“Winter is coming.” –Ned Stark
Cabin fever can affect your dog, too. Before your pup starts to entertain himself this winter by shredding your molding or disemboweling your pillows, consider the numerous ways you can help him beat the winter blues.
Train His Brain
Training new behaviors is an excellent way to burn your dog’s energy. Thinking is hard work! Practice behaviors that encourage your dog to move, like “come,” “twirl,” and “fetch.” Targeting, or teaching your dog to touch his nose or paw to objects, is one behavior that has countless practical applications; haven’t you always wanted your dog to get you a beer out of the fridge? This article explains the basics of targeting.
Visit any pet supply store and you’ll be amazed at all the food-dispensing toys and puzzle games that can keep your dog occupied when it’s too cold to go out. Feed meals out of a Kong or similar toy, which will require your dog to problem-solve and focus for several minutes. I actually rotate among four food-dispensing toys and puzzles, to keep things interesting for my easily bored dog.
As long as you know what your dog likes (food, toys, etc.), then you can create a game to engage him. My dog loves his squeaky toy, so I will have him leave the room (a great time to practice “wait”!) while I hide the toy behind a pillow or in a corner. When I open the door and tell him to “find it,” he races around, sniffing and searching, until he finds his toy. It’s a great way to encourage him to use his nose, all the while burning physical and mental energy.
Sign Up for an Indoor Class
Doggie Academy and other trainers hold classes indoors year round. Exploring an agility course, teaching your dog nose work, or learning new skills in a tricks class are fantastic ways to tire out your pooch.
Consider Doggie Daycare
If your dog is young, social and active, he might enjoy romping around indoors at a doggie daycare facility. It doesn’t have to be a daily commitment; even once or twice a week would give your bouncy pup a healthy outlet for his winter jitters.
Winter will come whether we like it or not, but a little planning and work on your part can make the cold, dark days fly by for your dog.