Looking for fun things to do with your dog in the winter? In this “Ask an Expert” post, One Tail at a Time’s Shelter Director Sarah Gaziano will share her favorite tips for keeping dogs busy and active during cold winter months.
Today started off with some rain, then some freezing temperatures and then it snowed 3 inches. Sounds about right for Chicago. No one wants to be outside in this, including most of our pooches. So what are we to do, especially with dogs that need a lot of exercise or at the very least are used to having lots of activity?
How do we keep our dogs busy during the winter months?
It’s actually far more simple than you’d think: mental stimulation. It’s very common for us to “over exercise” our dogs and super important to find a healthy balance of physical and mental stimulation.
Of course, physical exertion is good for all of us, please continue to walk your dogs. But don’t do 5 miles a day if your pup really just needs puzzle toys and other indoor activities! Canine enrichment is a pretty new concept considering how widespread it seems to be, so if you’re new to all this you aren’t alone.
Here are a few easy ways to get started:
- Stop feeding your dog out of a bowl. Meal time is a great way for dogs to use their nose. My own super fast, super food motivated dog eats out of a Kong Wobbler and my super slow, doesn’t really care about meals dog eats off of a Mine Pet Platter. Meal time shouldn’t be wasted in a bowl. Now your dog can use their brains with a super simple change.
- Buy some puzzle toys. Make your life easier and buy some kongs and some squirrel dudes and anything else that you find interesting. Fill them up (like all the way, I’m not kidding), with some delicious stuff. Some great options are peanut butter, wet dog food, pumpkin, and cream cheese. Freeze them and have an arsenal in your freezer. Then you can just grab and go. It takes dogs forever to get through all that deliciousness, AND they learn to self soothe so you can actually get some work done.
- Teach your dog “find it”. This is the foundation for other more complicated enrichment ideas, so if you can teach your dog to essentially “turn on” his or her nose, there are so many other activities you can do! It’s super simple to teach. Throw treats on the ground and say “Find it!” Do not intervene, just let your dog sniff it out. When they find it, tell them they are awesome and do it again. You can make this harder by throwing more treats or by throwing them farther away to start.
For more advanced ideas, I would recommend joining this Canine Enrichment Facebook group. It’s a lot of interesting ideas all at once, so it can be overwhelming at first, but there are so many great ideas. Plus, it’s a community of dog lovers who are there to help and support each other, and we do love our dog community here at One Tail!
Sarah Gaziano, OTAT Shelter Director