Yes, we said it, even Brevard County gets a little chilly this time of year. And humans aren’t the only ones who feel the effects and try to escape the Central Florida chill by staying indoors. Despite their permanent fur coats, our dogs can get cold too!
But though the outdoors are not as welcoming this time of year, your dog still needs to burn off steam. He needs to exercise just as much now as he does on those idyllic summer days, where the two of you can walk and play ball outside to your hearts’ content.
So dog parents, think outside the box this winter! Don’t leave your dog to laze around, promising that you’ll make it up to him when it warms up. Whether you’re just at home with your dog or have a dog-friendly workplace where some of these are feasible, here are some creative ways you can have fun with your dog inside when it’s too cold outside.
1. Indoor Agility
Give your dog a little obstacle course of sorts right in your house. You can do this by laying a broom horizontally, suspended between stacks of books, or footstools, or anything that will create this effect and keep it low to the ground. To get your dog to understand what you want him to do, first say, “Over,” and from a few paces back, run alongside your dog and make the jump. Praise him every time he does as he’s supposed to.
Work with your dog until he’s eager and motivated enough to run and jump ahead of you, and then eventually on his own. This is a great way to not only exercise your dog but to build the bond between the two of you.
2. Treat-Finding Missions
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Have your dog sit and stay in one place while you go hide treats somewhere in the house. Come back and give your dog a “fetch” or “seek” command. This is a wonderful way to exercise your dog’s sense of smell and give mental stimulation. Give him plenty of vocal praise too when he finds it, in addition to the reward of the treat.
Treat your pup to a spa day while he’s cooped up indoors! You acting as an amateur canine masseuse will comfort your pup and relieve tension in his body. Just use a flat palm to essentially pet your dog all over, applying a bit more pressure than usual.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language to make sure he’s enjoying it. This is also a great way to get to know your dog’s body better and to stay on top of any abnormalities that may develop, like bumps, swelling, or abnormal-feeling skin or hair. Also, pay attention to any painful areas your dog lets you know about. If he recoils or yelps when you touch a certain area, consider having your vet look into it more in-depth. Never push directly down on a bone, and be especially careful around the spine too.
4. Dog Puzzles
While you’re curled up by the fire doing a puzzle or playing a game, allow your dog to do the same!
These can be as simple as a feeder that has nooks and crannies that require your dog to use up a bit more of his time and energy than usual on getting to all his food. There are also plenty of more elaborate “dog puzzles” that sites like Chewy and Amazon sell, everything from the ones that conceal food in different compartments so your dog has to work for it, to plush toys that your dog pulls out of holes.
These are all great for your dog’s mind, as they present a new challenge and can sharpen his problem-solving skills. The ones that incorporate food can help slow down your dog’s eating and control his portions. There are also cameras made these days that allow you to keep an eye on your pup in real-time when you’re away from home, and even talk to and toss treats to him to maintain engagement with him when he’s cooped up inside.
5. Build a Tunnel
Cats are not the only ones who can get some use out of those soft crinkly tunnels. They’re a great way to change up your dog’s scenery when he’s stuck inside. Set them up in a spacious room, and use them also for agility work. Send your dog through, or have him follow alongside you as you walk outside it. Set up a trail of treats the first few goes if that’s what it takes to encourage your pup along. Start with a straight tunnel, then as your dog gets comfortable with it, shape it with different twists and turns.
6. Treat-Filled Toys
What greater motivator is there for most dogs than food? Give him a Kong ball, or a bone, stuffed with peanut butter or any other dog-friendly food item, and he’ll have all the motivation he needs to both stay active and focused on something for a period of time, and be mentally stimulated.
Toys that bobble and have a weighted bottom, and holes that treats or pieces of kibble pop out of when tilted just so, are great as well. And ever heard of BarkBox? It’s a box subscription that sends a box of toys and treats each month to your home. Over these next couple of colder months, this can be a great way to keep your dog engaged by introducing new toys and treats to him that will occupy him indoors.
7. Stay Active This Winter
Before we know it, pleasant temperatures will be back here on the Space Coast, but don’t let the time between now and then go wasted for you and your pup. Opportunities abound for enrichment and activity during these cooler months. Try out some of the suggestions above to keep your dog lean and mean, and his brain sharp this winter. Did you see our tips for how your dog can help you meet your fitness & healthy living goals?
Are you being a reverse snowbird and traveling away from Florida this season? Give yourself the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve hired the best dog sitters in the area. Our trustworthy staff can stop by to feed and clean up after your dog and make sure he’s getting enough activity in spite of the chilly weather. Give us a call today. Enjoy your winter, pet parents!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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