Boredom Busters: How to Keep your Dog Mentally Challenged in the Winter

Indoor ideas to keep your dog challenged and have some fun too!

Ah Winter…shorter days, slippery roads and sides walks, colder temperatures. None of these make exercising your dog sound like any fun. Dogs need more than just physical exercise, though. Many dogs benefit more from mental exercise than physical exercise. This is especially true for puppies and older dogs who can’t run for miles due to age or physical limitations. Young dogs can often go for miles and never seem to get tired, but are ready for a nap after a “brain training” session. 

Winter doesn’t have to mean boredom and no fun with your dog. When it is too cold or dangerous to go outside, work their brain’s inside! This is called enrichment – and it is critical to a dog’s overall well-being.

Ways to beat winter boredom

  • Daily training using your dog’s kibble can be a great way to give your dog some mental “work” to do. To dogs, this is fun!
  • Food puzzles – things like frozen Kong’s, Kong Wobblers, and treat balls or toys can all be great ways to teach your dog to work for his/her food – and get some mental stimulation too. Think food + fun!
  • Playing hiding seek inside with your dog is a great way to have fun and work on the ever important Come! command!
  • You can even practice leash walking skills inside too! Load up a treat pouch or pocket with your dog’s kibble, pat your leg and say, “Let’s go!” as you start walking, when you dog appears at your side, feed some kibble and say, “Let’s go!” and set off again. With practice, your dog will start to build the habit of walking at your side – instead of in front of you – which is the first step toward polite leash walking!

How to keep things fun and challenging

  • Change up what you do with dog. Some meals, use a Kong wobbler. Other times, use kibble for training. Try not to do the same enrichment activity several times in a row, or for the same meal each day. Changing this up will keep you dog guessing what is coming next!
  • Get creative! Does your dog know any tricks? Simple tricks like roll over, spin, or paw can be fun to teach your dog – and he’ll love it because it’s attention from you AND food for him — double win!
  • Have each member of your family work on the activities. When you change trainers, you change the learning picture for your dog so they have to work harder to understand the new trainer. Keep these sessions short and fun and your dog will love to play along and learn with your whole family.

When you can get outside, make it fun!

As the ground thaws and snow melts, the scents your dog gets to smell are amazing! Give her time to take them all in all walks. These sniff walks are great ways to enrich your dog’s life. When walking: think quality of the time, not quantity in miles. The more your dog uses her brain sniffing, the more tired and fulfilled she will be at the end of the way.

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.