I have two dogs of questionable character.
One is now a 10-year-old cattle dog mix. The other, an 8-year-old Border Collie mix.
Despite their advanced dog years, they have two speeds: turbocharged and faster. Hard, hour-long walks barely put a dent in their desire to go, go, go.
When the weather turns (and I don’t want to get out in 20 degree temps and howling wind), it’s always a challenge to keep enough energy burned off so they don’t drive me nuts every moment I’m near them.
Here are five ways I found that really help to take their energy down a notch or two:
- Play hide and seek. This will take two of you. While one of you distracts the dogs, the other goes to hide. Once hidden, call or whistle for the dogs. The person distracting the dogs tells them to “go find _____.” Eventually they’ll go in search of whoever that is without being called. Of course, once the dogs are gone, the person who was distracting now gets to hide and the action goes in reverse. This helps satisfy your dog’s desire to hunt and also burns a big amount of energy. And you might just find that you are having a great time yourself. Believe me, it’s a fun challenge to hide from a creature who can sniff you out.
- Laser tag. This one is really easy. Next time you’re at the hardware store, big box retail outlet or even the grocery, grab an inexpensive laser pointer. Then prepare for the shenanigans. Oh, and make room so nothing can get crashed into or knocked over. Point it at the floor and move it around while your dog goes completely crazy trying to catch it. Just make sure to never point it at your dog’s face. Lasers can potentially cause eye injury.
- Hide the treats. This is a little like hide and seek but uses the food reward to stimulate your dog. And they’ll have to use that sniffer more intensely since you will be hiding a handful of very small treats vs. one human. They key is to use something healthy for your dog that he or she likes. Our dogs will go nuts for tiny chunks of sweet potatoes. Simply let them smell your hand with the treats and then hold them back while you place them all around. Then tell them to find the treats. It’ll take a little bit for them to understand what that means but they’ll eventually associate you saying that with the tasty goodness they find squirreled away under the seat cushion.
- Use a food dispensing toy at mealtime. Our dogs have a small cube that we fill with food. Then they have to spin it, nudge it (or in one of dog’s cases, bark at it) to get the food out. And it has a dial to increase or decrease the difficulty. This can be a pretty hard game when we have it dialed up high, but they won’t ever fail to work and work hard for it since the payout is food. BTW, barking doesn’t help but Tbone doesn’t know that. He simply barks hysterically why his brother paws furiously at it. When the food comes out — BOOM — it’s like the barking did the trick. A variation of this is stuffing a rubber Kong toy with a treat and letting your dog work to get it out. If your dog is clever though, it likely won’t take long.
- Do a bit of training. Yep, believe it or not, I’m talking about learning to shake, sit, lay down and roll over. Or refresher courses on all of the above. Because learning or relearning all of these takes concentration — which dogs aren’t so good at — it’s going to burn energy like crazy while they try to focus. The upside is your dog will be more well behaved and better at listening.
A resource for you
Of course, our main focus here at SNKC is helping end pet homelessness. But we also want to be a there in times of need … emergency or otherwise. And because we have such a high concentration of pet people all in one spot, we can usually come up with some pretty tried and true options for your pet care needs. They might even save your sanity.
That’s why we hope you’ll reach out if and when you need us. In the meantime, let us know in the comment section what ways you’ve found helpful in entertaining your dog(s) when the weather turns.