Indoor games to play with your dog this winter

daschund playing with ball Photo by TeamDAF/Shutterstock

For fans of winter, the cottage can be a wonderland, and many dogs agree. They love to frolic in the frosty snow. But there is such a thing as weather that is too cold for your dog. We’re here to help you know when it’s time to stay inside and what indoor games you can play with your dog.

How cold is too cold?

Not all dogs can tolerate cold the same way. For example, Alaskan malamutes originated in the north and have the coat to thrive at temps as low as minus 10 Celsius. On the other hand, greyhounds originated in Egypt, and their lean bodies are designed for high-speed chases, not enduring the cold. They would appreciate a coat even at plus 10 degrees Celsius.

In general, temperatures at 0 Celsius and below have the potential to be dangerous. If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog. But there are other factors to consider. Senior dogs and puppies feel the cold more, as do smaller dogs and those with thinner coats. And don’t forget about wet weather or the wind chill, both of which can make typically tolerable temperatures too cold for your pet.

Sweaters, jackets, and boots can all help make your dog more comfortable outside, but it’s still important to watch them for signs they’ve had enough, such as shivering, whining, or holding their paws off the ground. And before venturing into the cold for prolonged activity, speak to your vet about your individual dog’s tolerance.

6 ways to exercise your dog in the winter

Dogs need enrichment indoors

Dogs require both physical exercise and mental simulation year-round, even on chilly winter days. If they don’t get enough, they become bored and prone to problem behaviours—not to mention weight gain, stiff joints, and other health issues. Plus, the time you spend exercising or playing with your dog strengthens the dog-owner bond.

But how do you ensure your dog’s brain and body get exercise when you’re stuck indoors? It can be as simple as playing fetch up and down the stairs or ramping up your training sessions. Your dog will benefit from any play or positive attention. However, we have some fun indoor dog games indoor to keep winter exciting.

Build an indoor agility course

The sport of agility is simply an obstacle course for dogs, and you can easily create your own with items around the house. Turn large cardboard boxes into tunnels, balance a broom handle on two piles of books to make a jump, or have your dog walk across cushions to challenge their balance. Never force your dog to tackle an obstacle. Lure them with treats or a toy and reward them for trying.

Teach a new trick

Trick training is just for fun, so you and your dog can enjoy the process and forget about the results. And if your dog does master a new trick, you have something to show off to friends and family. Try teaching behaviours like spin or bow that stretch your dog’s muscles as well as their brain. Or what about working on a freestyle routine? That’s dancing with your dog to music, and it’s a terrific way for you both to exercise.

Play tug-of-war

Tug-of-war is beloved by most dogs because it taps into their predatory instincts. But relax; it won’t create aggression. (Although it’s not an appropriate choice for dogs who already have aggression or resource guarding issues.) Indoor dog games, like tug-of-war with rules, helps dogs learn emotional self-control. Teach your dog to drop things on cue so you can end the game when you want.

Provide your dog with puzzle toys

Puzzle toys require your dog to problem-solve. For example, they might need to lift a flap to expose hidden food. These toys challenge your dog’s brain as they figure out what they’re supposed to do. If puzzle toys are new to your dog, start with easier options until your dog gets the hang of problem-solving.

Play hide-and-seek

Hide-and-seek allows your dog to use their powerful sense of smell. Play together by placing your dog in a sit-stay, then hide from them. Call their name and let them follow their nose. Or you can hide a treat or toy for your dog to find. Either way, start with easy hiding places, then slowly increase the challenge.

Try scent work

Scent work is the search for hidden odours. It’s a great mental workout that taps into your dog’s instincts. This indoor dog game can be as simple as hiding a tea bag or toy for your dog to find, or you can invest in essential oils, like birch, to replicate competition scent work. Your first step is teaching your dog to associate the smell with rewards. Then hide the container holding the odour in increasingly concealed locations.

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