Winter is coming. And, sometimes, winter is hard. When winter rolls around, our dogs might spend less time outside because we spend less time outside. As a result, they might get less exercise, stimulation, and fun -- especially when the ground is snowy or icy. Here are a few activities that you can do with your dog in the winter:
Embrace The Cold
Even in the winter, your dogs need walks. In areas where a lot of salt/sand has been put down, consider using dog boots. Another item to consider for winter walks with your dogs is a doggie coat or jacket -- especially if your dog is a lean or small breed, as they typically don't have enough fat to be out in the cold for very long.
Finally, if you've never thrown snow at a dog, give it a try! You can make and toss snowballs at them or out into the yard. Finally, if you have big drifts of powdery snow, you can gently kick or throw the fluffy stuff directly into their faces. My dogs love it, and yours may too.
Puzzles! Lots of Puzzles!
For dogs, games and puzzle toys can also keep the chill of winter away. Depending on your dog's intelligence (and your tolerance for noise), you may find that only a few of the puzzle toys work for your dog. Not every dog is going to be "into" every puzzle toy that you bring. Also, a hungry dog will be more likely to play your games, and even play them with kibble instead of treats.
Ball and Wobble Treat Dispensers (Easy)
The easiest treat dispensers out there are ball and wobblers. These toys can be quite noisy and will move across the floor as your dog plays. The KONG brand wobbler will dispense treats whenever your dog knocks it over. When I was caring for a dog undergoing treatment, this wobbler stimulated him without getting his heart rate up. There are ball dispensers that will roll and dispense as well.
Traditional Puzzle Toys (Hard)
As your dog gets bored with the wobble and ball, you may need to move up to more challenging puzzle toys, with bigger rewards as well. Your dog won't work hard for kibble, but he'll definitely work hard for dried beef. There are puzzle toys that require pawing, lifting, and sliding different pieces to get the treats.
Hide & Seek
Hide and seek is a great way to pass the time. To play, get your dogs excited for a stuffed toy. Then, shut your dogs out of the room. Put the toy around a corner, on some furniture, or even partially hide it under blankets or other materials. When you're done hiding it, excitedly tell them, "Find it! Find it!" If they need help, you can stand near or point to the toy.
The What The Fluff challenge could also be a great way to play with your dog, and it could lead to a regular game of hide and seek: person edition. To play, hold a sheet or blanket, get your dog's attention, then throw it up in the air in front of you and hide behind a corner. Some of the videotaped reactions out there are just precious!
Finally, you can do the things you would normally do with your dog outside. A good game of fetch inside the house is never a bad idea. Instead of throwing it far, you can throw it up or downstairs, bounce it off a wall, or try rolling it between their legs.
Diet and Grooming
Of course, with winter comes other challenges as well. As it grows cold, long-haired and small dogs need more frequent brushing, baths, or visits to the groomer. Salt, slush, and mud can all destroy a dog's coat if not handled promptly.
You may also want to a winter diet, especially if you notice them gaining weight. Just because people work every spring for that beach body doesn't mean your dog should have to!
With these activities in your toolbelt, we hope that you and your dog can have a safe, happy, and healthy winter this year. Enjoy!