Keep your dog entertained indoors this winter!
Winter blues got your dog down? Try these enrichment strategies to keep your dog playing all winter long!
Winter days can be cold, dark —and boring! Especially if you’re a dog and “Netflix and chill” doesn’t really do it for you in terms of cozy entertainment. Depending on where you live, days or weeks can go by when it’s too cold to stay out longer than it takes for your dog to do much more than poop, sniff and make yellow snow. Here are three ways you can have fun with your pup—and give them essential mental and physical stimulation—without leaving your home.
Build an Indoor Obstacle Course
With 30 minutes, and one or two tricks your dog already knows, create a fundamental obstacle course,” says professional dog trainer Geralynn Cada.
Start by cruising around your home and collecting and identifying anything that can be used as a stable platform for your dog to jump on and off. It can be things like a dining room chair, an ottoman, and sturdy boxes. Plan a route from obstacle to obstacle. Then, instruct your dog to move along the route, performing their repertoire of commands as they move up, down, and around each obstacle. Depending on their motivation, you can reward them with positive words or treats after each command, or after the entire course.
For example, start in the living room with “down,” move up to the couch, then “sit,” lure them down to the floor then under the coffee table, then do another “down.” Run up the stairs, do a “sit-down-sit” combo, then into the bedroom to leap onto the bed for another “down.” Then, run the obstacle course back to your starting point. Finish with cheers and treats. Make it even more fun with a playlist to use every time you run the obstacle courThis is great to do before mealtime, so dogs can feel like they’re working for their meals, says Cada. “And, whenever you do it, mix up the order, so they never know exactly what you’re going to ask, that way they always have to be on their game and focused on you,” she says. Watch this quick video for more.
Playing on the obstacle course for even just five minutes can deliver a potent dose of mental and physical enrichment that burns up energy and breaks up the day for your pup (and you!).
When frigid temps and icy paths limit the length of your dog’s walks, it also cuts off their opportunity to collect information through scents, like other dogs’ markings or fur and oils other animals may leave as they walk or brush agains twigs and bushes. Dogs investigate the world through their most powerful sense—their nose. Playing indoor games focused on scent gives dogs a chance to use those powerful sniffers. An easy game to start with is Find It, says professional dog trainer Katherine Keke, of the Cherokee County Animal Shelter in Georgia. All you need for the basic version is a KONG Classic rubber toy and high-value treats to place inside. “I use hot dogs because they’re very smelly and something most dogs will go after,” she says. Stuff a KONG loosely with a couple of hotdog pieces andwhen your dog is in another room, hide it. Then, release your dog to “find it.”
Make sure to start with an easy hiding place, says Keke. You want to reward your dog with an easy win and make certain they understand the game. Hide the KONG someplace simple, like under the couch. Once you play a few rounds using easy hiding spots, you can up the ante and hide the KONG in a place that may take a bit more time to find.
Playing Find It with a bunch of cardboard boxes is a way to make the game more interesting, suggests Keke. Collect about 10 cardboard boxes. While your dog is in another room, place a stuffed KONG in one of them. Then, release your dog to hunt for the box with the prize. Shuffle the boxes around to different locations for new rounds of the game to increase playtime.. As your super sniffer becomes more skilled, you can close the flaps of one or more boxes to make finding the KONG more challenging. Like Cada, Keke recommends several play sessions of up to five to 15 minutes a day to keep things fresh and focused. Watch Kekes’ video!
Filling a food puzzle with your dog’s favorite treats is a great strategy for mental and physical enrichment when it’s too chilly for sunbathing or squirrel monitoring in the yard. Not only is extracting tasty treats delicious and entertaining, but it also satisfies dogs’ natural foraging instincts.
Of course, Classic KONG toys are the ideal long-lasting solution for boring winter afternoons. Made in a variety of sizes and rubber formulas to delight and challenge all kinds of chewers, they can be filled with an endless number of irresistible recipes to keep dogs playing. But did you know that the same natural KONG Rubber used for KONG Classic snowman-shaped toys is used to make other shapes of toys as well? Add some variety to your dog’s routine with KONG Goodie Ribbon and KONG Classic Biscuit Ball Using different types of puzzle toys provides enrichment and rewards your dog’s efforts differently with each toy. The KONG Tikr, is a time-activated auto-rolling treat dispenser that can be set for up to 45-minutes. You can even adjust the challenge level as your dog gets better at extracting the treats.
Indoor activity options like obstacle courses, scent games, and food puzzle toys can help bust the winter blues and punctuate your dog’s day with mental and physical stimulation—which are critical for maintaining your dogs’ health and happiness. Because, whether it’s July or February, Dogs Need To Play.