Short winter days and cold weather mean most of us cut back on outdoor exercise. That can be a problem for our pets – especially for high-energy dogs who need lots of active play.
That feeling of being “trapped in the house” that we call “cabin fever” can affect our canine companions too, leading to problem behaviors like unusual barking or howling, chewing on furniture or clothing and even messing in the house.
To avoid these problems, Best Friends trainers recommend keeping your pet active all season long.
Go for a walk. Bundle up and brave the cold with a daily walk or run to allow your pet to release excess energy. Bring him along when you walk the children to the school bus. Be sure you both wear reflectors if your daily excursion is in the winter dark. And, remember to clean your dog’s paws thoroughly to remove any salt or sand that can cause irritation.
Get out and play. If you have children in the household, why not send the family dog out to play with them. Bundled up in their snowsuits, kids are happy to roll in the snow with their frisky friend.
Give him an interactive toy. Can’t get out of the house? Stuff a Kong with cheese, peanut butter or another favorite treat and pop it in the freezer; or fill a “buster cube” with kibble. Give him his toy as you leave the house. Working to get that hidden treat will give him both physical and mental stimulation while you’re gone.
Practice obedience. Work on training skills every day. Whether basic commands or advanced tricks, dogs love to “have a job” and love to please you even more. If you’ve never trained your dog, sign up for an indoor training class. Even it it’s only once a week, it’s an opportunity for you and your dog to get out and be active together – plus you’ll have “homework” to practice during the week.
Send your dog to camp. A great alternative to lonely days at home alone is doggy day camp, day care or play group. Dogs exercise and socialize with other dogs in a safe, supervised environment. Dogs can benefit significantly by participating just once or twice each week. In addition to giving them exercise, these programs actually improve social skills while diminishing negative behaviors at home.