Sparky plays hide-and-seek
It's raining today, and our usual morning walk doesn't appeal to either Sparky or me. I decided to play a game instead.
I started playing Hide and Seek with Bailey when she was a pup. I'd hide a sock or some object and have her find it. These days the game's evolved to hiding treats, 4-5 at a time, in our living room. I tuck them behind flower pots, on top of an iron pig, behind a fireplace candle, on a low bookshelf, in the middle of a rug—dogs primarily use their noses to find things, so hiding it in plain sight is almost as hard as hiding a treat behind a curtain.
I use bite-sized treats, since he'll want to consume them and quickly find the rest. If you're worried about calories, use part of the daily ration of kibble or other food. If your dog likes carrots or other low-cal food, that would work too, though they probably don't have as much of a scent. (Perhaps you could rub them with something smelly—tuna, or a smelly dog treat.) Sometimes I let him smell the treats I'm about to hide—he seems to appreciate this, as it gives him a better idea of what to look for.
Often I will point to a hidden treat, since the point of the game isn't to outsmart him. Dogs are especially adept at understanding a human's hand gestures, and encouraging their understanding isn't a bad idea.
We play about five rounds of this, then I let him know the game's over by giving him a cookie or something small.
Another version of Hide and Seek is the old-fashioned kind that you played with your children. I go hide, usually in one of the bedrooms upstairs, and call out "Come find me!" It seems much harder for him to find me than to find treats, for some reason. I often have to giggle or make a noise; otherwise he won't look behind a door or wherever I've hidden myself.
One trainer, Patricia McConnell, says that ten minutes of "mind-games" are as effective as a longer walk in stimulating your dog's brain. I don't know if that's true or not, but a bright boy like Sparky appreciates having an opportunity to use his brain and his nose. While I'm no fan of treating our highly domesticated dogs as if they were still living in the "wild," I do think that devising activities that work with their natural abilities helps us both.
Especially on rainy days.