By: Laura Perkins, CPDT-KA
It’s that time of year in Oregon when the rain and darkness keep us indoors more often. Although we may be content staying home and relaxing more in the winter, our dogs really need the same level of mental and physical stimulation all year long. When we don’t give our dogs outlets to exhaust their energy, they may find their own ways to entertain themselves!
Below are some ideas about what to do when it’s cold, rainy and dark outside, but Fido is ready to run and play.
- Play hide and seek. Let one person hide while another family member stays with your canine friend. Once the person has hidden they should call your pup once or twice and then let him work that brain as he searches for his pal. When your dog finds the hidden person make it really fun – pet, praise, play with or treat your dog. Try to start with easy hiding places and work up to more difficult ones. A variation of this game would be to hide toys or treats for your dog to find. Indoor fetch or toy play.
- You may already play fetch with your dog inside. But instead of just throwing the toy once or twice between your own activities, set aside 15-20 minutes to get a full game of fetch going much like you might outdoors. Chasing bouncing tennis balls can cause your dog to slide and injure herself on hard floors, so try a soft, quiet toy for your games.
- Homemade puzzle toys. Be creative and use recyclables to make an inexpensive puzzle toy. You can use a plastic beverage bottle with some treats inside or a box with a toy enclosed. Another fun toy is treats dropped in a muffin tin with tennis balls to cover the treats. Whatever you use, be sure that your dog doesn’t ingest anything she shouldn’t by monitoring her while she solves the puzzle you created.
- Training time. Training is great mental stimulation for your dog and can really tire him out! Even if your dog is already a model obedience student, he will love to practice what he knows or learn a fun new trick. Be sure to reward your dog when he gets a task right, as that’s what keeps training fun for him.
- Special chewing session. Chewing can be a great way for your dog to release some energy when you need some quiet time. A great long-lasting chew is a hollow bone or KONG toy stuffed with something and then frozen. The filling can be anything that your dog likes that is a little moist. At Dog Services, we mix a little bit of peanut butter and canned food into the dogs’ kibble to fill their daily KONGs. They are always relaxed and ready to nap after they finish working on them.