By Leatrice Miller-Natola, Certified Pet Dog Trainer
Ok….so you live in Upstate New York or some other area that gets ridiculous amounts of snow every single winter and temperatures that make you feel like you live in northern Alaska! You have one or more dogs. The snow is so high Fido and Fifi can barely move through the snow. You shovel a place for them, only that area is small and gets ugly pretty quickly.
They spend only a minute or two outside and then are back inside because it’s so cold out they simply can’t tolerate it even though they are wearing a sweater with a coat over it. After a few moments back in the house, you sit down to relax, and then the Winter Crazies begin. They are staring at you. Whining. Pacing. Barking. Chewing on everything in sight. Tormenting the cat.
You have already taken them for their walk. You have even given them their toys to play with, but instead, they just stare at you or do all sorts of other things you don’t want them doing. Your dogs have been to training and might need more training, but in the meantime, you want to be able to live with them. Peacefully. Happily. Now what?
Instead of being driven out of your mind with the doggie winter crazies, try one or more of our crazy calming suggestions and let us know which ones worked for you. Pictures of your success would be wonderful!
Fun Indoor Activities
Indoor activities are always good for burning off energy whether it is too cold, too snowy, or conversely, too hot, or raining. Be mindful that any activity involving food should be done with just one dog at a time or at least in separate areas. Use a portion of their daily kibble so we don’t end up gaining extra weight we don’t need!
Get a cardboard box. Make sure there aren’t any staples or anything like that in it.
The box should be a suitable size for your dog’s size.
Put random items in the box: a few toys, empty water bottle or two, something that makes noise (I use a Christmas decoration of bells), or a Babble Ball by Pet Qwerks Toys, or some other thing that makes noise when your dog interacts with the box.
Next, add food. A quality kibble is fine.
Get your dog excited to see what is in the box.
Set the box on the floor and tell your dog to “Find It!”.
The goal is to have your dog put their head inside the box to find the food.
Some dogs may try to destroy the box and eat it. Simply remove the box.
Accommodations: If your dog will not put their head in the box, try putting the box on its side. Put the items in the lid of a paper box which makes all the items much more accessible and work your way up to a box.
BLANKET HIDE ’N SEEK
Get a blanket large enough to cover your dog when he is standing up.
Lay the blanket on the floor.
Get some treats/kibble or a toy your dog loves.
Hold the blanket up and put the treats/toy under the blanket where the dog can see it.
Tell him, “Find It” or “Get It” and hold the blanket up while he retrieves the item.
Repeat a few times.
As your dog gets better at this game, let the blanket drop so he feels the blanket on his body and encourage him to push forward and come out in a spot different from where he went into the blanket.
This game can get very entertaining for both you and your dog!
Accommodations: If your dog gets nervous when he feels that blanket, simply slow down, and let him only feel a small portion of the blanket at first until he is feeling comfortable moving through the blanket. Remember, at first he may not realize he can get out or how to get out.
Blanket secured to the seats of a couple of chairs so the dog can fit under it.
Two people at either end.
The person at the opposite calls the dog to encourage them to go through the little tunnel.
If using a toy, shake it to help them move forward.
Fun Outdoor Activities
FUN OUTDOOR SNOW MAZE
You will need a snowblower or some energetic folks with snow shovels.
Create a simple maze in your doggie yard! Make sure it is rather easy for them to find their way out and back to the house.
Once the maze is complete, you can use it in various ways to entertain and occupy your dogs, provided it isn’t to terribly cold outside. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Hide food treats along the walls of the maze for your dog to “find”.
Have someone hide somewhere in the maze and then call your dog. Tell him to “Find ______”. They LOVE this game!
Hide toys in the maze for your dog to discover and enjoy.
TREASURE HUNT FIND IT!
Simply toss some kibble in the snow near the dog (at first) and call out, “Find It!”
Your dog will search out the food and have a grand time doing it.
As your dog gets better at searching out the food, you can toss it further away.
If there are multiple dogs in the house, make sure all the kibble is consumed before sending the dogs outside together.
If the weather is just too terrible to be outside, “Find It” is also a great indoor game.