Oftentimes, winter months and the holiday season mean either hunkering down inside or frequent traveling, prepping, socializing, and sometimes even stressing. No matter how hectic things get, it is important during these times to not forget about the needs of our pets. Like humans, animals also need physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis. Be sure to carve out time during this busy season to do activities with your pet—take a look at some of these following ideas:
1. Take in the sights of the season with your pet. Take a walk to look at the neighborhood decorations and lights with your pet. Keep the temperature and weather in mind to determine the length of your walk, and whether your pet may need extra protection, like a coat or boots.
2. Stay in and play. If the weather is not ideal for outside activity, stay in and play some games with your pet to keep him or her occupied and mentally stimulated. “Teach your dog to play with his food!” says Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil of the Behavior Service at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. “Food dispensing puzzle toys are a wonderful way of providing mental stimulation for dogs during inclement weather.
“To prevent weight gain, your pet’s meal can be delivered in the toy. My dogs, for example, would choose a puzzle toy over a bowl of the same food. There are a variety of food puzzle toys on the market now, both low tech toys like the Kong Wobbler and the Pipolino, and high tech devices like the amazing CleverPet Hub. Be sure to start with simple toys and gradually increase the complexity as your dog learns.”
3. Romp around in the snow. Many pets enjoy frolicking through the snow, which can be combined with any outdoor chores that you may need to complete. When you return inside from snow time, however, make sure you wipe off your pet’s paws, ears, face and coat, so that no ice becomes wedged in places that can cause frostbite.
4. Recharge together. If your pet seems stressed from constant busyness, have a safe place for him away from activity, and take a note of your own stress level. Your animal’s presence is good for you! Cats should be provided with a quiet, comfy spot to sleep with food, water, toys, and a litter box. Dogs should have a soft area for sleep, a toy or two, water, and food available.
5. Get some fresh air. If you celebrate Christmas, many tree farms welcome pets on a leash. And, regardless of what holidays you celebrate, outdoor markets are oftentimes pet-friendly as well. Again, just be sure to keep the weather in mind before you head out.
6. Take agility or obedience classes. “Taking a class with your dog is another way of spending quality, active time inside during the winter,” says Borns-Weil.
“Positive reinforcement obedience classes are enjoyable for dogs of all ages and skill levels. Other fun options are Nose Works (recreational scent tracking), Rally O, or Wag It Games. For those who prefer remaining home, Brain Games for Dogs by Claire Arrowsmith is full of wonderful ideas for play and training.”
7. Have a pet playdate. Allowing your pet to play with other animals that he gets along well with is good for his social skills and gives him much needed stimulation when outdoor activities aren’t always possible. It also allows you to spend some quality time with other pet-owner friends.
When it’s cold outside and the season gets busy, be sure to keep these activities in mind that will be fun for you, your pet, and the whole family.