Between sub-zero temperatures and an abundance of salt on city sidewalks, keeping your dog physical and mentally stimulated can be challenging in winter.
It may be tempting to camp out in front of the fire until the spring thaw but a lack of activity for your four legged pal can lead to more destructive behaviour, weight gain, boredom, poor listening skills and even an erosion of his social skills.
The good news is that Rover doesn’t have to settle for being a couch potato all winter – here are my favourite tips for keeping his mind and body active, no matter what Mother Nature brings.
1. Turn meals into activities
There is no law that says your dog’s meals have to go into a dish on the floor. Stuffed Kongs, Buster cubes and activity balls are just a few ‘puzzle toys’ that you can stuff meals into for added mental stimulation. For added inspiration see The art of Kong stuffing and Kong recipes. Already doing that? Good for you! Take it to the next level and turn meals into a scavenger hunt! Hide Kongs and even just a few kibbles behind the sofa, under the corner of the rug or an overturned box and help Rover hunt it all down.
2. Take a class
There is no better time to sign up for an indoor class and try something new with your dog. If you haven’t already done a basic manners course, do! But there are all kinds of other ways to do something new and fun with your dog. Scenting classes are a wonderful way to give Rover an opportunity to hone his sharpest sense but you can also try tricks, Rally or freestyle. For the more active, agility is a wonderful way to keep Rover active while learning something new and strengthening the bond between you.
3. Create an obstacle course
You don’t need fancy equipment to turn your living room into a new experience. Place chairs or cushions for Rover to weave through, under and over. Creat tunnels, small jumps and things to crawl under. Just keep in mind Rover’s safety and comfort level – forcing your dog to jump off high surfaces or navigate on slippery floors can lead to injury.
4. Go visiting
Make a date to visit Rover’s best play-pal or just go to the nearest pet store to meet new people and see something new. Bonus points for practicing stays where there are distractions!
5. Bundle up
Most dogs love the snow and the chance to get outside, even if it’s for a limited time in the cold. Put on some warm layers for you and a good coat for your dog (this should have some warm fleecy layer covered by a waterproof layer and should cover most of his underbelly). If you live in an urban area where there is lots of salt, work at getting Rover comfortable with boots. The balloon version are easy and economical but don’t provide a lot of warmth so some doggy socks underneath will go a long way toward keeping those tootsies warm and can even make the balloons easier to put on. Try to get Rover out every day, even if it’s only for one or two 10-minute walks.
And if you need a little extra inspiration, this video always makes me look forward to a snow day!