Brr!! It’s getting too cold outside to take your dog for long walks. While some breeds adore the snow, many dogs would rather go for quick potty breaks, then come back inside.
When you can’t spend as much time outdoors with your dog, they can start to gain weight. In the winter, their metabolism slows down, and with less activity, they’re burning fewer calories.
No matter how cold it is outside, dogs need consistent physical exercise and mental stimulation year-round. With fun indoor games, you can keep your dog’s mind and body active through the winter.
Hide And Seek
Playing hide and seek is a great way to reinforce recall.
Have your dog sit and stay – even better if you can use their crate as their waiting area so their crate is always a fun place to be. To start, you may want to hide behind a piece of furniture across the room – somewhere they can easily watch you hide and quickly find you. Then, call your dog using your recall word of choice. “Puppy, come!” works well. You can also use hide-and-seek to train different recall cues. Try teaching your dog to recall with a whistle, too.
Once your dog gets the idea, try hiding in more difficult spots. You may want to drape a blanket over their crate so they can’t see you hide. If you’re just starting to teach recall for the first time, you may need a family member to make sure your dog doesn’t peek.
Every time your dog finds you, give them lots of praise and a yummy reward. When the snow melts, you can try playing hide-and-seek outdoors to help teach a solid recall in open spaces.
Signing up for nosework classes is a great way to keep your dog’s mind sharp, but it might not be practical for you. You can also practice easy nosework at home.
The most simple way is to hide a piece of smelly food (like a liver treat or a piece of cheese), encourage your dog to “stay” and then “find it!”
If you’d like to up the ante, teach your dog to detect non-edible scents. Essential oils like clove or eucalyptus are commonly used in nosework classes. You can use three identical containers and put the scent in just one of them, that way your dog will learn to use their nose, not their eyes, to find the target.
Encourage your dog to sniff each box, then give them lots of praise and a yummy reward immediately after they find the target scent. As your dog develops a positive association with the scent, you can start to have them sit or speak when they find the scent, or even just make eye contact.
Monkey In The Middle
This is a great way to get your dog excited about toys if they normally ignore them. Simply toss a toy back and forth between you and at least one family member. Between throws, squeak the toy and shake it close to the ground near your dog, then toss it.
To avoid frustration and to keep the game fun, let your dog get the toy once in a while. During this game, you can also start to teach drop it or give cues to get the toy back so you can play again.
Family Name Game
You can teach your dog to identify family members by name – and even use this trick to eventually have them act as a courier, passing notes between family members throughout your home.
Start by forming a circle with your family members, and make sure everyone has a few treats. Tell your dog to “go to Emily,” while Emily encourages the dog to go to her. At first, your dog will need a lot of guidance, but if you play this game often, they’ll pick up on it. Soon, they’ll be able to go “find” your family members by going from room to room.
Some portable agility equipment is compact enough to set up in your living room. You can also get creative with foldable tunnels, books, boxes, hula hoops and other household items to create your own mini agility course. Most agility equipment is bright blue or yellow because these colors are easiest for dogs to see, so you’ll want to use those colors when creating highly visible targets and checkpoints.
Challenge Your Dog This Winter!
Need more ways to keep your dog on the move this winter? There is so much to learn with Healthy Houndz – dog training in Toronto and North York. We only use positive reinforcement methods, and we show you how to communicate better with your dog to help them reach their greatest potential – or just learn to stop counter surfing! Call us today for your free consultation.