuss for your four-legged friend to keep them happy.

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