As the weather turns cold and the snow falls it becomes more difficult for dogs and their owners to get the right amount of exercise. This can lead to undesirable behaviors such as loss of house training, property destruction, or nuisance barking. Owners must provide an enriched indoor environment to help alleviate boredom and prevent these unwanted behaviors.
A variety of activities can be mentally stimulating to your dog. It will be obvious which types of games your dog enjoys and which ones do not suit his or her personality. Each breed has different instincts that will lead them to excel at a particular game.
One activity that can be accomplished in a limited space is the “Hide the Treat” game. Simply use three types of containers (clear plastic, cardboard, and cloth) to hide a high value treat and let your dog investigate to find the reward. As the dog becomes proficient at locating the treat you can try adding a verbal command to “Find it” or “Seek”. Another possibility is add in a verbal clue for the different type of material where the treat is hidden.
Puzzles or toys with food rewards inside are a great way to occupy a dog’s mind in a confined space. These items can be found in your local pet store or online and range from simple to very difficult with multiple “moves” needed to release the treat.
Teaching your dog a trick can also be fun if you turn it into a game for the dog. Building on some basic commands that your dog may already have mastered such as “sit” and “down” you can teach your dog to “play dead”, “take a bow”, or even “be ashamed”.
A brisk game of tug is good exercise for you and your dog. Many different types of tug toys are available. Your dog may prefer rope to plastic so try a few different materials. You can practice basic commands with this game as well. Incorporate “drop it” into the game and trade the dog the tug toy for a treat. This will come in handy later when your dog picks up something you do not want them to have.
Remember to make actual training sessions short to avoid “burning out” your dog. Don’t forget that your dog’s favorite game is anything that involves interacting with members of the family in a positive way!