Now that the cold weather has settled in, it makes it harder for all of us – pets included – to get lots of exercise!
The cold or freezing temperatures and the salted sidewalks can sometimes lead to an unpleasant walk. Dogs experience cabin fever just like humans do – a lack of exercise and fresh air can lead to feeling unsettled and anxious, sometimes leading to unwanted behaviours. Luckily, there are lots of things we can do to provide mental stimulation to our furry friends!
Enrichment is a great way to provide some mental stimulation to your dog – this mental stimulation can help ease anxiety and boredom, and is simple to do!
- Make feedings more interactive: Your dog needs to eat, why not make it an interactive experience! Puzzle feeders are a great way to get your dog to explore and use his or her natural abilities to find food! If a puzzle feeder is too advanced for your dog, even a slow feeder might work. Having to root and dig around for food is a fun and interesting way for your dog to eat his or her meal
- DIY puzzle feeding: Not sure you want to invest in a puzzle feeder? Try using toilet paper or paper towel rolls to hide food in – just tuck the ends in so that your dog has to work to get the kibbles out. An empty tissue paper box will work as well – with homemade items, you just need to make sure that you monitor your dogs, and ensure they don’t eat any of the packagings!
- Snufflemat: A great enrichment tool, in which the dog has to root around in fabric to find their kibble – it’s a lot of fun to watch them root and dig around. They can be purchased online, or make one yourself following instructions found online! My dog loves his snufflemat!
- Kongs: Are great, and you don’t have to use treats! Use their regular kibble or wet food in the kong. Want it to last longer? Wrap the kong in plastic wrap, fill it with wet food, or kibbles soaked in water, and toss it in the freezer for a cool treat (great for summertime too!)
The important thing to remember with any new enrichment toy is to monitor your dog while it is being used. As well, if you are using food for enrichment, be sure to use their regular kibble, and not to feed extra food or treats during the day! We don’t want to pack on extra pounds – we want to keep them energized and entertained! Your vet clinic can always help with feeding guidelines and introducing new treats suitable for your dog!
(picture below of Nikki using a snufflemat)
Written by: Stacy Murphy, RVT