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How to Help Your Pet Deal with the Winter Blues

By Linda Cole

Some dogs enjoy outside winter activities, but not all pets or people want to be outdoors when those frigid winds are howling. Cabin fever can be a problem for our pets, but indoor activities can help to ward off those winter blues and help you both stay in shape.

Remote Control Cars

OK, so my first suggestion gives cats and dogs more exercise than it will you, unless you need to lose some weight in your fingers. However, playing with a small remote control car inside is a blast for most pets and helps get them up and moving. The noise of the car rolling along the floor gets their attention and holds it while they contemplate how to attack this strange new creature that dared to disturb their sleep. Look for a pet friendly car that doesn't have small parts which can fall off or be pulled off by your pet. You will also want to find one that is strong enough to hold up to a dog or cat who finds the courage to attack it. I have to admit, this is a favorite activity at my house.

Indoor Obstacle Course

An interesting obstacle course can be made with whatever you have in your home. Set up a course where your dog has to jump, crawl and find his way around the course, utilizing furniture along with other fun obstacles like empty drawers, clothes baskets, paper sacks made into tunnels, boxes, broom handles and piles of pillows. Think outside the box to make a challenging and fun course. Cats can also learn to navigate an obstacle course. Use their favorite wiggly toy or a laser light for them to follow. Don't be afraid to get down on all fours and have your pet follow you. The idea, after all, is for both of you to get up and move!

Work on Training

It's important for all dogs to understand basic commands, and winter is a perfect time to work on this with them. Although it's harder to train a cat, felines are just as capable of learning as dogs are. This is an activity where you want to make sure you have plenty of your pet's favorite CANIDAE or FELIDAE treats. One easy way to teach a cat a trick is to find what she likes to do naturally. For instance, if your cat likes to put her paw up to touch you, teach her how to give you a high five or place her paw in your hand. Pick a word or short phrase for your command, and be patient and consistent. Felines that like to stand up on their hind legs can be taught to stand up and turn around. It may not seem like exercise, but training does get you up and moving and gives your pet something to do that helps stimulate their mind, even if the exercise is minimal.

Follow Me 

Winter time gives you a great opportunity to work with your dog on everyday commands that help you keep your dog under control. “Come” can be a hard command for some dogs to learn and can be equally difficult for some owners to teach; however, it's one of the lifesaving commands every dog should know. This game helps your dog learn to come when he's called and to follow you wherever you go. Call him to you and then lead him around your home. If you have more than one floor, utilize all of the space you have. Make sure to give him plenty of praise, and treats if needed. Cats can learn how to come and follow you, as well. Never call your pet to come and then punish him. That's the best way to teach him how to not come when called.

Hide and Seek

This is a great game that gets you up and moving around, and it's fun for you and your dog. You may need to have someone help you with this game. Have them sit with your dog while you go and hide. Call out to him when you're in your hiding place. Don't make it too hard at first. Try to find areas in your home where your dog has to search for you, but don't make it so hard he gets discouraged and gives up. When he finds you, play with him, give him a treat as a reward, and lots of praise.

It doesn't take a lot of exercise to help keep excess pounds off during the winter months. Use your imagination to invent games you can play with your pets to get them up and moving. It really is a lot easier to keep weight off than it is to lose those extra pounds in the spring. Ward off the winter blues by creating your own fun moves and indoor games you can play with your pet.

Photo by Chuck Abbe

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