The short winter days and cold winter weather mean most of us - including the family pet - have fewer opportunities for outdoor exercise and play. That can be a problem for energetic breeds that require lots of active play and for dogs accustomed to spending lots of time outdoors.
Signs of "canine cabin fever" can range from unusual barking or howling, to scratching at the back door, to chewing furniture or messing in the house. These problems occur because your dog is frustrated at being trapped indoors all day - especially if the rest of the family is away at work and school.
- Take a walk. The best thing for both you and your pet is to bundle up and brave the cold. As long as the sidewalks and roads aren't blocked with ice and snow, a daily walk or run together will help your pet dissipate excess energy - and keep you fit. Even brining the dog along when you walk the children to the school bus can help. Of course, it's important to be sure that you take appropriate precautions if your daily excursion is in the winter dark.
- Play outside. Bundle up and put a jacket on your dog and go outside and play on a nice day! Until the cold becomes too much to bear, play fetch with your pup to release some energy. Just be sure to clean your dog's paws thoroughly to remove any salt or sand that can cause irritation.
- Stuff a Kong. Can't get out of the house? Give your pet an interactive toy to keep him occupied. Stuff a Kong with peanut butter or another favorite treat. Working to get that hidden treat will give him both physical and mental stimulation while you're gone.
- Take a class. Sign up for an indoor training class with your dog. Even if it's only once a week, it's an opportunity for you and your dog to get out and be active together - plus you'll have "homework" to practice during the week, something that your pet is sure to enjoy. Try something new - like agility - that will challenge both of you.
- Send your dog to camp. A great alternative to lonely days at home alone is doggy day camp, day care or play group. Dogs exercise and socialize with other dogs in a safe, supervised environment. Dogs can benefit significantly by participating just once or twice each week. In addition to giving them exercise, these programs actually improve social skills while diminishing negative behaviors at home.