Puppy Love Files: Cold Weather

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Is your dog going stir crazy because of the cold?

Although for the most part we have had a mild winter thus far, there are the cold stretches that are unavoidable. Everyone at some point expresses the same thing to me, "My dog is missing his/her friends and exercise!" or "My dog is suffering from cabin fever, and I'm suffering because of it"

If you have felt this lately, you're not alone. The fact that you DO feel this, is actually a good thing! This means that you care enough about your dog that you aren't putting him/her at risk. Dogs CAN get frostbite and even "snow-loving dogs” can get uncomfortable in some of these cold temperatures! 

So…what do you do? Maybe your dog is just in hibernation mode and is happy to snuggle up and sleep, but maybe he is looking at your with those big puppy eyes saying, "When can we DO something?!?!?" or maybe your dog has so much energy she is spending it on terrorizing the house, chewing on baseboards, chasing the cat, or barking at every little sound they hear. 

What can you do to help with this? I have a few tips that help my dogs get through these winter cabin fever blahs.

1. My favourite tip of all. Make your dog work for his food. Dogs do this in nature. They scavenge. They use their highest senses to sniff out where the food is and are then naturally rewarded for their hard-earned efforts. Making your dog work for their food provides mental stimulation which can tire a dog out. There are a few ways that you can do this. You can purchase a food ball from your local pet store - there are other treat-dispensing toys. I use mine for food. There is a great orange ball, and a hard plastic oversized kong that my dogs particularly like. If you don't want to spend the money, take an empty peanut butter container and drill a hole in one of the sides and let your dog push it around to get the kibble out. There are many other do-it-yourself options that you can google. 

2.Play hide and seek. This game encourages your dog to listen to your commands. First, grab your dog's favourite toy or treat without them knowing. Then have your dog sit and stay. You will then go somewhere in your house to "hide". Call your dog's name and "come". Reward your dogs with the treat or toy when they find you! Mix it up. You can have different family members scattered around the house and the dog has to find who said "come".

3. Give your dog something really great to chew on or work on. It will depend on your dog and what they like to chew, but save the "best" chew toy for rainy or too-cold days, or days when you are just run down. Do not have these chews out all the time or the dog will lose interest. I will either stuff a Kong, give the dogs empty peanut butter containers with remnant scrapings, buy yummy raw bones or hooves, etc. Remember this special toy/chew will go away after they just start to lose interest. I do not want my dog to lose all interest, as I want them to be excited when they get to see it again! Be careful with certain chews - dogs should generally be supervised with bones, rawhide, pig ears, etc because of risk of choking or cracking a tooth. My dogs are often tired after 30-60 minutes of really working away at something like this. 

4. Work on basic training. Do you think your dog knows sit? Does she know it in the basement, or a different floor other than the living room carpet? Does she do it every time? Basic training is a fun way to spend time with your dog and to build on your relationship. See how many times your dog can do a command in 60 seconds. See if that can improve over time. How many times out of 10 can your dog do a command with you asking just ONCE? (Give 10 seconds or so to let the dog think. If they don't respond, they don't actually know what you are asking!) and that doesn't count. Maybe your dog is getting 6/10…Maybe it's time to start with the basics again. If you need tips, please ask me for a basics brush-up lesson! I am amazed at how mentally exhausted my dogs get after 15 minutes of fast-paced basic training (Sit, down, touch, come, let's go, leave it, wave, paw, roll-over, etc)

5.Just cuddle them. What do you want to do most on days when it is well below zero? Snuggle in bed and hibernate! That's what they might want too, and if you can join in, I know they would appreciate it!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you and your dogs can have fun with these suggestions!

Danielle Guetter
Puppy Love London
danielle@puppylovelondon.ca
www.puppylovelondon.ca