Where I live, the weather can be quite brutal in January, and the dogs can’t play outside for very long to use up some energy. Here are a few ideas to help keep them entertained.
- Indoor scent work is fun and mentally stimulating for your dog. It’s easy to use magnetic metal hide containers and place them under kitchen tables, maybe on a refrigerator or door, or in a partially open dresser drawer for your dog to find.
- A snuffle mat—strips of fabric attached to a flat mat to create pockets and folds—is a fun way to keep your dog happily busy (see above). Scatter food or treats across the mat, ruffle it with your fingers so some of the treats sink down among the folds, then stand back and watch the fun as your dog noses around to fine the treats. Snuffle mats may be homemade or purchased from from crafters or stores.
- Puzzle toys are another way to keep dogs engaged. There are many choices online and in you local pet stores. Most involve placing food or treats inside openings. The dog must manipulate covers, levers, pulls, and other controls to reveal (and eat) the contents.
- Toys such as Kongs or similar stuffable toys are also a hit. Freezing the contents in the toy makes it last longer. Run a straw or a skewer through the toy before stuffing to ensure that the smaller hole doesn’t get completely sealed. This will reduce the risk that your dog’s tongue could get suctioned into the toy, which is unpleasant, frightening, and dangerous. Recipes for what to use when stuffing toys abound on the Internet.
A word of caution: just be sure you aren’t overfeeding your dogs in the interest of keeping them entertained. The food from toys should be part of your dogs’ daily caloric allowance, so the food in their bowls should be reduced accordingly. Using part of their daily meals to hide in the toys is another way to avoid stuffing your dogs.
And, of course, a walk is always welcome. Be sure you and your dog are dressed appropriately for the temperature. Also, be aware of where your dogs are walking because the salt on the roads and sidewalks can be problematic for your dogs’ paws and poisonous if they lick their paws to remove it.