Wet weather dog activities

November 7th, 2014

Kate Potter discovers the best wet weather dog activities to do in the warmth of the indoors.

Rain, hail or shine, dogs need physical and mental stimulation. We’d all like to walk our dogs twice a day for an hour or so, however, sometimes our lives are less than perfect!

When it’s so cold and wet outside that taking your dog out for a run is virtually impossible, there are all sorts of things you can do inside to keep him entertained.

Don’t forget that these activities aren’t just for rainy days. If your dog is left alone for long hours during the day while you’re at work, many of these tips will help alleviate his boredom while you’re out. Any productive activities you can provide to keep your dog busy will lessen his opportunities for destruction and nuisance behaviour.

Fun with food

It’s rare to meet a dog that doesn’t love his tucker time. However, when you simply feed him in a bowl, the meal is over and done with in about 30 seconds flat. Making the most of his mealtime by encouraging him to work for his food is a great way of keeping his mind occupied.

Bodil Schou-Hansen, from Adelaide Pet Dog Training, recommends a wide range of feeding toys to enrich your dog’s life.

“These toys are fun, interesting and, most importantly, rewarding for your dog.”

A range of mentally stimulating games is available from Nina Ottoson, which are durable and dishwasher safe, and feature ways of altering difficulty levels. Dogs learn to slide, lift and move parts of the toy to access their food rewards. Not only do dogs find them interesting, but they’re also great for forcing speedy eaters to slow down.

“If a dog is incapacitated by weather or physical injury, these particular tools don’t need a huge amount of physical movement but take a lot of brain power,” says Schou-Hansen.

Toys like Kongs or Everlasting Treat Balls are very versatile. With varying levels of firmness, they’re great chew toys for dogs of all ages. Whether you stuff the toys with food or not, your dog will enjoy having something he can really get his teeth into, without getting into trouble.

Fetch games can be great for the more active dogs. If you’ve got a hallway in your house, this can be a great place for your dog to run back and forth, chasing a bouncing ball. Even having space to roll a toy around gives a dog a good chance to get up and moving.

When introducing these sorts of toys to your dog, you need to start by making them easy to use in order to get your dog involved.

“Get them hooked by smearing wet food inside the toy,” suggests Schou-Hansen. “A healthy treat, such as a little bit of peanut butter, low fat cottage cheese or natural yoghurt can be really exciting for the dog.”

Food dispensing toys can be a great challenge. Fill the inner core with dry food and set the flow rate of the toy to whatever level of difficulty you like. Your dog is then required to roll, knock or shake the toy to extract the food within.

Schou-Hansen says “include some liver treats with the dry food to excite your dog. You don’t just want the same-old, same-old, reward – if there’s a chance of a special surprise inside, it’ll really keep the dog motivated.”

Hide and seek

Scatter feeding and treasure-hunting for meals are great games for inside. Spread kibble around a room and make your dog search for his dinner.

Gemma Cunningham’s two Maltese-cross dogs, Oscar and Julesy, love searching for treats.

“When I go out I’ll hide pieces of chicken jerky around the house. They have amazing senses of smell and love sniffing around to find treats. It certainly stops them pining at the door for me to come home.”

Scent dogs and hunting breeds will enjoy activities that encourage them to use their natural behavioural traits. Show your dog the “target” and make him stay while you hide it in another room, and then release him to go and find it.

“Punch holes in containers and hide scent toys under them,” says Schou-Hansen. “Dogs get huge joy out of hunting and finding games.”

Keep it fresh and interesting

“Dogs are like kids – if they’ve always got the same toys, they’ll soon find them boring,” says Schou-Hansen. “If they haven’t seen a toy for awhile, it’s like it’s brand new again.”

Have a few different toys on rotation for your dog. It’s great if he has a favourite, but providing variety will be more interesting – especially if the weather keeps him indoors for days at a time.

Cunningham has lots of toys on high rotation for Oscar and Julesy.

“I make sure they’re kept stimulated with different sizes, textures and noises. They’ll often go and choose a favourite from the pile and we’ll play tug-of-war or fetch.”

Don’t forget that doggy play-dates are a great way to keep your dog entertained. Visit a friend’s house or, if there’s a break in the weather, a trip to the dog park.

For Cunningham’s dogs, who are comfortable spending time with other dogs and aren’t at all shy, spending one day a month at doggy day care is something a little bit different and fun for them to do.

“It’s great for socialisation. There are different playpens for different size dogs and different energy levels. Oscar and Julesy spend all day running around and come home absolutely exhausted.”

Changing your routine is also a good way to keep your dog mentally alert.

“Mixing up your routine can help desensitise your dog to being left and makes his day less predictable and more interesting,” Schou-Hansen says.

This can be as simple as setting your morning alarm for a different time, changing when and how you greet your dog in your day, so he’s never sure if he gets a hello in the morning or not, or taking your dog on an outing to a new place.

Cunningham uses the weekends as an opportunity to mix up her dogs’ experiences. “During the week I try to walk the dogs twice a day but then on the weekends I’ll take them to the oval or the dog park and anywhere I’m going that’s suitable for them to come too.”

“The more variety you can offer in your dog’s environment, the happier and more content he will be,” Schou-Hansen says.

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