Curing the winter blues

March has come, which means the snowiest month of the year in Minnesota, which this year makes for a terrifying thought considering we just had the snowiest February ever at 39 inches of snow fall in 28 days! We are going a bit stir crazy, it’s been hard to get outside because the snow in many places is above Qwerty’s head!

So, what can we do in place of hours at the dog park and playing frisbee? Mental stimulation is a huge factor in tiring a dog out. Physical exercise is very important, but an hour of mental stimulation will keep Qwerty quiet for an entire evening. So, what are some activities we do?

Training classes.

We are always in a class of some sort at our training facility. We are just starting a Nose Work class. This is exactly what it sounds like, nose work is using the dog’s natural ability to smell to find specific scents (birch, anise, and clove) that are hidden. We leave the house 1 day a week, which in of itself is mental stimulation, and are able to practice at home. Nose work is actually an activity geared towards fearful and reactive dogs as well, so it’s a good option for all kinds of breeds and personalities! We have also done agility classes and basic training classes. This has also been a great way to meet other dog lovers.

Play dates.

Along the lines of taking classes and meeting other dog owners, we now meet up with some of our friends for play dates. This allows us to leave the house and Qwerty can be in a new place as well as play with other dogs.

Slow feeding time down.

The longer it takes to eat, the more satisfied your dog will feel. They get to use their mind to find the kibbles and they don’t just inhale the food, making them feel when they are full. There are many toy options for doing this. But there are also some home made options. A snuffle mat is a mat made of fleece that you put food on and your dog then has to dug/root and find the food buried in it. This uses many natural instincts for them and can keep them busy. They can be bought, or they are easy to make. Rolling kibble into a towel and having your dog unroll the towel to find the food is another option. Some people will even put holes in a plastic bottle (big enough to have kibble fall out) and feed their dog in that.

Find a pet friendly store.

Recently we discovered some dog friendly breweries (yes they are dog friendly inside!) Now I realize this may not be an option for every where, but there are many places (stores and such) that are starting to open their doors to more than just service dogs! On cold days we will take an adventure to a pet store, hardware store or brewery to get both of us out of the house!

Go on a “sniffari”

On those days in the winter when the weather permits going outside, go for a dog lead walk. Let their nose lead you on an adventure for once. This is great for both of you! See where the smells take you. You may even discover something you never knew was there!

Over all the most important thing for everyone is to keep things changing and fresh. A bored dog is a destructive dog, so try to find activities that you both can enjoy to keep your relationship happy!

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