Friday, December 19, 2014

Keeping Your Active Dog Busy (even in the winter months!)

We've all felt the winter blues (or cabin fever) - the drab boringness of staying inside all day. Newsflash: There's a cure! Hang out with your dog! Newsflash #2: There's a double cure!

Find some awesome games to play with your dog (inside or outside) to help them get out their natural energy. 

Bigby loves Frisbees!
Frisbee/Fetch. Teach your dog this awesomely unstructured sport - consisting of three things: you, your dog and a Frisbee or ball, of course! All they need to learn is how to perform some intense catches and how to play the basic game of fetch. 
Winter Hack: Look for softer toys (like products from Chuck-It's Indoor Collection), such as their Indoor Squirrel. These toys are perfect to play with a basement or other large and open indoor space on days where it's too cold for the dog park. 

Agility is one of Bigby's favorite pastimes. Here he is landing a perfect jump!
Agility: This sport is perfectly fitting for any athletic and quick learner (such as shepherds, collies and terriers), combining physical activity with mental stimulation. Look for an agility club or class in your area to get you started. You can also check out books like Laurie Leach's The Beginner's Guide to Dog Agility or training videos. Although actual official equipment (at home, you can use any obstacle that is safe and suitable for your dog) can be expensive, you can easily make your own course.
Winter Hack: This game can be just fine to play inside, as long as you have a large and open area to be in. Try creating or searching for your own indoor-friendly items, such as a child's play tunnel. You can also build hurdles using any stable object that your dog is able to leap over. CAUTION: remember the three S's, when creating your own course: Safe, Secure & Suitable. These also apply to all games, activities and ideas that you have in your mind for your pet.

Searching: Although some dog clubs hold group events for this sport, it's also fun and easy to recreate at home. All you need is a target (somebody or something that your dog is searching for), a reward in mind (praise, a toy, a treat - it's best for the target to also be the reward), a leash and the Stay Command. First, you have to give your dog the scent of the target, by teaching him to take note of it by saying "Scent!". After a scent is taken, hide the target. (If it is a treat, it does not have to buried or hidden completely, but if the target is a human, try to cover up the person from plain sight as a challenge.) Have your dog in a separate area from the target while it's being hidden (no cheating!) The rest is easy, just give your dog the Stay and then Search command. Reward your dog profusely once the target is found. 
Winter Hack: As with almost all of these activities, you can be inside (as long as you are in a large space), but you can also try to add several or new targets for more change and excitement. 

Running gets Bigby nice and tired.
 In the evenings, that's how we like him!
Running: This is the one thing that you can't do inside. Unless you are a member of an indoor dog park, you'll have to stay out in the beautiful outdoors. It'll be a refreshing, healthy and sometimes energizing experience!
Winter Hack: Layer up, hydrate, get on those mittens (and even consider a jacket or sweater for your dog if needed) and get outside! 

Thanks for reading!
Lili & Bigby