Picture the perfect winter scene.
A fire, shimmering with heat. The crackle of the logs as they catch; the sparks shooting upwards, dying and falling back down as ash. Perhaps there is a set of pokers to one side. There’s almost certainly stockings over the fire, perfectly labeled with each member of the family’s name.
And to complete the picture: a dog. Curled on a rug in front of the fire, or stretched out and basking in the heat. It’s the perfect scene until you realize that the dog is probably bored out of his furry mind.
Winter weather might be rough for us on two-legs, but for our four-legged friends it poses particular challenges. There may be a reduction in the amount they are exercised, as much for their own good as ours – no dog likes to be rained on every day for a month! If they are a bit older, then the colder temperatures may aggravate aching joint problems. Not to mention that dogs dislike the shorter days, too.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to keep your dog excited, stimulated and exercised even when the winter weather is doing its worst.
Play Hide and Seek
It’s the classic children’s game, but more intelligent canines will get a kick out of it as well.
This can either be done with food or with your pooch’s favorite squeaky toy. All you need to do is attract your dog’s attention to whatever their quarry is going to be. Then, you hide it.
Sound simple? It shouldn’t be. A perfect hiding place is difficult to get to but not impossible; make your dog work for it, but they do still have to be able to get there. When done with food particularly, they have plenty of incentive to want to figure it out. Do it right, and it will keep both their mind and body active.
Work on Training
The saying that you can’t teach a new dog new tricks is a ridiculous one. All dogs are capable of learning, no matter where they fall on the age spectrum.
This is a great one for mental agility. If your dog already knows the basics of sit, stay, paw and roll over, then you can try teaching them to help with household chores. People have successfully trained dogs to unload the washer, retrieve the mail and all manner of household tasks. With plenty of rewards such as those found through clicker training, you could have a little helper by the time spring comes around.
If your dog can’t run around outside because of the weather, and because you lack space indoors, then look up. There are plenty of vertical exercises dogs can do, such as jumping, running up stairs and learning to balance on their hind legs.
If your dog is older, then make sure they have a soft surface to land on. Sit with them for around 15 minutes a day and draw their attention upwards, using toys or treats to keep their focus.