Keeping your dog entertained in winter!

Keri Squibb

Anyone who knows me will know I hate winter, the days are not long enough to get everything done, I hate having to wrap up, I much prefer flip flops and everything is so much harder. As a 3 dog household the worst issue is mud and the next is keeping the dogs from getting bored especially in Willows case as being a young collie she needs a lot of mental stimulation. We are quite fortunate, we have a busy household, there is generally someone around and something happening but even we need to be a bit inventive sometimes so I thought I would share a few of my tried and tested methods.

Food is a big one. It does not all have to go in a bowl once or twice a day to be gobbled in 2 minutes. Meal time is the highlight of any dogs days so make it last. Quite often if its dry I will leave the dogs in the house and literally scatter their dinner around the garden. The spaniels in particular love this, its what they are bred for, sniffing in the grass, ok maybe not flushing out any pheasants but they are rewarded with food instead. We have quite a big garden so I scatter it everywhere and they can spend a good 10 or 15 minutes frantically running around gathering it all up.

Kongs are my next trick.. and they are brilliant, you can fill them with so many different things. Mix and match, and you can freeze them to make them last eve longer. You can buy kong paste but its not cheap and I would suggest that its a treat only not food as such. I have tried many things over the years, list below to get you started!

Peanut butter, mix up some of your dogs usual food with peanut butter, stuff the kong and away you go. Cheese spread has the same effect. Both of these do have high fat levels so bear that in mind and use sparingly.

Scrambled egg mixed up with rice, again can be frozen,

Meat pastes mixed up with kibble, rice, insides of sweet or baked potato.

Tuna, again mixed up with whatever you fancy.

Its perfectly fine to add bits of banana, cooked carrots, peas, apple, you can used a tablespoon of natural yoghurt as a binding agent.

Chopped up bits of sausage, the scraps off a chicken carcass are great high value treats. Pack it in a kong and freeze.

On a hot summers day you can fill a kong with a stock and freeze. I plug the small hole at the bottom with a piece of blue tack, put the kong in a sandwich bag, fill , then freeze. Remember to remove the blue tack before giving!

I do raw feed as well and also stuff my kongs with breakfast! lots of little bits of chopped meat or mince, part frozen works well as the completely frozen meat may be a bit frustrating for them.

Marmite is popular with some dogs, I would only use a tiny bit as it is very salty.

There are some foods that are poisonous to dogs, the most obvious ones of these being, onion, garlic, chives, chocolate, avocado, grapes and raisons. This is not an exhaustive list so I would urge you to check online if in any doubt at all.

If anyone uses anything else I would love to know, please feel free to comment below!

Another entertainment idea is to put a few treats in an egg box, tape it up and let your dog work out how to get to the treats!

Brain work is well known to be as good for your dog as a physical workout. So why not try an teach a few tricks. I find You Tube to be the font of all knowledge - literally! Anything I want to know how to do I can find a video for so spend 10 minutes a night teaching your dog something new. Its not a quick fix.. I'm still trying to teach Willow to crawl along the floor months after we started. Infact she is so dippy that whenever we go in to training mode she generally just does every trick she knows in quick succession to try and get the treat faster.. but either way she enjoys it and it breaks up the boredom.

There are plenty of interactive toys on the market. I did try one, to be honest I didn't rate it. A lot of money and limited value but that's not to say your dogs wont like them I just feel there are other equally fun things that are free.

Unfortunately boredom often leads to destructive, anxious , and unhappy dogs. Probably their version of cabin fever. They do say a tired dog is a happy dog and I do believe this to be true, particularly working breeds. Our dogs are domesticated but they have also retained a great deal of their instincts.

I do find it fascinating watching the different breeds displaying their instinctive traits. In my household for eg the 2 spaniels love running around in long grass flushing out birds etc, Willow the collie runs rounds with them but she has an ulterior motive, she is snapping at Ollies ears trying to herd him. There is a conflict between them from time to time as he gets fed up with her but she cant help doing what comes naturally to her any more than he can.  My point here is that the vast majority of dogs are bred to be active and even those that are toy breeds and viewed as companion dogs still need exercise and fresh air aswell as mental stimulation to be healthy. Plus it makes you get off the sofa and do something yourself :)






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