(Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM) No one wants to go outside when it's cold, raining, or snowing. This is not only true for us but also for our pets. Even if they are more resistant to the cold than us because of their fur, this does not mean they don’t get cold.
Like us, our pets are more sensitive to frostbite and hypothermia. Dogs with long, thick fur, such as the Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, or other breeds selected for cold climates, have a higher cold tolerance. But no pet should be left outside for too long when the temperatures drop.
After a long walk, we can't wait to enter the heated living room and enjoy a hot drink, read a book, or watch TV. But what can our pets do indoors when the cold season has come?
Unfortunately, keeping them indoors for too long can make them restless and bored. The good part is that there are quite a few indoor activities for pets that will use up their energy and chase away their boredom.
Here are some of the activities you can do with your four-legged friend indoors when the cold weather arrives:
- Play together
- Train together
- Groom and bathe your pet
- Arrange playdates
We are the source of entertainment for our pets. Either we offer them activities, or they find their own preoccupations using your favorite shoes, curtains, or sofa. Chewing is also fun for them
Playing has many forms. It only depends on how creative you are. You can try playing fetch, obstacle courses, and playing with a laser toy to running up the stairs, playing hide-and-seek, or using food puzzle games. The possibilities are endless.
Playing hide-and-seek with your dog or cat is no different from the game you played as a child. The rules are the same: give your pet something to do - a toy to keep it occupied for a few minutes while you look for a place to hide. After hiding, call your pet and stay hidden. When it finds you, react positively, with enthusiasm. Don't forget to praise and reward your pet.
Playing with a laser toy
Playing with a laser toy is not only ideal for cats but also dogs. Play in the most creative way possible. You can also use this game in an educational way, training your pet both physically and mentally. For example, you can get your cat used to the new carrier by pointing the laser toy in it and letting your pet play inside. Don't forget, even in this case, to praise and reward your dog or cat with some delicious treats.
At first glance, this game may seem discouraging if you don't have a big house, but it is not. You can use your furniture to create obstacles for your pet. For example, you can use the chairs and the table and give commands to your dog to get under them or climb on them. For cats, boxes work best. If you have some boxes around the house, use them to create an obstacle course. You can also cut the boxes in such a way you build a tunnel when you join them.
This game is dedicated to dogs and is meant to help them perfect some of their natural abilities (seeking and finding) and to exercise their body and mind.
Place treats in various places around the house while your dog is watching you. Command your dog to find them. Don't forget to praise your pet every time it finds them.
Level it up by trying this game without your dog seeing you when you hide the goodies. Your dog will rely on its sense of smell to find the treats.
Use food puzzle toys
What do dogs love the most? To play and receive treats. Food puzzle toys are interactive toys that combine both aspects. These toys can be filled with treats, and depending on how your pet plays with them, they release treats. This kind of toys can keep your pet busy for a lot of time.
Give your dog something to chew on
Dogs like to chew. You can make chewing a fun activity but also necessary because while pets are having fun, they are also cleaning their teeth. You can combine play and fun by offering your dog special products to chew on, such as bones, sticks, and other items that are made for safe chewing. In this way, you will give your pet a fun and healthy activity while your favorite pair of shoes remains untouched.
If you've been waiting for the right moment to teach your pet a new trick, this is it! Although training your pet is much more difficult than playing together, it is not impossible. Don't be discouraged! With dedication, perseverance, and love, you will manage to teach your pet at least some basic commands.
Learning the names of its favorite toys
Studies show that dogs can learn between 200 and 1000 words. Start the training by playing with your dog with a toy, which you will give a name. After a certain time, your dog will associate the respective toy with the name you pronounce. To check if your pet has learned the name, have it look for it in a pile of toys.
This game is ideal for energetic puppies. Position yourself down the stairs with your beloved four-legged friend and throw its favorite toy at the end of the stairs, then give your pet the command to bring it back. Reward your pup with something delicious every time it brings you the toy.
Teach your dog how to clean up its toys
For this exercise, you will need a basket and your dog's favorite toys. While standing by the basket, encourage your dog to bring the toys to you. Once it gets to the basket, hold a treat above it - this should encourage your dog to take the treat and drop the toy into the basket. When the toy falls out of its mouth, say the command "drop" or "clean". Repeat this exercise daily until your dog learns how to clean its own toys.
Grooming your pet is one of the activities you have to give a lot of importance to. If you didn't have enough time before, use the cold and gloomy days to take care of its teeth, fur, ears, and nails.
Many pets love to be brushed. So, with the help of combs, brushes, and de-shedding tools, you can start this activity. Give special attention to the places you usually neglect but also to those where the fur gets tangled all the time.
You can also take advantage of this opportunity to brush your pet's teeth, bathe it, clean its ears, trim its nails, or give it a haircut.
As a general rule, you should brush your pet’s teeth every day or at least every 2-3 days, comb its fur once per week, trim its nails once per month, and clean its ears once per month.
If your dog or cat has a best four-legged friend in the neighborhood, the cold days are a good opportunity to invite them over. What can be more satisfying than watching two fur babies play happily together?!
Indoor play is fun if you are creative and find new activities, every day. Dogs thrive on interactive play, and it has a big impact on their overall health and well-being. To keep your dog busy, you don't need lots of fancy toys or access to the outdoors, but just a little time and dedication.
Cats, on the other hand, are a bit lazier and can't wait to spend time sleeping on the couch or in your bed. But this does not mean we have to let them stay bored for days. They need interaction and exercise to lead a healthy and happy life too.
Dr. Iuliana Mihai, DVM, Masters In Small Animals And Equines Pathology
Iuliana graduated from the University of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in 2012, Romania. She has a Master’s degree in Small Animal and Equines Pathology and a strong affinity for Veterinary Parasitology and Laboratory. In 2013 she started her Ph.D. in epithelial cancer in dogs and cats. She volunteered at the faculty’s clinic in her 3rd year of study, and continued her career in small animal pathology and laboratory. She has one cat and eleven rats. Her interests outside of work include traveling, writing, and crafting.