Even though spring is right around the corner, we still have some cold days ahead before we can enjoy the warmer weather. We definitely train our dogs in all sorts of different weather, but like many, the winter weather may give us trouble getting out and active with our dogs quite as much as we would like. So if you’ve done as much bundling up and toughing it out as you can handle for now, here are some ideas to keep your dog busy and engaged on those days you would rather stay indoors. Enjoy these tips and happy Responsible Pet Ownership month!
Dispensing Toys and Puzzles
One easy way to keep your dog busy is stuffable toys, chews, and dispensing toys. These include things like the classic Kong toy that can be filled with food or treats. It might be worth ditching the dog bowl and feeding meals from these types of toys to give your buddy something to enjoy for longer than the 30 seconds it takes to scarf down a bowl of dog food. Slowing down mealtime is also healthier for your dog. If you feed dry kibble, you can soak it and use that to fill these toys, or use dispensing toys made to be used with dry kibble like a Kong Wobbler. There are lots of different options for these toys so do some shopping around and look online for the versions that you think your dog might enjoy most.
Another great option related to the dispensing toys are dog puzzles. These require a bit more brain work to reach a treat that you hide in a compartment. There are usually different levels of puzzles, so start with the easiest puzzles to make sure your pet is successful. One lovely benefit to exercising your dogs mentally is that they are likely to be just as tired by this kind of work as they would be by physical exercise like taking a walk outside.
Not interested in buying new toys and puzzles, or not in the budget right now? We definitely understand. There are lots of things you can use around the house to have fun with your dog.
You can make your own dispensing toys or puzzles out of things you have on hand. How about an empty toilet paper roll with kibble inside and then fold the ends over, now it’s a treat dispensing toy. You could also sprinkle treats on a towel and then roll or fold the towel tightly, then let your dog figure out how to reach the treats within. If you want to try a simple at home puzzle, use a muffin tin and place treats in a few of the cups, then place tennis balls over the top so your dog can’t see where the treats are. Let them discover how to move the tennis balls and use their nose to discover the treats. With DIY toys, do be aware that they are probably less likely to withstand tough chewing, so always supervise to make sure your dog isn’t ingesting anything they shouldn’t.
How about some play time with your pup? The cup game is simple, just grab a few plastic cups and place a treat or toy under one cup. You can switch the cups around and then let your dog try to decide which cup is hiding the prize. Another idea is to play “Find It.” Just hide a treat or toy around the house and teach your dog to look for it. Start very simply, even hiding the reward in plain sight at first until they understand the game. You can slowly increase the difficulty of this game. Maybe you can even try creating an obstacle course out of household objects like couch cushions and broomsticks. This gives them a little bit of movement and can be a fun activity. You could get the kids involved here, too!
The most productive thing you can do with your dog indoors is take a little time to train! You could work on basic obedience like your stays or recalls, which are always worth the work. Or, you could train something fun like a new trick. Something simple? Maybe a chin rest. Or if you want a challenge, teach your dog to pick up their own toys and put them away. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to teach something new, hit YouTube and watch a quick tutorial.
Working together with your dog, no matter what activity you choose, is sure to keep their mind busy and also build their bond with you. The benefits of engaging with your dog and giving them enriching activities are so great. Keep your dog happy and you are less likely to see bad behavior like excessive barking or destroying furniture.
We hope this gives you some new ideas to try with your dogs. Have fun!
Puzzles used in video from TRIXIE - https://www.trixie.de/heimtierbedarf/en/shop/Dog/Activities/StrategySnackToys/