Winter Activities for Dogs to Keep Them Happy and Healthy

During wintertime, it is not always easy coming up with activities to keep your dog happy and active. Temperatures drop below freezing, you have to deal with rain, snow, and sleet as well as concerns about the chemicals used on the sidewalks to melt the snow hurting your furry friend’s paws. Keep reading for some tips on entertaining your dog and helping them release some energy during the winter.


Practice or Teach your Dog Some New Tricks

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? For dogs or puppies that don’t know a lot of commands, you can practice very useful ones, such as “sit”, “stay” or “come.” Once you have the basics down, you can move on to more advanced commands, such as “roll over” “speak” or “play dead.”

Although these tricks are not very demanding physically, they require a lot of mental energy from your dog so they are a great winter activity that can be practiced indoors. Remember to limit your training sessions to about 15 minutes so that it stays fun for you and your dog. Practice these tricks daily and your dog will be fully trained by spring time!

Schedule Playtime with Other Dogs

If your dog is good with other dogs, it’s always good to put a playdate in the calendar. Just as with kids most dogs like to socialize and will even correct each other while playing, making it easier for you to supervise. If playing indoors, make sure that they have enough space to play safely. If outdoors, make sure it is not too cold and that they have an appropriate place outside where they can run and play, such as a fenced in yard or park. Bring some toys and let the fun begin! Remember, all dogs play differently so be sure to use your best judgment for your pet.


Take Your Dog for a Walk

Unless the temperatures drop below zero, it’s okay to take your dog outside for short periods of time. Most medium and large dogs can walk outside for about 30 minutes as long as the temperature is above 20 degrees F and they are in good health. If your dog is on the smaller side, limit their outdoor exposure to 20 minutes and consider buying them a coat and protection for their paws.  For pups who don’t like wearing little booties, try a dog-safe gel that can be applied to paws to help prevent cracks and bleeding. Hurtta has an amazing collection of coats for dogs for all types of weather!

Sign Your Dog Up for a Class

Winter is the perfect time for an indoor agility or swimming class. There are plenty of classes for dogs who have never swum before as well as  advanced swimmers. Just as with humans, swimming is easy on their joints, so it is perfect  for senior dogs or those with arthritis.

 A new class such as agility will also provide a mental and physical stimulation for your dog, making it the perfect activity for dogs with plenty of energy! There are many great resources in the Boston area, but a quick online search for your area will yield other options for swim classes, doggy daycare, agility classes, and more.

Make Mealtime Fun

There are so many ways to make mealtime fun for your dog. You can grab a treat dispenser or a food puzzle that your dog has to solve in order to get his reward. Make sure you purchase high-quality toys that your dog cannot tear apart — you want to keep them safe and entertained when they’re home alone. And remember, all dogs have different chew strength and habits, so always buy the size and durability appropriate for your dog.

Kongs are very popular and have proven themselves with dogs of all sizes! As an added bonus, food toys and puzzles slow down your dog’s eating pace, keeping him or her safe from gastrointestinal conditions.  

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We know the weather can make it tough, but keeping your dogs happy and active in the winter is very important. Do you have any winter activities that you like to do with your dog? Let us know in the comments!

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Get Your Pets Ready for Back to School

As summer ends and the kids head back to school, it is important to think about the 4-legged children in your life too!Boy heading back to school.

Dogs and cats need routines just like human children, and transitioning back to a different schedule — one that includes more alone time for them — can be tough.

The best way to avoid anxiety and possible behavioral issues is to have a plan in place to help your dogs and cats ease back into the fall and coming winter seasons.

Be Prepared

By now you know when your kids will head back to school (if they haven’t already). With that in mind begin preparing about a week (or two) before departure date to help everyone adjust. Get up earlier as you do during the school year to help your pup adjust to the new schedule.

Try to keep the rest of your pet’s routine as normal as possible with regular walks and feeding times. If feeding times change during the school year, start adjusting to the new times a week or two before so they don’t feel too many changes all at once.

Days can feel long and lonely, especially for dogs, when they have been used to human companionship. A morning walk or playtime in the yard is good bonding time and will help your pup get out some energy.

Keep Moving!

During the summer the days are longer and more people are around, which means more play time, walk time, and fun time. Once the school year starts, dogs and cats spend more time alone and get less exercise. Make sure you are keeping up with your dog’s exercise needs.

Bored dogs can gain weight and develop behavioral issues; it is not uncommon for dogs to “act out” once the kids are gone all day. Dogs need exercise and mental stimulation, so be sure to keep them active even when schedules change. While cats have a reputation for laziness, they do need exercise and stimulation as well, so don’t overlook their need for playtime.

