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Winter woes - or Keeping your dog from going crazy when it's too cold to go outside

Posted by karen on December 14, 2013 at 5:45 PM

It's winter in the west and already bitterly cold.  Only early December and the crew is already unhappy about venturing outdoors for more than a quite pee. Thankfully I have small dogs and we can get in a fair amount of exercise in a small space, and I have a training building they can run around in to burn off some energy if we need to.  But what do you do if  you don't have space, or have a big dog? Or one that needs more than just some tug play to keep him happy? The following suggestions are not only good for driving away the winter boredom, they are good for dogs that are "busy bodies" and find undesirable ways to keep themselves occupied if you are not getting in 4 long walks a day!

  1. Interactive toys - There are many different interactive toys out there.  Many need to be used under supervision - especially ones that are wooden, have small pieces or can be crushed, broken etc by a vigourous chewer, so this is not something to turn your dog loose on when you leave for work in the morning. They are however valuable tools to keep your dog from being bored.  Feeding all your dogs meals in an interactive toy is a great way to help him eat more slowly, make him use his brain and body to get the food and keep boredom at bay.
  2. Train, train, train - Training is a great way to exercise your dog's mind - you may have already observed your dog coming home from a class and crashing for a few hours. Mental exercise is as valuable as physical exercise in tiring a dog - and for highly energetic dogs can be even more effective than a long session of physical activity.  Training that actively engages your dogs brain - especially training that involves use of 'shaping' to get behaviour is a powerful way to give your dog a workout. 
  3. Give your dog a job - Teach your dog how to do things around the house. Once he has learned simple tasks, you can put him to work through the day as you go about daily activities. Simple service dog behaviours like closing doors, bringing you objects, opening cupboards etc are great examples of things you can teach. Check out Jesse's repertoire of tricks for ideas you might want (or not!) to teach your dog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Fyey4D5hg
  4. Indoor exercise routines - If it is just too cold for outdoor exercise, do some indoor physical activities - tugging games, puppy push-ups (rapid sequence sits and downs +/- stands), walking on a treadmill or working on a balance ball are all indoor physical activities that don't require a lot of space. Rally obedience exercises are also doable in a small space and are a gentle physical workout for your dog.
  5. Games - Games that engage your dog's attention will help wear off some of that energy that can so easily get diverted into destructive behaviour.  a) Find the treats - take a handful of kibble or other dog treats and hide them all around a room.  Start with easy "hides" and even hiding treats in plain sight until your dog becomes proficient and understands that his job is to search out all the treats in the room. Gradually make the game more challenging.  b) Nose work or secnt work games engage your dog's natural scenting ability and are fun for most dogs. c) Free shaping games using any novel object are also great exercises for many reasons.  First, they provide a great mental workout, secondly, they help your dog become a more proficient shaper - and you too. In free shaping you present an object to your dog and click - reinforce any behaviour he offers related to the object. The idea is not to achieve any specific interaction with the object, but to see how many different behaviours your dog can offer with relation to the object. The beauty of this exercise is that the pressure is off - the dog is never wrong - and you don't have to get any specific behaviour out of the game to be successful.

For more about shaping - go to

For ideas about nose work games - go to:

Turn those long winter days into FUN, FUN, FUN for your dog!

Karen

Categories: Survival skills - dealing with canine behaviour

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