A beagle with a rope toy

If old man winter has you in his grip, you’re not alone. Cold weather, ice, and snow can keep us all indoors and less active than perhaps is good for us. And our pets are feeling the same cabin fever. Still, some indoor time may be a necessary part of the season, and it’s no reason that we can’t still have fun with our best fur friends – with some winter indoor pet activities. 

Winter Blahs

Boredom and inactivity isn’t good for pets. It can lead to hyperactivity, destructive behavior, and winter weight gain. Some breeds need even more exercise than most, to keep mentally healthy. 

Winter Indoor Pet Activities

Nip problems associated with boredom and inactivity in the bud with some winter indoor pet activities. Here are some ideas. 

Fetch. The quintessential pet game only gets better indoors – all it takes is a little creativity! Roll a ball up the stairs for a game of “stair-ball”. Ask your dog to perform a trick for each throw. Teach your cat to fetch (many cats love this game!)

Tug. Another trusty standby, a game of tug is exciting and energizing for your dog. Use a soft rope toy and give your dog an outlet for her natural desire to grab and shake. This can also be great mental exercise for your dog, as you work with her on commands like “give” and “gentle.”  

DIY obstacle course. It’s easy to set up a makeshift obstacle course in your kitchen or living room that your dog will enjoy. If you have a beginner, a broom or curtain rod set over two laundry baskets makes a great beginner jump. A tunnel or cardboard box will be a fun new thing for your pet to learn. Start out slow, and use lots of rewards and praise. 

Cat climb. Cats love to use their natural hunting behaviors, so give your cat lots of opportunities to be a mini lion. Hide her treats in perches, cat towers, or anywhere up high that she’s allowed. Watch her jump, stalk, and climb to find her “prey.” 

Feather wand catch. If you have cats, you may already know about feather wands. Most cats love to try and catch the feathers and will play for many minutes, exercising their bodies and minds. To elevate this game, create areas where the “prey” will hide using boxes, pillows, and bags. Be sure to let your cat catch the feather once in a while!

New tricks. Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Learning something new stimulates the mind, and can make your dog (or cat) often as tired and happy as physical exercise, in many cases.

To start, brush up on the tricks your dog already knows, then elevate one. A “shake” can become a “high five.” Practice a down/stay with new distractions. Or work on basic manners by asking her to “sit” before eating. 

Cup game. Many dogs love nose work. You can expand on your dog’s natural scenting ability with some indoor games. The cups fame is one of many basic nose work games. Simply place 3 identical cups on a flat surface. Hie a treat under one of them, and move the cups around with your dog watching. Give a command to “find it” and watch your dog go to work. 

If all this activity still leaves your dog raring to go, check out a local indoor dog park. Take your dog for a playdate, a walk on the treadmill, or an agility course. As long as your dog is friendly and well socialized with other dogs, an indoor dog park can get you both out of the house for some winter activity while staying warm and dry. 

Don’t Hibernate All Winter Long

Playing games, bonding, and challenging your pets is an important component to their physical and mental health, especially in the winter when the urge to hibernate is strong. No matter which activity you choose, it all adds up to more quality time with your best fur friend, and that’s good for both of you, too.

If you need more ideas or have questions about winter indoor pet activities, please give us a call at Parkside Animal Clinic.