It looks like fall has finally made its appearance here in the great Pacific Northwest, so today I thought I'd share 13 great ways to keep your fur-kids occupied during the wet weather and a few safety tips if you have to head out into the muckiness of it all with your fur-kids too!
1. Play a game with them indoors. Some favorites include playing fetch, hide and seek, or even tug-of-war. They say that playing hide-and-seek with your dog and their favorite toys can get them moving and mentally engaged and can also help reinforce their come command.
2. Step it up! If you live in a multi-level home or apartment building, take advantage of the free workout equipment that’s at your disposal – the stairs. Keep in mind only do this if your fur-kids knees are healthy, walking or running up and downstairs will provide a great workout for both you and your dog. If you don't have stairs, you can also try using a dog or human treadmills to exercise your dog. Just make sure you take the right precautions and spend time familiarizing your dog with how treadmills work.
3. Create an indoor agility course using household objects like chairs, blankets, brooms, and buckets, you can create an agility course in which your dog will enjoy navigating and weaving. Take short breaks between obstacles for obedience training and small workouts.
4. Exercise their mind. While physical exercise is important, so, too, is a mental exercise. We never really think of it, but often our fur-kids' minds get simply bored! If you’re stuck inside, teach her new tricks or give her a puzzle toy that is fun and interactive and works on their cognitive abilities. Or teach them a new trick - like "spin" or "back up" will really get their minds and body moving. Remember to be patient when teaching new tricks!
5. Challenge your dog’s nose. Dogs have incredibly powerful scenting abilities, so exercises that require your pal to use their noses are especially stimulating. Things like Kongs or Buster Balls or even a fun obstacle course with a great treat at the end are all fun ways to engage their noses at home.
6. Practice targeting. Being indoors gives you a great opportunity to practice targeting with your dog. This is having them touch their nose to the back of your hand on command; this will make them focus on a target. It’s a great exercise because it gives you an activity you can do together. And once your pup has learned how to do this, you can use it whenever you want her to stop what she’s doing and focus. For example, if you’re out walking and she becomes excited when she sees another dog, you can use targeting to redirect her attention. Plus, your dog can’t bark when she’s touching her nose to your hand!
7. Create a fun cavenger Hunt for your dog! If your dog’s natural instinct is to hunt, that drive can be put to use with this game. Make them hunt for his treats or their favorite toy in the house. You can also start by placing food in places where he will easily find it and as he gets better, you can increase the difficulty by hiding it in more difficult places to make it more challenging for him.
8. Do Puppy Push-Ups. Get your dog's blood pumping with the doggy version of push-ups. Have your dog sit, do a down position, and then sit back up. Once your dog is anticipating the behavior add "stand" in between. Start by offering treats after each command. Then, challenge your dog by giving him treats only after sequences. Continue to vary the sequence and add reps between treats.
9. Go on Indoor Outings. Take your dog for some schmoozing at some of your favorite indoor pet-friendly shops. New sights, smells, and surroundings provide loads of stimulation for your dog. He'll likely doze off soon after returning home. Also, try doggie-daycare; it's a great place for your dog to socialize and burn off some energy with friends.
10. Attend an Obedience Class - be it in person or online due to covid, it's a great time to brush up on a learned behavior in a new environment, learn some new tricks, and socialize your dog all in one go. Obedience training will wear your dog out quickly and give you both lots more to work on at home.
11. If you've run out of fun tricks because your furkid knows them all, consider trying putting those skills to music with Canine Freestyle Dancing!
12. The Muffin Tin Game - For this fun activity, you’ll need a few items, namely a muffin tin that has six or 12 compartments, enough tennis balls to fill the compartments, and enough treats to put a small piece in each compartment. Hide the balls or treats into compartments and leave some empty too - let them find where their favorite toy or treat is hiding!
13. Freeze Dog Toys with Treats Inside. When you can combine your dog’s favorite toys with his/her favorite treats, you’ll have a winning proposition. For this fun indoor winter activity, you’ll take a toy, put some tasty treats inside, freeze the toy-treats combo, and then give it to your dog so that they can seek to extract the treats.
Walking in the fall mucky weather can be tricky so don't forget these tips if you do have to go outside in the mucky weather!
1. Protect Your Dog’s Paws! You can’t blame your dog for not liking to walk around outside when the cold ground, snow, ice, salt, and chemical de-icers burn, sting, dry and crack her paws. If your pup will tolerate them, dog booties with secure traction and Velcro straps to protect your pup’s paws and keep them warm is a win! You can get them accustomed to them at home first, offering treats and praise as positive reinforcement. If your dog simply won’t wear booties, try a commercial protective gel for canine paw pads, and don't forget once you get home to wipe off your dog’s paws immediately after returning home so she doesn’t ingest gel, rock salt, or other de-icers while licking.
2. Keep Your Dog’s Body Warm! Lots of dogs have built-in coats that can handle cold weather, but many benefit from the additional warmth provided by a doggy jacket, sweaters or vest, especially in really low temperatures or for extended excursions. Puppies, elderly dogs, and smaller breed dogs, in particular, need the bundling. Our pup Ozzy loves her "clothes collection" and they help keep her tiny body warm when it's extra cool or wet outside! While she was initially not enamored of her raincoat, and still hates the hood, she has figured out it keeps her dry and warm and now, is much more tolerant.
3. Know When It’s Too Cold! Providing fresh air, exercise, and stimulation for your dog during the cold weather is important, but there is such a thing as too cold. As a general rule, if it’s too frigid for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog, too. And don't forget that young and senior dogs and those with conditions such as arthritis struggle even more in the cold. Watch for signs that your pooch can’t handle the deep chill; they can include shaking, cowering, repeatedly lifting up her feet, and continuously trying to go back inside.
4. Indoor Exercise Options like the ones I detailed above are great for when it’s simply too cold out, or when other inclement weather or dangerous conditions won’t let you and your dog get outside! Don’t overlook indoor options away from home, either. Pet spas, heated indoor dog pools, and doggy exercise or yoga classes offer physical activity, mental stimulation, and socialization, even when the weather outside is frightful!