How to Train Your Dog While Sick

Sick woman caring for her dog

Getting sick is horrible. But getting sick often doesn’t stop our commitments from knocking on your proverbial door. With a tissue tucked behind your ear, and while still dressed in your PJs, you have to continue tending to your dog - and that includes training. Sometimes life doesn’t wait for us to feel 100%. But, how do you train your dog while sick?  

Do I Really Need To Train My Dog When I Don’t Feel Good?

This totally depends on how sick you truly are. If you have a fever or are throwing up, clearly just stay in bed. But, otherwise… Training programs are designed to produce maximum benefits when they proceed accordingly. During the design of a canine training program, a timeline is created in order for your dog to have the best retention of what s/he has been taught. Sessions achieve the program objectives, and this is what produces cumulative benefits. This is why it’s best to avoid skipping training sessions. Therefore, if you have a cold or pain from the inflammation of your sinuses, without fever, training should continue.

As long as you are well enough to participate, the training can be continued indoors. With the focus on preserving your energy and getting back to an optimal condition in the shortest time possible, training activities can be restricted to those that will require minimal energy. When you’re sick, your dog’s training activities can be carried out while lying down on and that require minimal mobility.

How To Train Your Dog While Sick

There are a number of ways to continue training your dog while you’re in less than ideal condition. Here are some ideas that will help you rest up, while also giving your dog some training opportunities:


If you’ve already taught your dog how to sit, stay, and come here, then you can add ‘find’ to his or her repertoire. This is where puzzle toys come in to play. Simple fill a puzzle toy with some treats and lay it on the floor next to you. But, before you do this, have your dog sit and stay in the kitchen or another area of your home. Once you’ve taken the puzzle to with you to your sofa, make yourself comfy and then place the treat-filled toy on the floor next to you. After a few moments, call your dog with the word come. Make your pup sit once near you. Say the word find and point to the puzzle toy. Your dog will love this training game - especially when done with smelly treats!

Puzzle toys are very helpful when you aren’t feeling great, and your energy is low. They require minimal effort for you - and yet, depending on complexity, can keep your dog busy for quite some time. These type of nose game toys are also very effective at training your dog to ‘find,’ as well as providing mental stimulation. Puzzle toys are available in a wide variety, including those that require the dog to solve puzzles before finding treats. Search, and scent games are strategic as well as designed for minimal mobility. These games also encourage the dog to develop a sense of smell, which is particularly critical for dogs. Interactive toys could also be utilized when training activities are restricted to indoor environments. These toys can also stimulate the mental capacity of a dog.

Indoor Fetch

When you’re sick and hoping to engage in activities that require minimal up and down actions, you can opt for indoor fetch games. You may need some space to play indoor fetch without getting the dog bored within a short period of time. Indoor fetch is just like fetch, but played inside - so don’t go throwing a ball too hard as you don’t want to break anything… Plus, you’re sick! This game builds on advancing your dog’s self-control and builds on the sit, fetch, and the come here basic skills.

With this game, you can use one of your dog’s favorite soft squeaky toys. While you are resting, and sipping on chicken noodle soup, you squeak the toy to get your dog’s attention. Then, once you have it, ask your dog to sit. Make sure your dog maintains eye contact with you, and toss the squeaky, encouraging your dog to remain seated. When you are ready, provide the fetch command and allow your dog to retrieve the toy. Once s/he finds the toy, use the come here command for recalling your dog. There are even little indoor slingshot games that you can use to play this teaching game.

Shake, Roll-Over, Bang Bang

These tricks are all very easy to train when you don’t feel at your best. Have your pup join you on the sofa or your bed and make sure you have a goodly amount of treats. Shake requires your pup to raise his paw up and be shaken by you in a sign of hello. At first, your dog will be somewhat confused, thinking you are transferring a treat to their paw when you attempt to shake. So, that’s why it’s best to teach your dog shake in two steps - first is up, so that your puppy gets rewarded when he lifts his paw. And then again when he allows you to hold his paw in a mock shake. Add the shake at the very end of training this trick. Treat and praise at each step.

Roll Over is a simple trick to train. Relying on the laydown lesson, have your dog lay and then using a treat, slowly make a circle with your hand and encourage him to follow it. Most dogs will stop halfway into a roll. Use your free hand and gently help them complete the roll. Always keeping the treat available for them to see. No matter how clumsy the roll, provide a treat and lots of praise. You’ll be surprised how quickly they get it!

Bang Bang, is just plain fun! Dogs are surprisingly quick to get this one. And, it relies on the laydown lesson. Using your pointer finger and thumb, mimic a gun and say bang bang, and encourage your dog to lie down. Once down, building on the roll over lesson, have your dog begin to roll over and stop at the halfway point where he’s on his back (and repeat bang bang). This is where you give him the treat and tons of praise as this is a submissive, trusting position.

What Else?

Only your imagination stops the options available to train your dog when you aren’t feeling your best. It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable that you will get sick during the 12 weeks it takes to train your pup. So think of options while you are feeling great.

What If I’m Too Sick?

This is where this decade is so great! You have plenty of options. They include a dog walking service, doggy daycare, and if needed, this is what family and friends are for. Also, it depends on your dog. Some dogs truly just want to lay by their companion when they sense an illness. And others… Well, they could care less if your sick, life is all about them! Yup, I’ve had both types of dog - and they were the same breed!

If you do have a loved one help you out while you are under the weather, make sure that they know your dog’s training needs and then just tuck yourself in and rest up. Sometimes all we need to feel better is knowing that our dogs are getting the attention, love, and care that they need. That and a killer bowl of homemade soup.

Rebecca Sanchez

Rebecca Sanchez lives in Seattle with her husband and three dogs and is a published author, and nationally recognized leader in the pet industry. Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “we need animals as much as they need us!” Rebecca specializes in researching and writing about holistic dog health and nutrition, and develops DIY recipes designed to enhance a pup's well-being.


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