Keeping Your Pup Busy On Cold Winter Days
by Steffi Trott
Snowy winter days are a time for us to snuggle up inside with a good book and a cup of tea. Unfortunately, our dogs don’t appreciate either one and will quickly become bored when we have to cut down on their daily walks and visits to the park. Bored dogs can become destructive and start habits such as barking or chewing up furniture. Keeping them busy and out of trouble is important!
Here are our favorite ways to entertain your dog inside:
You have probably heard that mental exercise is just as (or even more) tiring than physical exercise for dogs. This is absolutely true! Challenging our dogs’ thinking and problem solving skills will be a great way to increase their attention span and focus. It is also fun for us to watch them figure out little puzzles we make up for them!
Box of Goodies
Take a cardboard box and fill it with old newspaper or packing peanuts. Hide a bunch of treats in there and let your dog figure out how to get them out! He will have to use his nose to sniff out the treats as well as his head and paws to get to them. Only do this under supervision of course to make sure your dog doesn’t snack on the packing peanuts if he becomes inpatient.
Take a blanket or beach towel and spread it on the floor. Now hide some treats underneath it and let your dog work out how he can earn them! This will be tricky as your dog can smell the treats directly through the fabric, but has to find out how to access them by sticking his nose under the edge of the blanket.
If your dog every gives up while playing these games (sits down and looks at you or simply walks away), make it easier for him. Show him the treats again and hide them with less difficulty. We don’t want him to learn that the challenges are too hard and he cannot do them – instead, we want to build confidence in problem solving for him.
Tricks are a fun way to strengthen your bond and teach your dog how to think and work with you. The true value lies not so much in any single trick, but in your dog understanding how to train and learn through your guidance. The more a dog has trained in his past, the easier he will pick up new behaviors. So teaching him tricks during long winter nights will not only be fun at that moment, but also prime your dog to pick up obedience behaviors more easily down the road!
(If you are looking for a comprehensive trick class to take from the convenience of your living room, check out: https://www.spiritdogtraining.com/online-dog-training/tricks-class/ and https://www.spiritdogtraining.com/online-dog-training/brain-games/ )
Spin Left and Right
Steffi Trott, founder of SpiritDog Training, is a dog trainer in Albuquerque, NM and offers local training classes, online classes and online consultation. Ask her questions in the comments below.