How to keep your dog entertained indoors over winter
It’s that time of year again where the cold creeps in and the daylight hours dwindle. Coaxing your dog out into the cold can prove a challenge – and walking in dark, wintry conditions might not appeal to you either, especially when you need to slot it in around work.
Dogs big and small still need their daily exercise, whatever the weather – it’s vital to boost their physical and mental health, just like us. So why not create an indoor environment for them to burn some energy? Don’t worry – this little lifestyle change needn’t cause a mess or be a total substitute for the outdoors. It’s just a good way for your furry friend to receive additional exercise without shivering in the winter chill for too long. You can always wait for sunnier weekends to enjoy fresh air!
If you’re looking for innovative ways to keep your dog entertained and stimulated indoors, Canagan the grain-free pet food experts reveal the best ways you can ensure your dog is having just as much fun indoors as they would out on their favourite walk:
Tricks and indoor games
A productive way to entertain your dog is to teach them new tricks. Train them to bark on command, shake hands, play fetch or roll over – the list is endless! If you have days off over the Christmas season, there’s no better time to test their intelligence with a few new skills.
Introduce a new toy
Speaking of Christmas, why not treat your pup to a brand-new toy? There are plenty of indoor activities for dogs which involve toys to keep them entertained for hours. Dog puzzles will allow your dog to figure out where a tasty treat is hidden by maneuvering different levers which will reveal the delicacy. This game teaches your dog resilience and patience. Use it as a form of ‘positive reinforcement’ to teach them that good behaviour is rewarded.
A good old-fashioned game of fetch with a soft ball or toy is a great way to entertain a dog with boundless energy. If you’re lucky enough to have a long corridor or a spacious living room, and valuables are safely stowed away, indoor fetch can make for a fun, energetic evening. Otherwise, wait for a brighter weekend.
It’s popular among children, but hide-and-seek can be enjoyed by the whole family – including your dog! If your pet is trained to ‘stay’ and ‘come’ when you call them, it’s a great game to keep them entertained.
Tell your dog to ‘stay’ so they don’t follow you to your hiding place. If this command is a work in progress, wait until they’re distracted then have your family members hide around the house. Choose somewhere that is not out of sight initially, so they can easily find you, then choose harder spots. This will boost their confidence and stretch their instincts with each ‘round’. Take it in turns to call them. Each family member, when found, must congratulate your furry friend and show them lots of love. Dogs experience the same thrills as children, so love being surprised and receiving attention.
Hide-and-seek works because dogs have a ‘pack’ mentality, so will seek out their human leader. Your pet will rely on visual and voice cues initially. The game stimulates the brain, as it encourages them to remember their name, while strengthening recall behaviour. They’ll soon reverse their strategy and go back to their primal instinct – scent. Not to mention the physical benefits – the search will give your pup a great workout physically. It’s also a wonderful way to strengthen your bond.
Bubbles are a fun, inexpensive way to entertain your pup – and children too! Always check the label before you buy bubbles to ensure they’re safe for dogs. Did you know you can even buy ‘dog bubbles’ in different flavours? There are even dog-friendly bubble machines for when you want to leave them to it.
Make changes to your home
Ensuring your home is dog-friendly is important when creating an environment for play and exercise with minimal chance of harm or breakages. From here, you can introduce a couple of new sights and experiences to combat boredom, like the following:
- Give them a view
Dogs have impeccable senses and love exploring the outside world with its diverse sights and smells. If the wintry weather isn’t optimum for a walk, create a snuggly space by the window so your pup can watch the world go by. Whether it’s birds flying by, cars passing or people (maybe even with other dogs), they can keep entertained with activity outside.
- Build a doggy den
Dogs love to snuggle down in a cosy space. Whether it’s blankets piled with their favourite toys or renovating your spare bedroom into their very own pet pad, your dog will be very grateful of their own little sanctuary to retreat to.
- Get out and about
Just because the weather’s seen better days, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in the house 24/7. There are plenty of indoor spaces with activities for dogs so you can both enjoy a change of scenery and interact with others.
- Dog friendly cafes and pubs
Try to arrange a coffee morning in a dog-friendly café or take them down to the pub for a Sunday roast. Plenty of venues welcome dogs, but it’s always worth checking on the website first. They tend to offer a water bowl and, if you’re pup is lucky, treats!
- Go to an indoor agility club
Indoor agility is a great form of physical exercise and offers quality bonding time for you and your pup. You’ll notice how their responsiveness improves, especially if you feel a little extra training is needed. Dogs are intelligent creatures, so will thrive when their brains are given a workout too. It’s a win, win.
It’s always important to look on the positive side, whatever the weather or situation. The truth is, dogs love the outdoors, so here are solutions to darker, colder days:
Staying snug in the snow
Snow can be a real novelty to our pets. They’ll either be inclined to frolic through it or prefer to stay out of the chill. If you’re venturing out, ensure they’re wrapped up warm. If you have a white dog, you may want to attach a bell to their collar in case you lose them in the snow. Keep away from stretches of frozen water or rivers and be sure to check for snow, grit and salt between their paws afterwards to avoid any discomfort. This time of year also sees conkers blanket the ground; remember these are toxic to dogs, so be mindful of where they’re snuffling.
Enjoy a holiday
Wintry weather can be relentless, so why not treat yourself and your pup to a break away? Certain areas of the UK tend to be brighter and warmer, with rolling countryside and scenic coastlines for your pet to enjoy running along. Otherwise, head for sunnier climes – just ensure you’ve allowed enough time to arrange a pet passport.
Find a trusted dog walker
If you’re nervous to walk your dog in the dark in the early morning or after work, enlisting a dog walker will alleviate this pressure and ensure your pup is sufficiently exercised. A sprint across the fields or around a local park while you’re out will mean they burn energy so you can relax together at the end of the day. DogBuddy is a helpful website that matches you with reliable, approved dog walkers in your local area.
Ensuring your dog is comfortable, entertained and of course safe over the winter months may feel like a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity – to bond, meet new dogs and explore new places. You never know, you might find new hobbies to try in summer too!