With the winter season right at our doorstep, snowy days and chilly weather change the day-to-day schedule of most dog owners and their pooches – for our dogs, this means less time spent outdoors and more time spent lying next to the living room couch, enjoying the warmth of the house.
However, long hours devoid of stimulating activities can take their toll on our furry friends – after all, dogs require lots of mental and physical exercise to stay fit and happy. Lack of exercise during the cold winter months cann ot only lead to weight gain but can also cause some unpleasant behavior issues due to boredom – after all, each dog has its own chewed-up sofa story. Imagine keeping your little children inside the house for days on end without any fun activities whatsoever – it is not hard to imagine how that will end!
Keeping your pooch healthy and entertained during cold winter months, albeit an essential thing for any dog owner to consider, will be rewarding to both you and your furry friend. The only thing you need as a dog owner is a comprehensive list of activities that will get your dog all excited and ready to consume its built-up energy. For this article, we’ve put together a useful list of perfect exercises and games for a fun, proactive winter!
#1: Mind Stimulation: Puzzles
Dogs are highly intelligent beings whose brains require a lot of stimulation lest they become bored. Working different problem-solving exercises into their day-to-day activities will gradually improve their instincts and mental capabilities. The only thing your dog needs is a challenging game and an enticing reward.
The easiest way to include fun and rewards in the same activity are puzzle toys and games, which provide enough stimulation for your puppy to stay occupied even when you leave it home alone for a few hours. Take, for example, the OurPets IQ Treat Ball or the Starmark Bob-A-Lot Dog Toy – both are puzzle toys that challenge your dog to find its way to the much-coveted treat hidden inside.
For a bigger challenge, the JW Evertuff Treat Pod Toy is effective at stimulating both your dog’s mental capabilities and its chewing instincts. Your puppy has to manipulate the three colored pods and free the treats. Furthermore, a natural cotton rope holds the pods together, which is perfect for your dog’s dental health.
The list of entertaining puzzles can go on and on – find out what challenges your dog the most, then find the most suitable puzzle. For a well-rounded list of puzzle games and toys, check out thisarticle.
#2: Indoor Training
Instead of allowing your canine friend to be overcome by “cabin fever,” you can use this propitious time of the year to train your dog. Keeping dogs busy with new commands or tricks is a wonderful way to spend time with our furry friends! All you need is a schedule and patience – by the end of winter, your dog will learn useful commands and indoor manners while keeping itself happy and entertained! Let’s take a closer look at a few indoor training activities, which you can find in our founder, Wendy Volhard’s Volhard Dog Training for Dummies book:
Indoors leash walking – This exercise will enforce a good leash walking behavior while learning how to improve your handling and communication with your dog.
Practice your dog’s “stay” – Keeping your dog focused is essential for avoiding behavioral issues.
Lots and lots of tricks! – Winter is the best season for preparing yourself and your dog for performance events. The American Kennel Club (AKC) organizes performance events from Novice to the Rally Advanced Excellent title. Teaching your dog the required exercises for these competitions is not only fun but also very productive obedience-wise.
#3: Scent Training
Keeping your dog active means both entertaining and challenging its senses and intelligence. Engaging your dog’s scenting prowess is a tried-and-tested way to keep your dog occupied and help it learn new things. While there is a myriad of activities to choose from, we’ve handpicked three activities you and your furry friend are sure to enjoy:
Find the Food
Playing hide-and-seek with your dog’s favorite treats is a good place to start. Place the first treats in open spots (e.g., on the couch) – your dog will definitely find them, often by accident. Making the game a bit more challenging (i.e., placing the treats in less open places) will force your dog to use its powerful sense of smell. Gradually, your dog will stop looking for treats with their eyes and uncover them by sniffing.
Pick the Hand
Take a treat with a stronger aroma into your palm and make a loose, palm-down fist. Let your dog sniff the fist, then open it and reveal the treat. Repeat the exercise a few times, then add another fist to the game – this time, make sure that you vary the treat-hiding fist. Gradually, your dog will begin to use its sense of smell to detect the right fist. Reward your dog with praise every time it finds the treat. For a more challenging setting, add a friend’s two fists to the game, making it doubly harder for your dog.
For this game, you, the dog owner, will play the part of the treat. While your dog is busy walking around the house, find a good place to hide (e.g., under the bed, behind a thick curtain), somewhere your dog would not expect you to be. Your puppy, using its sense of smell, will naturally begin to search for you. Once it finds you, reward your puppy with treats and many praises!
#4: Outdoor Training: Snow Maze
If your dog is more of a daredevil, ready to enjoy the fresh air and the snow, why not create a fun playground for your pooch to enjoy? To create a snow maze for your dog, simply dig narrow pathways with a snow shovel. Afterward, connect the pathways in random places, just like in a maze. Once the maze is ready, release your dog and wait for it to find its way to freedom! There you have it – an easy way to entertain and stimulate your dog’s mental capabilities.
Enjoying Your Fun Winter with Your Furry Friend
The ideas presented in this blog are meant to provide as much exercise and mental stimulation to your dog during the cold winter months. Always remember that your dog is a highly intelligent being whose brain requires stimulation, lest it becomes boring and starts to make a mess all around the house. Are you looking for more exciting ideas? Feel free to contact us or check out our blog!