How to stave off boredom and keep your dog busy through the winter months
By Renée Erdman
With fall sliding into winter you may find yourself spending more time indoors than out. Your dog walks may have become shorter and the couch may have become more appealing. At this time of year it can become all too easy to get stuck in an indoor rut—but don’t despair! We’ve put together some perfect cold-weather ideas to keep your dog busy and expend some of that built up energy while you both hang out inside.
1. Scent Games/Nose-work
Pet dogs don’t often get the opportunity to engage in activities that utilize their powerful noses. They don’t have to seek for food, but get it placed right in front of them. If we drop treats, we point out where they are. If they spend too long sniffing in the grass, we call them away.
The “scent games” class I teach encourages dogs to use their noses to find food sources hidden in boxes, gradually building up the difficulty and amount of boxes containing the treats. At home, you can hide your dog’s kibble or treats around the room, starting easy and then growing in difficulty (behind objects, out of sight). If you have more than one dog, only work with one in a room at a time. Does your dog have a favorite toy? Hide that toy somewhere in the house and prompt them with a “FIND IT!”
2. Trick Training
Teaching your dog to shake a paw or play dead is not only fun for you, but for your dog! Adding to your dog’s repertoire of skills is a great way to engage the brain and build confidence, especially for dogs that may be shy or reactive. A fantastic line of books available by Kyra Sundance entitled 101 Dog Tricks is a great place to start. The possibilities are endless. If you have children, this is a great opportunity for them to get involved with training in a fun and simple way.
3. Puzzle Toys
Yes, the standard rubber Kong can be packed with food to become a challenging meal-time treat. However, there are some really well-designed puzzle toys that can beat the winter blahs. Kyjen makes a line of really fun toys such as the one you can see here with my puppy client, Oreo.
Nina Ottoman and SPOT Ethical Pet brand toys are also a great choice and are available at many pet retail stores. Make sure you have a few different ones on hand so that you can switch them up to keep things interesting. Many are easy to clean and store. If your dog gives up right away, give them a little help to entice them to work through the puzzle!
Bonus: Take a Class!
Classes can be a great way to learn new skills, meet new people (and dogs), and have fun! Check online and see what’s offered locally. Don’t forget to choose based on our earlier guidelines to ensure training is force-free and humane. Classes cover skills like tracking, nose-work, agility, tricks and more. Classes are a great way to improve your relationship with your pup, instill trust and guidance and build confidence in both handler and dog! Don’t’ forget that shy and reactive dogs can benefit from classes as well and many trainers will happily include and ensure safety in the teaching environment so that all dogs can be included in the fun.
For more tips and tricks visit Bravo Dog!