Living in Minnesota, we all know how brutal Midwestern winters can be. We endure sub-zero temperatures, blizzards that can bring feet of snow, and what can feel like only a few hours of sunlight at a time, because we love calling this beautiful state Home. Quiet mornings after a fresh snowfall, coming in after a day of fun in the snow to warm up by the fire with a mug of cocoa, or having a great excuse to stay in for the night and binge-watch the newest Netflix show with a cozy blanket and your dog at your side, are the types of things that make the “Minnesota Winter” great. We may be able to bundle up and enjoy the outdoors, but what about our four-legged companions, especially the ones who aren’t built for below-freezing temperatures?
There are many activities you can do inside with your pup that provide her the mental and physical stimulation that she needs. If you have a multi-story house, stairways are a great way to add a little challenge to a basic game of fetch. Just make sure the stairs are carpeted or have a runner so everyone stays safe.
You can make a DIY agility course using things around the house. A broom propped up on some books makes a great jump obstacle and you can even adjust the height. A cardboard box is a great introduction to tunnels for the novice agility pup and plastic cups can be makeshift weave pole stand-in props.
Mental stimulation is also important and easy to achieve indoors on a chilly winter day. If interacting with you is your dog’s favorite pastime, try a game of hide and seek! Have him sit and stay while you hide in another room, then call him and see if he can find you. For food motivated pups, you can put a twist on the game and have them find treats instead or get them a food puzzle. A DIY food game can be made with a muffin tin and some tennis balls.
You may think laser pointers are only fun toys for cats, but some dogs also love trying to catch the mysterious little red dot. Bubbles are another entertaining game for some pups – trying to catch those strange, fragile, floating bubbles is a fun and mentally stimulating activity.
Everyone has heard the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but that’s 100% myth. It may take a little extra time for your adult or elder pup to catch on to a new trick, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for you and your dog to bond and for them to get some mental exercise.
Test out some new activities this winter and maybe you’ll discover your pup’s new favorite pastime, or her calling in the agility ring!
Written by Avery Maijala