Jan 16, 2024 - Culture

Tips for entertaining your dog this winter

A dog sniffs around leaves in the snow.

Phoebe taking in some sniffs at Balduck Park. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

👋 Annalise here. Metro Detroit's warm December — our third warmest on record, per CBS Detroit — was not a good thing.

  • But you know who loved it? My dog, Phoebe, who got some great outside hours because her owner wasn't freezing.

Why it matters: As the cold winter weather finally descends on us, it's tempting to stay holed up in the warmth.

  • But this may leave your dog understimulated and prone to mischief.
  • While it's natural for your dog's activity to ebb and flow — dogs should be able to tolerate some boredom — here are three tips that may help with enrichment through the winter.

👃 Sniffari: Instead of a walk through the neighborhood on a regular 6-foot leash, try exploring a park on a long line (15 or 30 feet). This allows the pup more opportunity to explore and smell, giving you more "bang for your buck" on enrichment if you're unable to do as many walks.

  • I find Belle Isle, Balduck and Rouge Parks are great for this, but always be cognizant of others' personal space when using a long line.

📦 Homemade puzzles: For indoor enrichment that tires out Phoebe's brain, I put toys and packing paper in a cardboard box and then sprinkle kibble or treats in there for her to sniff out. You can also fold treats into paper towel rolls for your dog to tear up.

  • Sate your dog's need to lick by freezing treats or high-value toys in a small water-filled container. This can be messy, so I freeze water inside a bowl-shaped lick mat lined with veggie baby food, yogurt and/or peanut butter.

🐩 Trick training: Spending even just 10 minutes a day teaching tricks is super helpful. Put on a timer to keep the session short and make it feel like less of an intimidating chore.

  • Try buying simple equipment like a hula hoop to teach "jump" or weave poles — I haven't done this with Phoebe yet but am hoping to do so soon!
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