Whether you were snowed in on the East Coast or live in Alaska, where there is barely any snow there are several activities you can plan for your dogs entertainment. If your dog loves snow that’s great, if not there are actually a lot of things you can do to stimulate your dog and ultimately tire him out even if you’re stuck indoors.
1.) Make the most of mealtime: Instead of dumping your dog’s food into a bowl and watching him scarf it down in three seconds, hide the kibble around your house. Put your dog in another room (or crate) for a few minutes, while you put small amounts of kibble in strategic places for your dog to sniff out and enjoy. Make some of them easy so he catches on quickly by getting a reward — put one small handful against a wall, another under the ottoman, etc. Then start putting them in trickier spots, such as under a rug. Just make sure to remember where you’ve put them all!
2.) Teach your dog something new: Mental stimulation is tiring for a dog, so take advantage of this by teaching him a new skill. Does your dog know “touch”? Simply stand in front of your dog and hold your hand out to the side with your palm facing him (think “jazz hands” but with your fingers together!). Don’t do anything. Just wait for your dog to eventually touch your hand with his nose (he will!) and then say, “Yes!” in a happy voice (or you can clicker, if you have a clicker). Immediately give him a small treat. (If your dog doesn’t approach your hand to sniff, make it easier for him by rubbing a treat all over your palm.) Once he’s doing this reliably, give the behavior a name and say out loud, “Touch!” right before you hold out your hand to him. This is a great skill that eventually can be used to teach your dog to close a door, turn off a light, etc.
3.) Play “Find it”: This is similar to hiding his kibble but instead, ask your dog to sit and wait. Make it easy the first time, and walk away from your dog while letting him see exactly where you’re going. Put a treat in a fairly obvious place and say, “Find it!” Your dog will happily race toward the treat and gobble it down. Do these easy “find its” a few more times and then increase the difficulty. Have your dog sit while you walk out of his sight (If he breaks the sit when he can’t see you anymore, that’s something else to work on today!) and hide a treat. Come back to your dog and say, “Find it!” Dogs absolutely love this game!
4.) Make an obstacle course: See what you can rig up in your living room or family room that will be challenging for your dog. Perhaps you can roll up a small rug, so he’ll have to step over it. Next, position an ottoman that he must jump over. Finally you can have a chair that he’ll wriggle under. Lure your dog through this obstacle course by holding a treat inches away from his nose and gently encouraging him to go over each piece of furniture. Once he’s gone through, over or under all the pieces, he gets the treat!
Nose work: Find three empty boxes; size doesn’t matter. (Make sure there are no staples or anything that could hurt your dog if ingested.) Ask your dog to sit and wait, then line up the boxes in a row — but only put a treat in one of them. Release your dog by saying, “Find it!” and watch him investigate each box! How quickly can he identify the box with the treat? Let him have the fun of “opening” the box to get his reward.
5.) Nose work: Find three empty boxes; size doesn’t matter. (Make sure there are no staples or anything that could hurt your dog if ingested.) Ask your dog to sit and wait, then line up the boxes in a row — but only put a treat in one of them. Release your dog by saying, “Find it!” and watch him investigate each box! How quickly can he identify the box with the treat? Let him have the fun of “opening” the box to get his reward.
6.) Do-it-yourself dog puzzle: If you have an interactive dog puzzle, this is the time to use it! If not, no worries. Get a muffin tin and some tennis balls. (No tennis balls? Get some small plastic container lids.) Scatter a few treats throughout the muffin tin, then cover every hole with either a tennis ball, a plastic lid, or something the dog has to move to get to the treat inside.
7.) Sit, wait, come: This is the perfect time to work on your dog’s recall. Treat in hand, ask him to sit, wait, and then take a few steps away from him. Call his name in a happy voice, saying, “Max, come!” When he joyfully comes, say, “Yes!” (or click) and give him a treat. Keep doing this, upping the difficulty. Take a few more steps away from him, pushing to see how far you can get from your dog while he’ll still remain sitting and waiting until you to tell him to come. Once you can get a room’s length away, can you go out of sight around a corner? Can you push it further and go upstairs? If your dog breaks the sit, don’t yell or say no — just quietly walk him back to his original spot and start from the beginning. He will quickly learn that doing what you ask gets him a delicious reward! Yelling or saying no only creates anxiety (like seeing a big red F on your paper in school!), which can get in the way of learning.
Most of all have fun! This is a great time for bonding and love.