So. It begins. The dreaded…winter. We’ve finally seen the cold snap and the dusting of that wrenched white fluff. On the bright side we’ve had quite the delay in cold temperatures, on the downside my body hasn’t had the gentle down cline into colder temps it’s used to. What this amounts to is my butt not wanting to stand outside in the frigid wasteland while my dogs have a merry time.
This is all fine and dandy for me. I pay the bills so I can have wonderful wonderful heat and live the life of a crazy dog hermit so I never drive in this nonsense. It is however not going over as well for the dogs. They are not so subtly reminding me they have needs and as I am their human I mustn’t neglect to meet them.
So I type this as an outreach to all who are, like me (let me be the first to admit it) pansies when it comes to the cold. Here are some fun easy ways to keep your dog’s mind busy in the comfort of your warm home.
Number 1: Kongs.
Kongs, man. They are the pet god’s gift to us poorly owners. Learn their color system. Red is for your average chewer. Black for your tough guys and gals. And more of the rainbow for puppy’s, seniors and which ones float, there’s even one that shows up on xrays. (Kong knows dogs)
I always go a size bigger than I think I need just to be safe. Extra large is the majority in this household. Then I begin the preparation process. Respect the Kong and the hour of quiet peace it can bring to your life. (Guys these things are dishwasher safe. What isn’t there to love?) I fill half the kong with my dog’s kibble, then the other half with something freezable. Popular choices, yogurt, wet dog food, vegetable/liver puree, coconut oil, mashed bananas and apple chunks. (NO PEANUT BUTTER. The stuffs a big mouthful of sugar we’re trying to calm our dogs not give them a rush) Then wallah, freeze it. Your dog gets breakfast and you get a break from his crazy butt.
Some dogs need an adjustment period. The first few times you give them the Kong don’t freeze it, until they are really into getting everything out. It can be a touch messy depending upon what you put inside. so I reccomend offering this in the crate or on a place cot that’s easily wiped clean.
Number 2: Forage for their Food
Toss their breakfast/dinner in the yard. Let them forage for it. If it’s to cold/rainy/gross for that you can toss it on carpet but it loses some of it’s effect. Another great invention is the kiddie pool. Invest in one. Love it. Treat it right. Fill it with empty water bottles/crunched up newspaper/cardboard boxes/you name it. Then toss your dogs hard earned meal right into the mess. They’ll have a blast searching around for all that kibble around all the objects. (Note: Use common sense on what you fill the pool with and supervise)
If you want to make it easier on yourself there’s also some good foraging puzzles for dogs. We like the kyjen puzzle feeder.
Number 3: Scent Games
Find it. It’s a phrase cherished by one large goldendoodle in occupancy of my home. Find it might be his favorite game, after wake up mom an hour before her alarm goes off just to say hello.
It’s a really watered down version of scent work but still a ton of fun for both dog and human. The premise of the game is simple.
1: Put your dog into a sit/stay, place, down/stay you name it
2: Toss food onto the ground away from you and say Find It.
3: Repeat continuing to toss the food farther and farther away.
4: Hide food in plain sight and say Find It
5: Hide food while your dog is watching but stop and “fake” hide it in a few places. Leave the food in one of those places and return to him. Say Find It.
6: Put dog out of room and hide food. Lead dog to room and say Find It.
(You may notice at this point your dog gives up quickly and looks at you for direction. Do not assist him. He’s totally playing you. Repeat Find It and ignore him. He’ll get back to work. If he’s really struggling go back a few steps and repeat.)
I like to use something more than kibble for this game. We typically hide liver treats/freeze dried lamb lung/pieces of chicken when we play.
Number 4: Puzzle Games, Treat Balls
There’s a ton of toys out there now made for this very thing to stump your dog and get their brain working. I like the omega tricky treat ball and the starmark bob a lot.
Your dog might take a bit of time to get the concept but once they do they have a blast. A particular goldendoodle has learned to simply drop his treat ball down the stairs and happily pick up his hard won earnings. Which really allots to him spending more time on a stairmaster than me.
Number 5: Obedience and Tricks
Practice your dog obedience! It’s mentally challenging, builds relationship and is good for you both. And if you’re tired of doing the same old thing? Pick up a tricks book and have some fun. We recommend The Best Dog Tricks on the Planet.
And as always if you need help with your dog’s obedience or are struggling with his behavior give us a buzz at www.VictoryTails.com.
VICTORY TAILS HEAD TRAINER/OWNER