Outside the weather is frightful but the dog is not so delightful, or at least delighted. Freezing rain, blowing snow, and strong winds, have almost shut down the town and non-essential travel is not recommended. I’m loving being locked inside with my books, but my dog is not so thrilled.
So, how do you entertain a dog indoors?
My high-energy spaniel needs entertainment – or enrichment – regardless of what the weather report says.
How to entertain a dog indoors
Since we’re stuck indoors, or I’m unwilling to bundle up the necessary amount to slide down the street during a wintery hellish afternoon, I need indoor entertainment for my pup. I’ve given her some chews, filled a puzzle with kibble, and even got out the kitties’ laser point, which makes my spaniel crazy – I hope, happy crazy.
First, however, I’ll consult some canine enrichment experts: Purdue University’s ‘Enrichment in Kennels’ study.
Clearly, I don’t have my spaniel in a kennel – she has the run of the house. But there’s good advice in the study that starts with this premise: enrichment reduces dog stress and gives the dog a sense of control over their environment.
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Here are five types of dog enrichment:
Dog Social Enrichment
Play groups, doggie daycare, monitored dog parks, and basically any positive interaction with other dogs is a type of social enrichment. On a good day, my dog participates in all these options especially visiting dog cafes and the Canine Bond Socialization Centre. However, not today. Outdoor socialization is not an option.
Dog Nutritional Enrichment
Providing feeder puzzles, hiding treats for the dog to find such as around a room or in a snuffle mat, and alternating food types including chewable treats are all types of dog nutritional enrichment. Check, check, and check. I’ve filled a puzzle or two (affiliate link) for my pup (she has four), given her both chew sticks and rolled dehydrated beef lung, and even tried the treats in a towel trick:
Roll up high value treats in a towel and let the dog figure out how to unroll the towel the get the treats (monitor so they don’t eat the towel). This activity could also fall into the sensory category.
Dog Occupational Enrichment
Just like it sounds, canine occupational enrichment is about giving your dog a job, and I’d love that. But my pleas encouraging her to do the dishes has fallen on deaf, albeit beautifully wavy spaniel, ears.
Jobs include activities such as agility and flyball, but clearly none of those are going to ‘fly’ indoors during a snowstorm.
Another occupational enrichment activity is training, or training review, and this one we not only can do but should. I’ll haul out some high-value treats then spend some time repeating our ‘come’ and ‘sit’ training, but not longer than 10 minutes. Enrichment is only valuable when it’s something the dog wants to do or is really interested in.
Dog Sensory Enrichment
Smell, sound, and sight are all important to dogs, and likely in that order. Sensory enrichment is about providing interesting sounds, though not loud, and a variety of scents for dogs to search for – a short ‘scent’ walk that allows a dog to thoroughly explore their environment can be almost a good as a long walk when your pressed for time.
However, we’re doing neither in this snow storm and the closest my dog comes today to experiencing sensory enrichment is looking for treats in a rolled up towel (see above).
Dog Physical Enrichment
This one is obvious: physical enrichment is running, toys, chasing balls, jumping on and off raised platforms – anything that gets a dog moving. On good days, my dog experiences more physical enrichment than most because she needs to run, run, and run in fenced off-leash environments.
However, during a blizzard, we are not driving to the dog park. It would also not be pleasant when we got there. We don’t live in a big house, but we do have several levels of stairs. Here’s what my dog will do: chase the red dot of the cat’s laser pointer up and down the stairs.
Maybe it’s a spaniel thing, but she’s crazy about the cat’s laser pointer, spinning herself into a frenzy (at which point we stop). Sometimes the cats get to play too.
Here’s a recap of our indoor ‘enrichment’ activities during a winter blizzard:
- Chews: Give the pup a variety of chews throughout the day.
- Puzzles: Fill some puzzles and snuffle matts with treats and kibble.
- Sniffing: Let her sniff out unroll a towel full of treats.
- Training: Practice some training commands such as ‘here,’ ‘sit’ and ‘stay.’
- Running: Chase the red dot of the cat’s laser pointer up and down the stairs.
- Socialize: Visit another dog in the neighbourhood and/or let another dog visit you.
If all else fails, I might call the neighbours across the street and ask if they want to babysit my dog for two hours – that will at least give her a change of scenery and me a break. Luckily, they love her too.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria.