It’s not easy. Two Australian Shepherds cooped up in the house for days at a time. They stare at me, whine at the door, and if they could make picket signs that say, “free the Aussies”– they would.
Another thing that makes long dark winters so hard is because my dogs have so much stamina. The more I train Kona to run distances with me, the stronger she becomes, thus making our daily walks nothing more than a nice warm up.
Did you know you could use up to 40% of your dog’s daily energy supply with mental challenges? Yep, it’s true, and I can tell you first hand it really helps!
So here are some of the ways we help fight the winter blues to keep Riley and Kona engaged, sharp, and happy while we wait for spring.
We have a ridiculously huge selection of puzzle toys in the living room toy basket. I rotate the toys and the kinds of treats I put in them. This gives the dogs a new challenge each time. One of my new favorite things to do is stuff a KONG with some kibble and The Honest Kitchen, to serve dinner. I also really like KONG’s Tiltz toy. I can put an entire serving of kibble in it, and Kona has to work for her dinner!
Indoor Training Sessions
It’s not unusual to walk into my house and see a paddleboard, a Burley Tail Wagon or a bicycle in the living room. I bring the gear in for short training sessions on my lunch breaks or evenings after dinner. The beauty of this is that if I see the gear sitting there in the middle of my living room I’m more likely to start a training session. It reminds me to work with my dogs, and to think of new ways to challenge them.
Some of the things I like to do is work on is increasing the times they are asked to stay in the cart or on the board, ask them to hop on and off from another room, or to just eat a meal from. It keeps them in love with our outdoor gear!
Just Go Anyways
For my birthday this year I was determined to get outside no matter what. Thanks to global warming we’re having another mild and rainy winter. It’s been pouring every week making most parks and trails a mud pit. But sometimes you just have to brave the elements, suck it up, and trust your gear. So instead of going for a nice dinner and sitting by a fire, we went out and did a 10-mile hike in the pouring rain. Surprisingly it was beautiful, quiet, and we didn’t see any other people. Riley and Kona got a bath afterwards, and we finished the day with ice cream cake.
In order to keep things fresh, and since my very spoiled dogs have too many toys, I rotate them. I keep a few hidden in the closet and every several weeks I take the hidden toys out and swap them with the current ones. Kona adores all her stuffed animals and since she favors new toys, this help keep her excited about the toys she already has. Above is Ace, a childhood toy of mine that quickly became one of Riley’s favorites.
Hide & Seek
It’s one of my favorite rainy day games. I’ll put both dogs in a down stay and find a hiding place somewhere in the house. The dogs aren’t allowed to break their stay until I yell, “come find me!” They rush around the house looking for me, and when they do, they get a handful of treats.
These are just a few ways we get through the rainy dark days of winter. I’d love to know what you all do. Please share some of your ideas in the comments!