Winter can be a magical time – snow days, couch cuddles by a fireplace and lots of hot cocoa (for humans only, of course). But when the temperature drops and the snowflakes – or freezing rain – start falling, that also means our dogs are cooped up indoors where cabin fever can kick in. We all know a bored dog can be a very mischievous and sometimes destructive dog, and all dogs need a way to get their energy out! So how can we prevent boredom, when all we’re trying to do is keep our pets inside where it’s safe and warm?
Here are five activities you can do to keep your dog busy and help beat the winter blues – without needing to brave the frightful weather outside!
Use or Make Busy Toys & Puzzles
Toys plus treats equal a very happy and preoccupied dog! There are so many great toys and puzzles that will help keep your pup busy and mentally stimulated on a cold wintry day. You can buy them at the store or online, or even DIY. Some ideas include:
- Treat dispensing toys. Have your pet work for their treats – they’ll love the reward. I previously mentioned getting Roxanne the PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude and she will spend hours throwing it around our living room, trying to get the last treats out. It’s perfect for a cold day when she can’t run around outside!
- Stuff a Kong. This is similar to a treat dispensing toy but worth the shout out. Fill a Kong with some of your dog’s favorite things – treats, cheese, peanut butter, wet dog food, you name it. It will preoccupy them until they’ve licked every last inch of the toy (and they’ll love every minute of it).
- Make a Snuffle Mat. I recently heard about snuffle mats from Candice of Roofus and Kilo and this is the perfect DIY project to keep your pet busy and mentally stimulated. A snuffle mat allows dogs to search and sniff for treats or kibble in its fabric strips and hiding spots. Here’s a great overview of a snuffle mat and steps on how to make one.
Practice Training & Tricks
I’ve always said you can teach an old dog new tricks – you can teach almost any dog new tricks! Use the cold winter months as an opportunity to practice your training. Spend some time each day practicing the tricks your dog already knows and make a goal of learning a new trick this winter (*yummy training treats should be involved, of course). This is a great way to both physically and mentally stimulate your dog.
You may even want to enroll your dog in a training class this winter. Just getting out of your house and into a new environment will help prevent boredom. Throw in some training and new tricks and your dog will be too exhausted to realize it’s cold outside!
Play Games Together
Have some fun yourself! Something as simple as a good ol’ game of tug-of-war will be fun for your dog, get some of their energy out and let you have some quality time with them. A couple other indoor-friendly games you and your pup can play together:
- Hide-and-Seek. This one is fun and, let’s be honest, pretty hilarious. Throw some treats down to preoccupy your dog then go hide in another room. See how long it’ll take for them to track you down! (Though Roxanne would probably give up after about one minute of looking – or never even try in the first place. Some dogs might be more willing than others).
- DIY Obstacle Course. If you have the space, grab a couple (safe) household items and make your own obstacle course. Have them weave around a couple of strategically placed chairs, jump over a box or stack of books – get creative!
- Play Ball. Have an open area or long hallway? Play some ball! Roll the ball down the hallway or bounce it to the other side of the room for your dog to fetch – just be sure to move any fragile items first, of course. We’re lucky enough to have a space like this one where we can play ball all day long.
Plan a Puppy Play Date
If you’re pup is bored being cooped up inside, chances are your friend’s/neighbor’s/family’s dog is bored too. If you’re pets get along, plan an indoor play date so your dogs can get some energy out. This will also help with socialization. Just make sure you have toys and treats for both dogs at the ready!
Take a Trip
Why not get yourself out of the house too? Consider bundling yourself and your dog up, warming up the car and taking a trip somewhere. Maybe there’s a pet-friendly café or store in your area you can spend some time at. Just be sure to do your research first – call and ask if they are, in fact, pet-friendly, and be mindful of your pet’s personality. While the store or restaurant may be pet-friendly, if your pup is easily stressed with other people or pets around, or if they are rambunctious and like to cause a ruckus, maybe use one of the above tips instead. You wouldn’t want to put your pet in an environment where they aren’t comfortable.
If you have the time, take a longer day trip – or maybe even an overnight trip. Just getting out of the house and into a new environment will help.
What other ways do you and your pet beat the winter blues? Leave a comment below!