Winter is here! Snow, cold weather and shorter days are finally upon us. If you have an active or playful dog, this can mean more time spent indoors and potentially more home destruction than you care to imagine. Knowing that your dog needs more stimulation and energy expenditure, there is plenty you can do to entertain your pup inside while instilling good habits and behaviors for the future.
While some dogs love to run and play outdoors regardless of the falling temperature, you may not always want to be out there with them, which can lead to a pretty frustrated pup. To keep your dog happy and warm this winter, plan ahead and prepare some fun indoor activities that engage their mind and body.
Instead of offering your dog their full meal in a bowl for breakfast or dinner, try making a game of meal time. This is one instance where playing with your food can be fun and stimulating! There are many commercially made puzzle toys on the market today and choosing one your dog will enjoy is as easy as judging their play style. If you have a smaller dog who likes to chase things, you might want to consider a treat ball or cube. Larger dogs (or dogs susceptible to bloat) can still have fun, but consider a stationary board game, puzzle, or wobble toy. Giving your dog the chance to engage with their food in a more thought-provoking manner can give them an outlet for their mental energy and keep them occupied far longer than a simple bowl feeding. You can even freeze a yummy treat inside a Kong© with some broth, yogurt, or peanut butter for a tasty twist on meal time.
If your dog is used to regular play time in your yard or out on a walk, but you need to curb their outdoor time, try engaging them in some indoor fun! One great game to play with your dog is hide and seek. Start with two people and have some great treats or toys ready. While one person hides, the other can distract the dog. The hider can then call the dog and reward with a game or snack once found. This gives the other person a chance to hide and repeat the game! This is a lot of fun for you and your dog (especially if you can get some kids in on the action) and can also reinforce a strong recall! Mixing training into play is an all-around win.
Did you ever build a pillow fort as a kid? Well, you can put your fort designing skills back into action to teach your dog some house-safe agility. Using pillows, chairs, broomsticks, etc., you can build a simple and safe obstacle course for your dog. Try tunneling under a few chairs, jumping over a broomstick, or you can even weave around pillows. Agility games are fun (and tiring!) and can be a great way to get in some exercise while staying in the comfort of your own home. Indoor agility can also be a good time to practice hand targets and the “stay” command if you’re looking to add some training into your play time. A tasty treat or fetch ball can also be used to help motivate your pup over the obstacles.
If you choose to spend times outdoor this winter with your pup, it’s important to keep a few safety tips in mind. For breeds with a short coat or short muzzle, the cold can be hazardous, so be sure to bundle them up in appropriate winter gear and offer plenty of warm play breaks as needed. If your neighborhood uses salt to prevent ice formation, you should try to walk your dog on unsalted areas and be sure to wash and dry their feet as soon as you get home to prevent paw injuries. For your own home, you can buy pet-safe salt alternatives to help with any icy conditions. When you can’t avoid salted areas, foot protection may be needed but be sure to buy only soft shoes or covers, as hard-soled shoes can lead to joint injuries for dogs because they do not walk heel-toe the way people do. You may also notice packed snow or ice on long-haired pets in their coats. Simply use the low setting on your hair dryer or a warm towel to help break up the larger chunks.
By planning fun and stimulating indoor activities for your dog this winter season, you can help eliminate boredom and reinforce good behavior all while keeping you both warm and dry.
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator