Welcome to the first ever column of “Ask Abbey” – I hope you enjoy!
The winter months can be really hard physically and mentally for dogs who can’t be outside for an extended period of time. Inactivity leads to bored dogs and trust me, bored dogs tend to be the ones that find their own “fun” aka sometimes destructive or other unwanted behaviors. Just ask me, I love finding trouble when I’m bored.
Physical activity is important for all pets, even when it is cold outside, so make sure to protect us from the elements before you take us out. How long dogs spend outside should be dependent on our size, age, and coat length. While some breeds are genetically designed to handle colder weather better, there are some dogs (like me, because I’m little) that should not go outside for longer than a quick potty break. All dogs need to be protected from the elements and coats are a great way to keep them warm while they are outside. There are lots of inexpensive websites to purchase them from and they are plenty of stylish options! Local retailers here in the valley also have a wide selection of coats. If you or another member of the family is crafty, there are lots of easy online tutorials to make your own fashionable coat for your pooch. Remember to take proper measurements of your dog before you purchase or before you start making your own.
Our feet are also very sensitive to the elements, so if you are planning on taking your dog out in the elements, consider using booties. They are the best defense from ice, deicing agents, and other potentially hazardous items that might damage our pads. (Available locally and also online.) If your dog is like me and thinks that booties are not fun to walk in, be careful to wipe our paws after being outside. (Deicing agents can be incredibly hard on our paws and if we lick them, there is the risk for indigestion, which is very dangerous.) Keeping the hair between the pads of our paws trimmed will also help reduce the risk of ice balls forming and reduce the chance of irritation.
But what about while we are inside? Sure, we like to cuddle, but mental exercise is incredibly important and is a great way for us to release extra energy and it keeps our brains happy! Puzzle toys and feeders have become incredibly popular and with good reason; they are fun and we love to work for our food/treats and they keep us busy (and out of trouble)! There are lots of different items that are available online, but some favorites are the classic Kong (which you can stuff with tasty treats,) the Kong Wobbler, the Kong Quest (which comes in lots of fun shapes) and the Buster Dog Maze. (My favorite is the Kong Quest bone. My Mama had to buy each one of us dogs one because we didn’t want to share!) A general search on the internet for dog puzzle feeder/toy yields lots of results and can even inspire you to construct your own toy! Teaching your dog to find hidden treats that you place under boxes gets your dog using their nose which is very enriching. I have even heard of people using milk jugs, cereal boxes and soda bottles filled with treats for their dogs to play with. (Even the dogs at the Animal Shelter get these!)
Remember to keep in mind that after the long winter months are over, to slowly acclimate us back to physical exercise if you and your pooch took it easy when it was cold. It is really easy to overdo exercise (for humans and dogs) and we are just as prone to an injury if we jump back into full blown exercise too quickly.
Hope this helps answer your question about keeping pups happy in the winter months and if you have any more questions, please make sure to call my Mama at the Animal Shelter. (Her name is Hillary.) 208-788-4351.
Pugs and Kisses,
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