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Indoor Games

Indoor Games and Activities for a Shih Tzu


If the weather is unfavorable or you can't take your Tzu outside for some reason, you may be looking for some good inside exercise tips for your Shih Tzu that involves both games and activities that offer enough movement and will allow your puppy or dog to release pent-up energy.

While we always recommend keeping up with daily walks unless weather conditions are severe (you'll want to winterize your Shih Tzu and dress warm yourself), we have some tips for indoor play.

We'll go over 10 fun things to do with a Shih Tzu when inside. There will be some that you've heard of before, but may have never tried due to them sounding too basic. So, we have the details of exactly how to play the game to build up a challenge and make it more interesting. One of the best cures for a bored or restless dog is to offer a task that leads to self-confidence and these activities offer just that.

So if you're stuck inside with your puppy or even an older Tzu that is just laying around bored, it's time to choose an indoor game and brighten up the day!

Indoor Activity #1

Increasingly Challenging Hide and Seek - This is always on the list of games to play with a dog because at its core it's very basic; yet when played correctly and with lots of enthusiasm, it can be super amusing to owners and an interesting challenge for dogs.
When played for a good 20 minutes, a dog will be moving around enough for this to qualify as exercise that is comparable to a short walk.

While this can be played by hiding an object, we are going to talk about the game of you hiding and your Shih Tzu finding the one thing he/she loves best.

When you train your dog to come looking for you, this can add a level of excitement that causes a dog to move faster and really get things up to the level of indoor exercise.

The basic rule play is that you will have your Shih Tzu stay in a 'Sit' or have a helper hold him while you hide.

Note: If your puppy or dog has not yet mastered the 'Sit' command and/or you don't have a helper, don't worry you can still play! You'll want to set up a gate (or other similar object) across a doorway, leaving a very small opening. Plan your hiding spot. Place your Tzu in the room that is 95% gated off. Distract him by throwing an item of interest toward the back end of the room and make a dash for your hiding spot. 

You might worry that your Tzu will catch on to this method of distraction rather quickly and that's okay because he will also be learning that this is a signal that the game is about to begin and many dogs will voluntarily be 'distracted' so that you can hide.

How to Play to Increase Difficulty Level

1) Always plan your hiding spot so that your dog doesn't catch you standing in a room, wondering where to stash yourself.

2) Have treats in your hand or pocket, so that you can reward your Shih Tzu as soon as he finds you. Later, once he learns how to play, he won't need a treat at all, he'll just want another round to play.

3) The first time you hide, choose an easy spot in the next room over. Behind a sofa or behind a door is a good choice.

4) When you're ready for your Shih Tzu to begin searching, call out his/her name one time, in an eager 'come and find me!' tone.

5) As soon he find you, offer the treat and lots of enthusiasm as if he did something truly marvelous.
6) As you keep 'resetting' the session- by placing your Shih Tzu in the 'starting area'- choose a slightly more difficult spot to hide. By the 5th or 6th time, you should be a couple of rooms away, completely out of view. Some good places? The bathtub with the curtain drawn, in various closets with the doors open only enough for your dog to fit through and underneath blankets.

7) A session of about 10 'finds' is usually perfect for inside exercise, because you want to end this game when your Shih Tzu is feeling good and hasn't become tired of it. This leads to wanting to play the next day.   

Indoor Game #2

Which Box? This is a super fun indoor activity to play with a Shih Tzu in which you will help your Tzu build on his 'search and seek' skills. Dogs really love to play this and it not only gets them moving around enough to qualify as exercise, but also builds up their confidence levels.

The basics of this game are that you will have 5 to 10 cardboard boxes and only one of them will hold a treat. It's best if all of the boxes are essentially the same size - though they can vary somewhat so that it's easier to store them, one inside the other, for when you're not playing. You'll want the largest one to be only slightly larger than your Tzu.  

You can search your house for what you need or when out food shopping, ask the store manager for boxes; many grocery stores have tons of them right in the back and don't mind when people ask (it saves them from having to break them down).

