Wintertime Indoor Fun
Entertainment options abound for dogs—and their owners.
By Stacy Mantle
Winter is nearly upon us and for many that means making adjustments in order to keep our pets safe and warm during the colder winter months. Here are several indoor activities that can help keep cabin fever at bay.
Teach Dogs New Tricks
Winter is a great time to hone your dog training skills. Not only does dog training provide mental stimulation for your pets, it helps cement the bond with your dog and gives you both something to focus on besides going outside. If you’ve thought about implementing clicker training, this is a great time to start.
Puzzle Toys for Pups
Puzzle toys are a fantastic way to keep a dog’s mind engaged, which tires them out more quickly. These types of toys also encourage sedentary dogs to become more active, even when left alone. Interactive toys range from squirrel trees to puzzle boxes, and the rewards can vary from plush toys to pet treats (be sure to use a low-cal treat). There is really a toy for every activity level, so do a search—you might be surprised by what you find.
Make Feeding Time Fun
Make feeding time more interesting with an interactive pet feeder. These feeders engage pets’ primal instincts by allowing them to “hunt” for their food. Interactive feeders, such as those available from Nina Ottoson or Aikiou, keep dogs interested during mealtime while decreasing their eating rate—something that is physically and emotional important.
Treadmills for Pets
You may not think of your dog as the “running” type, but she may just surprise you. Winter provides a great opportunity for implementing interval training into your dog’s workout. Dog Tread carries a wide selection of treadmills designed especially for pets. If you’re in an area where rain and snow prevail, this is probably the system for you. To step up the power level, try adding a K9 FIT Vest™, which comes with various sized weights that you add or decrease as your dog gets in shape.
Building up Balance for the Pet’s Body & Mind
The best way to tire out your dog is to engage her mentally and physically. Balance balls can do the trick. Sometimes referred to thera-balls, exercise balls, fitness balls, gymnastics balls or Swiss balls; these are a great tool for working on balance, core strengthening and endurance. If you have an agility dog, this is going to be an especially valuable activity for your pet. Best of all; it can all be done indoors (under proper supervision, of course). Dog Tread carries a wonderful line of balance toys for pets, as does Fit Paws USA, and there are other companies that offer innovative balance equipment for pets.
Experiment in the Kitchen
If you’re as bored as your dog during the cold and dark winter months, consider experimenting with some new recipes. There are many great ways to integrate leftover holiday food (such as pumpkin puree or turkey) into recipes that are healthy and easy to make.
Scavenger Hunts for Dogs
Scavenger hunts can be entertaining for you and your human kids, as well as your pets. This is very easy game to set up. Simply put your dog outside or in another room while you “hide” the treats around the house. Start out with easy hides (such as in the corner of a room), then move into the “high value” hides (under a box or the couch). Be careful you don’t inadvertently enforce bad habits while playing. Hide treats and toys only in areas where your dog is allowed.
Doga (Dog Yoga)
There is nothing more relaxing in winter than a morning yoga session. You can integrate your dog into this healthy routine by simply encouraging her to participate. Practice simple stretches together and when your pet lies down for a rest, use the time to interact with her—it will help make your own morning yoga that much more valuable as petting animals has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease stress.
Grooming the Pet
A grooming session can do wonders for your pet when the cold, dry air of winter is taking its toll on her skin. Consider purchasing some pet-friendly Bath Salts from DERMagic for a gentle exfoliating scrub that will remove dandruff and help loosen dry skin, preparing it for an invigorating shampoo. This is not only great for your pets, but will help keep you warm and relaxed during the cold winter days.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com