Puppies are full of energy and exuberance. With fewer daylight hours and cooler temperatures, it can be hard in winter 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. Do you feel like staying in during the cold months and not leaving your house in the evenings after a long day at work? Then perhaps an online class is for you. The February 2017 schedule for Fenzi Dog Sport Academy is available here or you can find another online training provider. 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 mentally exercise! To further curb cabin fever in my household, I am taking the Sensational Stays class in February! Join me!
- 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), invite friends with dogs over for play dates, drop your dog off at doggie play camp or drop-off training (day school), or venture out to an indoor, in-person dog training class. 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 in 2017 by renowned canine rehab trainer Debbie Gross or purchase a DVD set for ideas on how to use the inflatable products to condition your hound! 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 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!
Your dog will still need walks in winter, so read the below advice for happy winter walking:
- 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.
- Invest in better outdoor exercise gear for yourself. Two common retailers for recreational winter gear for humans are REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods. My favorite gift for this winter was a pair of heated, rechargeable gloves!
Enjoy your bundled-up walks and indoor fun!