I haven’t been walking my dog or playing with her outside since it’s been cold out and she seems to be bored. Do you have any suggestions for activities I can do with her inside?
Dogs do need daily physical exercise and mental stimulation regardless of the weather. Most dogs are still happy to walk or play outside when it’s cold, so I encourage you to bundle up and go for a daily walk. If their physical and mental needs are not met, some dogs will seem as if they’re bored or depressed and just lie around or sleep a lot. Others will find their own activities to keep themselves entertained, which may be activities their humans do not want them to do. Providing appropriate daily activities for your dogs in the house is a great way to meet their needs and possibly even prevent unwanted behaviors.
There are many interactive toys for dogs (and cats) available today, most of which involve hiding dog food or treats in them for the dog to remove. Some are made to contain dry kibble and dogs must push or roll them around for the kibble to fall out one or two pieces at a time. These are not only great to use for snack time, but many people feed their dog’s meals in this type of toy instead of a bowl. This makes mealtime a ten to twenty minute activity which is good for mental stimulation and a little physical activity. Other toys are meant to contain a treat that can be licked out. Some examples of food that can be used in such toys include peanut butter (not too much), chicken, turkey or beef baby food, unsweetened applesauce, cooked mashed carrots, cooked mashed yams, or canned pumpkin (Yes, many dogs enjoy unsweetened pumpkin). You could also mix any of these soft foods with dry kibble and pack the mixture into the toy. Freezing a packed toy will lengthen the time it takes your dog to finish the treat. There are also puzzle toys in which to hide treats that are meant for use with human supervision, such as those made by Nina Ottosson. Other popular interactive toys are made by Premier Pet Products and The Kong Company.
Another option is to join a fun Nose Work class with your dog. Nose Work is a fairly new dog sport which was introduced to the East Coast in 2010 and was designed purely for dogs to have fun finding things with their noses. All breeds and mixes of all ages, and even reactive dogs can join a Nose Work class. Another great aspect of Nose Work is that all activities learned in classes are easily re-created at home. Classes are currently being offered at the Shiloh Veterinary Hospital York location. For more information please see our website.
Thomas Schaeberle, VMD