Preventing Winter Boredom in Dogs

winter-dog-1With the Polar Vortex crippling most of the United States, it is sometimes hard for people to find ways to keep their dogs from getting bored.  Dangerously cold weather keeps most pets and their people indoors and lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation can causes all kinds of destructive behavioral issues including excessive chewing, barking and hyperactivity.

The good news is that you can still find ways to entertain dogs inside the home with toys, games, puzzles and DogTV.


Most domestic dogs live in home environments where there is little chance for them to make full use of their remarkable senses, but enrichment activities and experiences like DogTV can give them the outlet they need.  DogTV stimulates their visual and auditory senses, providing dogs with hours of canine appropriate entertainment that prevents boredom, loneliness and behavioral anxieties such as separation distress. It can be a fantastic training tool and a great way to keep your dog entertained on cold winter days, especially when you have to be away from home.


You can also keep your dog entertained by playing games inside your home such as hide and seek, fetch or tug-of-war.  Hide treats around the home and send your dog on a treasure hunt or get members of your family to hide and test his search and rescue skills. Vary your dog’s toys by rotating them each day so they remain unique and exciting and get toys that stimulate your dog’s vision and sense of smell such as treat balls and pet puzzles.

Feeding Time

Put away your dog’s feeding bowl and use meal time to challenge her problem solving or hunting skills.  Fill a rubber toy with her food if you feed wet and dry food, or a treat ball if you just feed dry kibble and let your dog work out how to get the food out of the toy.  This turns on your dog’s seeker system and allows her to be positively reinforced while eating.  It will take her a lot longer to eat her food in this way and allows her to use up valuable mental and physical energy.

Dog Sports and Classes

There are many indoor classes and dog centric activities that you can do to keep your dog active.  Find a training or agility class in your area and get together with other people and their dogs. Cater to your dog’s energy requirements and allow his breed or mix of breeds to dictate what he needs.  Is he more predisposed to tracking, hunting, luring or herding? There are many organizations all over the country that allow you and your dog to practice different canine sports and activities in controlled circumstances which encourage team work and bonding.  Agility, flyball, treiball and K9 Nosework are all sports that can be done indoors and provide a great outlet.

Dogs are social animals and isolation from humans or animals for long periods can have devastating behavioral consequences such as severe distress on separation or aggression.  Organizing private play dates for your dog at home or taking her to socialize with other dogs in indoor play areas will help her develop important canine social skills and become more confident with positive experiences.  Training classes are a good way to help you communicate with your dog and force free training is the most effective training philosophy to encourage your dog to learn and be successful.  To find a Victoria Stilwell licensed trainer in your area go to:


  1. Tracy

    January 28th, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    My GSDs and Shiloh are in their heyday in the winter! Lol! Good thing I 'm a cold weather person too. It's the summers in OK that give us cabin fever. The same tips work for us in 90-100 degree weather!

  2. DanielaK

    January 28th, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    It's just like the situation and take the dog out whatever the weather. The dog gets tired faster when it's cold outside and when he comes home he just wants to sleep. My jack russel do it anyways :-)

  3. Suzi

    January 28th, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    A couple of my old dogs will play a variation of "fetch" with a toy, but not reliably. However, my younger dog will run the stairs for a treat! I toss a treat down the steps and he races down, finds the treat, and I call him back up and give him a small treat for coming. REPEAT. After about 3 or 4 times, he runs up the steps and literally touches my hand and turns and runs back down the steps without a treat from me... he just wants to get the downstairs cookies faster! We do this until he is panting, then vary the activity to "brain games" and freestyle tricks.

  4. Kaelin

    January 28th, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you! My Australian Shepherd won't venture out for long if the temps are below 20 degrees, and this winter, we've been below zero all too often. We play fetch with a nerf ball in the house, take (both on and off-leash) walks on any day the temp is above 20, and he uses a treat ball for all of his meals. Even with all of that, though, he gets restless if we get two or three bitterly cold days in a row. I started adding a half hour of training (plenty of new tricks) on those afternoons, but he conquers new puzzles and games so quickly that they aren't worth the expense. So this winter, we've started playing hide and seek with his favorite toys. I put him in a down-stay and go off to hide the toy, and then I release him to go find it and bring it back. I think it's become more challenging for me to find a good hiding place than it is for him to find it! Thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions!

  5. Charlotte

    January 29th, 2014 at 12:23 am

    I always play "find it" with my 7 dogs. I split them into groups and put them into seperate rooms. Then i hide bits of kibble aroumd the house. Loose them back in. Make them sit. Then say find it and off they go! They love it and they all knkw what to do! My youngest have lernt from the older ones. Its great fun. They love doing. Its mental stimulation for them and physical to!

  6. Marni

    January 29th, 2014 at 8:18 am

    My Hank LOVES the snow - the deeper the better!

    He is SO focused with this activity (check recent videos), and entertains all the park goers as they walk by while I'm stuck standing - LOL I know he will miss the snow when it goes, and I really hope he doesn't figure out that my garden might be a suitable alternative!

  7. Marni

    January 29th, 2014 at 8:20 am

    oh ... link didn't show up on above comment ... check his videos on Facebook - Hank Brost

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