Does Your Puppy Have Cabin Fever?

| Jasey Day

Keeping your dog or puppy entertained in the winter can be a hassle with the frigid temperatures. Here are some ways to keep your pooch busy without freezing!


Puppies are full of energy and exuberance. With less access to the outdoors, it can be hard to tire out dogs of all ages. As the saying goes, “Tired dogs are good dogs!” Alleviate canine cabin fever by doing the following:

Take an online class.

While it's necessary to stay indoors, you don't have to waste your time watching television. Perhaps an online dog training class is for you?  A variety of training is available online via instructional videos and written instructions only or by more interaction with the instructor via uploading videos and asking questions via blog posts. Take a beginner family manners class, shaping class to teach your dog both tricks and practical obedience skills, or scent work (nose work) class. Scent work trains your dog to search for a smell; dogs LOVE to use their noses! I often practice nose work at home when it’s dark or when the weather is unappealing; my dogs search for the smell of birch for fun and for mental exercise! 

Play indoors.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a walk, hike, or jog and doesn’t have to be outside! Play tug of war, fetch indoors (with short tosses on non-slick surfaces), hide and go seek, or invest in a few puppy puzzle games. Play can even include you having your dog work for every piece of kibble in his dinner – work on sits, downs, fun tricks, and other commands in every room of your house! Use commercials as playtimes with your dog.

Exercise on inflatable discs (exercise balls).

This is doggie “pilates” and you can do it in your living room! Purchase some inflatable equipment at TotoFit or FitPAWS. To learn what to do, you could take an online class or watch a few videos online. Even just doing 5-6 minutes of doggie pilates a few times a week will increase core strength, coordination, mental focus, and help tire out your canine! I also like to incorporate shake (with all four paws, not just the front paws!) into my indoor canine exercise routine both on and off the inflatables. If you don’t want to use inflatable products, you can even use an old phone book (with duct tape wrapped on the outside to ensure the pages stay closed) or small step-stool on which for your dog to place his front or back paws; even those items will shift weight and allow you to get started with some weight-shifting, balance exercises.

Use toys for mental enrichment.

Do you need a break? Have your dog keep his brain (and his mouth) busy with these interactive toys or nylabones. Supervise your dog’s interaction with toys before leaving him unattended with those toys; you may also just want your dog next to you with these items while you multi-task with puppy watching and doing chores!

Create obedience games.

First, teach your dog “go to your bed (mat)” and then send him to different mats in the living room by pointing to the designated mat. Your dog can “run the bases” like baseball while working on an obedience skill and using his brain! Second, work on stays and gradually work up to a 20-foot stay or walking a full circle around your dog.  Third, grab another human in your household and have your dog practice recalls (“come”) between two people for treats; after your dog masters this, have one person hide out of view to incorporate “hide and seek” into the recall games!

Go for a walk.

Your dog will still need time outside, so read the below advice for safe walking with your pup:

  • Consider a doggie jacket or other gear, such as booties. My dogs wear jackets even when the temperature is in the 30s. Dogs are warm-blooded mammals, so they do get cold! Dogs feel the dramatic temperature swing of 30 or more degrees between your home’s temperature and the temperature outside. Often a cold dog will try to run (and then pull on the leash) to stay warm. Keeping my dogs bundled up in jackets reduces leash pulling from that friskiness and also keeps my dogs’ muscles and joints warm.

  • Take multiple, shorter walks instead of just one long walk each day.

  • Plan your walks during daytime hours to take advantage of the sun’s warmth.

  • Avoid busy sidewalks or crowded parks. 

  • Invest in better outdoor exercise gear for yourself. My favorite gift for this winter was a pair of heated, rechargeable gloves! 

  • If you have a fenced yard, play outside with your pup when the weather is nice to help burn off some energecy.

Enjoy your time together!

It can be frustrating when your dog is insisting on playtime but you can't venture out to dog parks or drop him off at doggy daycare. Spending time playing in your backyard, working through puzzle games and practicing canine fitness can help keep him mentally and physically in shape. A dog who is healthy is less likely to get into trouble or injure himself by misbehaving, but accidents do happen. Consider enrolling your dog in pet insurance to help protect against unexpected vet bills so your time with your dog is worry-free!

Jasey Day

Jasey Day holds the Certified Canine Fitness Trainer (CCFT) credential through the University of Tennessee. She is a member of the Bobbie Lyons K9FITteam - a team of compassionate canine fitness instructors who actively teach others and continually expand their own knowledge. Since 2004, Jasey has taught a variety of workshops and classes on the following: Puppy, Canine Good Citizen/Family Pet, Advanced Family Pet, Canine Fitness, Canine Swimming, Rally, and Agility. In addition, Jasey has earned over 60 titles in Dock Diving, Agility, Rally, CGC and Trick Dog. Jasey has worked full time for the American Kennel Club since 2007 and teaches at Care First Animal Hospital in Raleigh, NC. Jasey’s Labrador Retrievers spend their free time hiking, training, and snuggling with Jasey.


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