Poor Fido. It’s freezing outside. This time of year it seems like the entire nation is under Jack Frost’s finger. The bitter wind. The dropping temperatures. The snow and ice. During the entire month of January, I prefer to sit at home, cuddled under a blanket drinking tea and reading a book. I don’t go outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately for the active dogs in our families, the sedentary nature of winter doesn’t comply with most dogs’ must-be-outside-and-run desires. Depending on the breed and the age, they need to burn off energy every day. Canine experts agree that pent-up energy can lead to destructive or nervous behaviors from our pets. Ideally we would take our dogs out for a walk for at least 20 minutes every day, even during the winter months. But with below freezing temperatures, you need to consider your pet’s safety and may need to reduce their outside time this month. Here are 7 ideas to keep your dog active inside when it’s too cold to play outside.
7 Indoor Activities to Wear Out Your Active Dog This Winter
- Build an Inside Obstacle Course. Dogs need to run or at least move quickly for a few minutes every day. Without buying special equipment, you can use household items to challenge your dog’s agility. Have your dog jump over a broom stick and run up and down the stairs. Drape a blanket over a set of chairs to make a “tunnel” for your dog to crawl through. Feel free to test out different challenges. Don’t make the obstacle course impossible for your dog, but you also don’t want it to be too easy. The key is for them to release energy and have fun. Always end the obstacle course on a positive note.
- Play Tug-O-War. For the well trained dog, good old fashioned tug-o-war can be a simple way to play together in the living room. I know my brother-in-law does this nightly with his Boxer while watching television.
- Schedule Puppy Play Dates. Saturday snowstorm? Invite a neighbor to come over with her dog. The stimulus of another dog (as long as you know that they will play well together) can be another way to release energy without a lot of physical activity. As an added bonus, you get to catch up on the neighborhood gossip over a mug of hot chocolate.
- Challenge Them with Puzzle Feeders. The Dane Dame has a wonderful post on ideas for inexpensive DIY puzzle feeders. This moderate level puzzle feeder uses tennis balls, a muffin tin and dog treats.
- Invite Children into Your Home. You know your dog best. If you don’t have children, but your dog is well behaved around little ones and enjoys their constant squeals, invite a neighbor and her 4-year-old over to play. After this play date, I guarantee your dog and her preschooler will both need a long winter’s nap. It’s also a good opportunity to teach children how to behave around other people’s pets.
- Play Sniff and Find. This exercise is more mental than physical, but still your dog and her nose will love it. Instead of simply giving your dog a treat, hide their favorite treat under 1 of 3 containers. Don’t let your dog see you do this. Shuffle the containers around and then call your dog. Encourage your puppy to find it. Once they find it, they get to eat their prize– the treat! Once your dog gets the hang of this game, you can play the hide and seek game anywhere in the house. (Again, the stairs are your friend this January. Hide the treat upstairs while your dog is downstairs.) Just give the command “find it” to let your dog know when they can begin their search.
- Try Indoor Fetch. Intense indoor fetch with a tennis ball is the easiest way to burn off some energy with your dog. Try different types of balls to keep this activity interesting for your dog.