All boxes should be opened at the top. You can either fold the flaps down into the box or cut them off (which also makes storing them a bit easier).

How to Play to Increase Difficultly Level

1) Choose the biggest room in your house for this fun indoor activity and set things up while your Shih Tzu is behind his gated area or otherwise unable to watch what you are doing.

2) Choose a super yummy treat that has a strong scent.

3) When first playing this game, use 5 boxes. Spread them with the open top facing up, all across the room. With this game you will not hide the boxes at all; you'll want your Shih Tzu to be able to easily see all of them. Place the treat in just one (not the first one that he'll see when entering the room).

4) Allow your Shih Tzu into the room. Teach him how to play by leading him from one box to the other, asking in an excited tone "Where's the treat? Can you find the hidden prize?" Watch his nose go to work as you bring him from one box to the other. 

5) His nose should tell him when he's found the correct box and you can help him by acting happy and helping him reach the reward.

6) As you continue to play, add more boxes. Once your Shih Tzu has mastered how to play this indoor game make it more challenging by placing the treat on the floor and cover it with a box; making sure that all boxes are turned over. Now he's really going to have fun using his sense of smell!

7) Make sure that the bits of treats are small enough so that your puppy or dog can play several rounds and still be hungry enough to want to search. After 20 minutes or so, end on a good note, with your Tzu wanting more play; this makes a dog more likely to really look forward to playing on another day.
Indoor Activity #3 -

Adventure Box - This is a fun indoor activity for Shih Tzu that they can play on their own, once you have created it. Essentially, you will create a box that is filled with items that your dog has to rifle through to find the one prize that is hidden in it somewhere. Some owners make these out of primarily cardboard and paper items that include paper towel tubes, cereal boxes and newspaper. You can do this, however your Shih Tzu should be supervised when playing so that cardboard and paper items cannot be chewed.

We would suggest using non-chewable items that include empty plastic soda bottles (cleaned and closed), small plastic measuring cups, kitchen funnels, etc. Instead of using newspaper, you can use an array of different sized washcloths, hand towels and clean dishwasher rags.

How to Play to Set up this Indoor Game

1) With a good sized box (roughly twice the size of your Shih Tzu). 

2) The idea is to place the treat inside one of the wash cloths (or newspaper if you closely supervise your dog). 

3) Layer all the items on top of that. When you first play this indoor game with your Shih Tzu, you'll want to pack the objects loosely. Once your Tzu learns how this works, you can really pack them tight.

4) As your Shih Tzu becomes wise to how this works, you can become creative in how you hide things and what other objects you use. Treats can be placed inside an open water bottle or in a cleaned out margarine container that had holes poked through the top to allow the scent to be picked up.

Indoor Game #4

Mind Challenges - The other day, I was speaking with a friend about playing games with my Shih Tzu that test her mental abilities and allow her to learn quite complex puzzles… And she replied with the funniest statement, "My dog is more 'street smart' than 'book smart'" and after I was done laughing, I told her that I knew what she was trying to say. 

Many owners know that their dogs are clever… they can sense when we're even thinking about leaving and they know exactly where we keep their food. They know how to tug at our heart strings and which facial expressions will get them what they want. But most owners do not give their Shih Tzu enough credit for really being able to solve puzzles or figure out games that involve sliding, working through mazes or flipping lids open.

But the Shih Tzu breed is very intelligent and able to solve games. They just need 2 things for this to happen: 1- the chance to do so and 2- an owner who is a patient, enthusiastic teacher.

Indoor interactive games will have a particular maze or puzzle in which pieces must be moved a certain way to reveal a treat. Teaching a Shih Tzu how to nudge elements with his nose and how to search is a great bonding experience for a human and her canine family member. And most owners never knew how clever their dog was until given the opportunity to excel.

Please remember: A Shih Tzu of any age can play a game; this is not just for puppies. Adult dogs love new things as much - if not more - than younger dogs. While puppies will have curiosity about just about everything, attention span is short. Adult Tzu are more focused & often love to have a new game presented to them and an opportunity for indoor exercise if stuck in the house. 
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