The winter months can be tough on the family dog. Just like us, pets can suffer from the cabin fever.
Of course, the best thing for us and our best friends is to bundle up and go for a walk or a romp in the park. But, with short days and cold nights, many of us don’t want to spend time outdoors. So, The Dog Dish asked some of our Best Friends Pet Care professional trainers for suggestions on how to help the family pet beat the winter time blues.
Here are their suggestions:
North Plainfield NJ trainer Kimberly Mandel says it’s important to get your dog out of the house to activities and events where he can engage with other dogs. Doggy daycamp, for example, is a great alternative to long lonely days at home. Even a couple of days per week, says Mandel, can help keep a dog stimulated.
Best Friends also offers meet-ups for dog-friendly pets, which is “a great way to let off steam,” she says.
Mandel also likes combining food with mental stimulation. “I advise owners to get rid of the dog’s food bowl and serve up all meals and treats in food-dispensing toys, she says. “They should be introduced gradually until the dog begins to get the hang of it.”
Deb Monroe, Best Friends trainer in Clinton Township MI, recommends getting your dog a few toys that are specifically designed for indoor play. “One of my favorites and a great toy for indoor play when you can't get your dog exercise on cold, icy days is Chase It” – a bungee squirrel with squeakers inside, that dangles from the end of a flexible rod so owners can make the squirrel move with the flick of a wrist.
“My other favorite toy for safe indoor play is a variation on the Chuck-It Ball launcher --the Indoor Fetch version features a soft donut shaped toy to launch instead of the traditional tennis ball.”
Monroe also likes the Nina Ottoson puzzles that dispense food and treats. “They range in level of difficulty and your dog gets great mental stimulation and rewards.
Best Friends Wakefield MA trainer Lauren Shelly-Cannon likes “make your own” food-dispensing toys.
One of her favorites is the Tasty Treat Tube. “Start with an empty paper towel or toilet paper roll. Add a few treats, and then stuff the ends with some paper so the treats won’t fall out. Encourage your dog to touch, pick up, and smell the roll,” she says. “Then, have your dog sit and you open the tube and give him the treats.”
Once your dog understands the concept, let him loose with his new toy. “If the dog destroys the tube, you know he is having a blast trying to figure out the easiest way to get the treats out of the tube,” she says.
All three trainers recommend spending a little extra time on training activities during the winter month, which Mandel calls “the ultimate mental outlet that is the best cabin fever stress reliever.” If you’ve never taken a training class with your dog, or want to learn some new skills, check out the classes at your local Best Friends, which offers a variety of classes from beginner to competitive levels.