By Margaret Meier Jones, Animal Wellness of Buffalo Valley
While the days are gradually getting longer, the winter wonderland of Wisconsin is in full swing. This winter weather can, at times, be too frightful to spend any time outdoors, causing us, and our pets, to feel the full effects of cabin fever. While wemight curl up with a good book, binge on Netflix, or pursue other indoor hobbies, how can we help our pets deal with their pent up energy? Fortunately, we have several solutions for you to consider!
Join a class. Now is a great time to explore a new activity with your pet by taking a class with them. Basic obedience class is usually a given for every dog, but have you considered trying an advanced class? Refreshing those basic skills and expanding on them can not only provide some good physical exercise, it can also provide good mental exercise. Been there and done that you say? What about agility or fly ball classes? These can be particularly rewarding for your athletic, ball-obsessed retrievers and herding dogs. Check out the American Kennel Club website at: www.akc.org/sports/agility/getting-started to see if these classes are right for you.
Make playtime into game time. Does your dog like to bury its treats or toys? Instead of leaving the toys in one spot in the house, consider playing hide and seek with them and your dog. Start out easy with the hiding spots while your pet learns the game and then gradually increase the level of difficulty. When I first did this with my dog, Quinn, he kept going back to the last place he found something. It didn’t take him long, however, to learn that as we raised the stakes of the game, we also raised the reward. Now he initiates the game by bringing us toys to hide!
Turn mealtime into prey time. Cats and dogs are historically predators, and have evolved hunting for much, if not all, of their food. There are many options available today that help us recreate this behavior and provide much needed mental exercise when physical activities are limited by weather. Food puzzles such as the Kong® Wobbler, Quest, or Pawzzles are great way to feed your dog all, or part, of their meal. Outward Hound® and PAW5® also make several options to help your pet explore their primal side during mealtime. Consider the slimcat™ feeder ball from PetSafe to promote your cat’s hunting instinct while increasing their activity level. We particularly like this feeder ball because you set the level of difficulty for your cat, and increase it as they learn to use it.
Finally, if your pet just HAS to get out of the house, consider having them spend a day at one of our great local doggy daycare providers. These facilities offer convenient drop off and pick up times that coordinate with your workday. While you’re busy at work, your pet gets to enjoy some much needed play and social time with other pets while being supervised by the caring staff. Barks and Recreation, EmBark, and Paws and Claws are just a few of the great area options available to you and your pet!