The calm after the holiday rush is finally starting, right along with the cold weather. This means more time will be spent indoors – for you and your dog. If you are lucky enough to have a calm, well-mannered dog, this could be a very relaxing time of year. However, if you find yourself stuck inside with a high-energy, jumping, nipping, playful canine, the stress is about to begin!
A decrease in exercise and less time spent outdoors can lead many dogs down a path of destruction – this could mean your furniture, favorite shoes, winter coat, or a whole host of other household items. You could also notice an increase in unwanted behaviors such as barking, digging, jumping, whining, and an unwillingness to follow commands.
Rest assured, there are ways to help your pup through this time of year, even if going for walks in cold weather is not your idea of a good time.
Here are some ideas to keep your dog active inside, and out of trouble:
- Increase Training Sessions – Even if your dog already knows basic commands, holding two or three 10 minute training sessions with him every day will keep his mind sharp and active, and will help to tire him out mentally. Teach a new trick such as Shake, Roll Over, Speak, or Play Dead, or brush up on commands like Leave-It or Stay that he hasn't had to do in awhile. This way, he will learn to focus on you and come spring, you'll have a very well trained dog to take on outdoor adventures.
- Play Games – One of the best games to play with a dog who knows the command “Stay” is Hide-And-Go-Treat. Have your dog Stay while you hide a treat somewhere in the house (do so in the same room so he can watch the first few times). Release your dog and let him tire himself out sniffing, running, and seeking out the precious treat. Challenge him even more by hiding it under a towel or behind a slightly closed door.
- Enroll in a Training Class, or Take Private Lessons – Certified Dog Trainers can help you stop unwanted behaviors if you feel that your dog's behavior is reaching the point of being intolerable, or if you want to ensure that his behavior does not reach that point! Winter is the perfect time to start since this is the time of year that many problems show themselves, and it gives you a few months before the warm weather hits to get your dog back to where you want him to be. You could also consider an agility or therapy dog class, if these activities are ones you feel your dog would enjoy.
- Purchase an Interactive Toy – There are a lot of toys out there to help keep your dog occupied. Check out the brand “Busy Buddy” for quality interactive toys. They can be found online, or at most major pet stores. Just remember to supervise your dog the first few times they play with their new toy before leaving him home alone with it.
- Have Doggy Play Dates – Call up your friends who have friendly dogs and invite them over to play in a fenced in yard! Make sure to supervise the dogs – especially the ones who haven't met each other – and make sure that all dogs are up to date on their vaccinations.
- Check Out the Local Dog Park – Been putting off taking your pup to the dog park because you are unsure how he will react? Now is the best time due to a decreased number of dogs that will be there. Generally, this time of year is when the “regulars” go, which is great because they are usually hoping for new dogs to come play! (As a “regular” at a dog park, I can attest that this is true.) Generally, dogs who frequent the dog park are very dog-friendly and do quite well at letting new dogs into the group. On the other hand, maybe you and your dog will be the only ones there – let the game of Fetch begin!
The most important thing to remember this winter, while living indoors with your dog, is to be creative! Turn basic obedience commands into games, spend a bit of time outside when the temperatures are bearable, and look for ways to engage your dog in daily activities.
If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.