The cold winter months can make it challenging to get outside with your dog, but lack of adequate physical and mental enrichment can cause unwanted behavior problems. During warmer weather, your dog is enriched by their daily walks and outdoor playtimes, which are not always possible in colder weather. Enrichment activities provide dogs with socialization, reduce anxiety and stress, prevent boredom, and provide physical and mental exercise. A lack of enrichment can mean a bored dog, and a bored dog will look for ways to entertain themselves—often by misbehaving.

If you are wondering how you can provide your dog with the enrichment they need now that the weather is cold, our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque team is here to help. Keep reading for indoor enrichment ideas for dogs. 

#1: Put your dog’s nose to work

Your dog has an amazing sense of smell, and they use their sniffing skills to explore their world and navigate their surroundings. You can tap into this powerful tool by playing hide-and-seek games that require your dog to use their sense of smell to track something—or someone—down. Here are two hide-and-seek games to try with your dog:

  • Find me — This hide-and-seek version requires your dog to find their favorite thing—you. Start by sitting close to your dog and telling them to “Stay.” Then, hide behind a corner—not too far away until your dog understands the game—and call, “Find me.” Your dog will quickly learn to use your scent to sniff through the room until they find you. Once your dog understands the object of the game, gradually make the game more challenging by increasing the distance and time that you hide. 
  • Find it — In this hide-and-seek version, instead of asking your dog to find you, you ask them to sniff out a favorite toy, kibble, or yummy treat hidden somewhere in the house. Start by showing your dog the toy or snack, and have them stay while you hide the item nearby. Then—with excitement—tell your dog to “Find it.”. 

#2: Let your dog work for their meal

Dogs enjoy working for their food, which can be achieved in the following ways:

  • Open up — Make your dog use their nose and paws to open a container before you give them a treat. 
  • Solve the puzzle — Make your own food puzzle toys by placing kibble in muffin tins, putting balls over each muffin compartment, and letting your dog knock the balls off to get to the food.
  • Meet the challenge — To make things a little more difficult, use three upturned cups but place kibble under only one cup, and then ask your dog to find the cup covering the food. Once they catch on to the game, move the cups around before letting your dog find the kibble. 

#3: Exercise with your pet inside

When you can’t head outside to exercise, bring the outdoor exercise inside. The following indoor activities will ensure your dog is exercising daily, no matter the outside temperature.

  • Tug of war — A quick indoor game of tug of war will get your dog moving. Add an extra challenge with new commands like “Drop it” and “Leave it.” 
  • Obstacle course — Get creative and set up an obstacle course in your home using existing items such as chairs, tables, boxes, and brooms—anything that will get your dog moving. Lure your dog up, over, under, and around the obstacles. The important part is to make your dog move, think, and have fun.
  • Dig blanket — Place treats inside a rolled-up blanket, secure the blanket with hair ties, and let your dog dig their way to the treats. Your dog can use their natural digging instinct, enjoy a good workout, and earn a reward. 

Don’t let the short days and frigid temperatures get you or your pet down. Stay active indoors and—most importantly—have fun. If your dog seems to have the winter blues, or they are due for their annual wellness exam, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque to schedule an appointment.