The presents have been opened and the parade of visitors has come to end. Winter is in full swing. After all the festivities have ended and the excitement has died down, it’s prime time for cabin fever to start setting in for both humans and canines.
Colder days and longer nights can cause us to go a bit stir-crazy until spring time, and you may your pup more likely to become bored and disengaged.
But unlike us, your dog can’t simply hop in the family sedan to seek out some much needed entertainment. It’s up to owners to provide their pooches with some much-needed stimulation.
Here are 9 ways you and your best friend can keep the winter doldrums at bay for a very merry winter season.
1. Connect Virtually
The internet is a wonderful thing. Instant access to world news, the ability to connect socially with friends and family, and now the chance to be with your dog even when you are away - virtually of course!
There has been an endless procession of gadgets making it easier than ever to communicate with your dog even when you’re not at home.
Options range from face-to-face visual systems to treat dispensing camera devices, all controllable from your smart phone. Become the highlight of your pup’s day with your own virtual presence!
2. Stuffed Kongs
You’ve likely seen them at big box stores and pet boutiques alike. Kong play toys may appear to be nothing more than simple, yet highly durable chew toys. But they are so much more!
Many Kong toys allow you stuff your dog’s favorite treat inside. Serving double-duty, your dog will enjoy the challenge of extracting a little bit of heaven while also rewarding him for his efforts.
There’s even a slew of online recipes detailing food combinations you can stuff into your dog’s Kong toy and then freeze for a lickable goodie your dog will be lapping up all day long.
3. Treat Dispensing Puzzle Toys
If your pup is ready to graduate from treat-filled chewables, check out treat dispensing toys. These often ball-shaped toys can be filled with meaty treats, making playtime all the more rewarding.
Dogs must interact with the puzzle toy in some way to get the reward. The type of interaction varies depending on the toy – some units just require a little knocking around to dispense the good stuff like P.L.A.Y.'s Wobble Ball. Other toys, like the high-tech CleverPet, require dogs to complete a Simon Says style game in order to release the kibble mother load.
Games like these can be adjusted and tailored to your dog’s skill level. Many trainers advocate for feeding your dog his daily kibble allotment via puzzle toys and tossing out the dinner bowl all together!
4. The Hunt
Many breeds have a natural instinct to track and hunt. Feed this desire by creating a hunting trail throughout your home. Setting up a hunt is quite easy, fun, and entertaining for both of you.
Begin by hiding small treats in easy to find locations such as behind a table leg. Progress with more difficult hiding spots like under a blanket or behind a door.
As your create your trail, leave a few hints between each treat by scenting areas with a little treat ‘dust’. Be sure to keep your hiding locations low and easy to access. Then sit back and watch the hunt begin!
5. Hire a Dog Walker
If you have found the amount of exercise you’re willing to provide your dog with tapers off as the weather cools, consider hiring a dog walker.
Exercise is still important despite the chilly temperatures (plus our pups tend to get a few more higher calorie treats than usual as we keep them occupied indoors). With long romps in the backyard a distant memory, it’s time to consider switching up your dog’s exercise routine.
Dog walkers are a great solution when you find that you personally can’t bear those long wintery walks any longer. Even if you stick to your daily walking routing, a dog walker can be a refreshing change of pace for your pooch. A trustworthy dog walker can find new routes to explore and provided added stimulation.
There are many online website who assist in finding just the right match such as Wag and Rover.
6. Try Doggy Daycare
Is your dog a social butterfly? Even if your personal schedule doesn’t require daycare for your pup, a day or two a week can provide huge mental and social benefits for him.
When choosing a doggy daycare, look for those who provide ample social time with exercise. Some facilities may section off your pooch, defeating the purpose. If possible, on your dog’s first visit, take the opportunity to oversee his day. Make sure he plays well with others, the staff is attentive, and the grounds are safe.
Doggy daycare is also a great way to give yourself a bit of a reprieve after a hard day’s work. Instead of seeking your attention for some excitement, you dog will be just as tuckered out as you. This means instead of dealing with a pent up pooch, you can spend a nice relaxing evening watching your favorite show on Animal Planet together.
7. Get Tricky
More time indoors means that this is a great time to reinforce your training and tricks. Sit and stay during the winter months are no longer just tricks – make them daily routines instead!
This time is a great chance to finally nail that around the back, rollover, high-five routine you’ve always wanted to try. Practice existing tricks or work on a few new ones.
8. Take a Class
Winter time is a great back-to-school season for your pooch. Joining a canine class can provide great mental and social benefits (for your dog and you too)!
Not sure where to start? Try an agility training class. A combination of part obstacle course and obedience training, agility courses test not only your dog’s mental prowess but their physical stamina as well.
Classes like these are especially beneficial for high-energy dogs. Find out what classes are offered in your area and sign up with Fido!
9. Play Learning Games
After a long day, it’s easy to gravitate to the nearest sofa to kick up your feet. However, this time will be much better spent playing some games with your fur baby!
Spend a few minutes every day playing traditional games such as tug-of-war or hide-and-seek. These simple games are highly effective at building the bond between you and favorite furry friend. Staircase runs are great exercise for both of you, while a good ole’ game of indoor fetch will add a bit of positivity to the cold winter air.
Want a challenge? Try incorporating some fun training games into your schedule like It’s “Yer Choice” or “Look At That!” to work on canine obedience.
Winter doesn’t have to be blue. Implementing just a few of these nine tips will make for an enjoyable season while keeping everyone in both great mental and physical shape for the warmer weather to come!