Dog running with ball

Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise before and after school!

A morning and afternoon walk or appropriate play time in the yard or park are often enough to keep man’s best friend happy. If you have a very active dog who needs lots of exercise and attention, consider a mid-day dog walker or doggy daycare to keep your pup busy and healthy.

Be Patient

Animals are sensitive, sentient creatures. They can sense changes and feel stress just like us, so remember to factor your faithful feline and canine companions into your changing routines.

Stressed, scared, or anxious animals can exhibit less than desirable behaviors — not because they are trying to be difficult, but because they are trying to express themselves. Stressed animals can bark, cry, pace, house soil, or becomes destructive.

stretching white cat

Cats need playtime and stimulation too!

While it would be easier If they could verbalize, if we pay attention, we can understand that they are communicating with us in different ways. Think about how you can minimize stress for your pet while you are away. Puzzle toys or food puzzle can provide great mental stimulation for bored dogs.

Soft music or quiet TV in the background can also help animals feel less alone; remember they are used to hearing noise and voices most of the stay. Stick with softer music choices and quiet television programs (think HGTV, not Cops) to help comfort. Remember, don’t select sounds that are overstimulating, which can agitate your pet.

Give Lots of Love

While it is harder for us humans, it is easier on our pets if we minimize the drama involved in our departures and arrivals.

When you leave in the am, make sure your pets are set up for the day, say goodbye, and go. Remind your kids that over-the-top farewells can actually upset your dog or cat who will anticipate that you are leaving. When you arrive home, greet your dogs and cats with love and affection without going over the top.

When you are home, make sure Fluffy and Fido get plenty of attention and tons of treats! Try to keep the rest of their routine as regular as possible so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Ensure they are happy and safe by petting them, snuggling with them, playing with them, walking them, and talking to them. 

Small child playing with dog.

Reduce back-to-school stress with proper transitions, regular routines, and appropriate playtime.

Remember, slowly transitioning back to the school routine, rather than lots of changes happening all at once, can help reduce anxiety in dogs and cats who have gotten used to having their pals around all summer. 

Keep Your Furry Friends Safe During Fourth Festivities

 

July 4th safety

Independence Day is known for sun and fun — barbeques, pool parties, and fireworks. But did you know that the 4th of July is a really scary holiday for pets? In fact, more pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year! That is because the loud, overwhelming noises and unfamiliar surrounding can be terrifying for dogs and cats.

Here are some safety tips to help you and furry friends to have a happy and safe holiday.

Preparation and Prevention

The best first step to a happy holiday is to be prepared. Fireworks might be fun for you, but the loud noises are terrifying for many animals, especially dogs. While you are celebrating, chances are your dog is panicking.

Be sure that your pets are microchipped and that your contact information is up to date. Make sure your dog is wearing identification information. It is also a good idea to have a current picture of your dog with you. (This should be easy since we know that just like us you all have 500 pix of your pets on your phone!)

If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, make sure that they are chipped and are wearing a break-away collar with identification. Better, yet, keep cats inside on and around Independence Day for their own safety.

 

Hund mit Kätzchen

For their own safety, keep dogs and cats indoors during cookouts and fireworks. Allow them time to enjoy the great outdoors before the festivities begin.

 

When letting your dogs out, be sure that your yard is fenced securely and/or that your animal has on a proper harness and leash. When frightened, the “fight or flight” instinct takes over, and many dogs take off, attempting to run to safety. Never leave dogs outside unattended, even in a fenced area.

If your pet does go missing, don’t panic. Follow some simple steps to help get him or her home safe. Lost Dogs of America has multiple resources devoted specifically to Fourth of July.

Party Smarts

If you plan to attend some cookouts or parties on the Fourth, it might be a good idea to leave Fido or Fluffy at home. As mentioned above, unfamiliar surroundings, lots of new people, and loud noises can be super scary even for otherwise calm dogs.

Plus, there will be plenty of food and snacks around. While we all want to spoil our pups, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Too many treats and table scraps (often from well-meaning friends and family) can lead to an upset stomach and diarrhea. And, many common foods are actually toxic to animals. And, many common foods are actually toxic to animals.].

With so much going on, it can be tough to keep a constant eye on your pooch, which is why sometimes dogs simply wander off. If you have a chill dog who does well at parties, be sure to keep a close eye on them at all times, ensure they have access to fresh water and shade, keep them securely leashed, and make sure they don’t get too many treats!

Home Alone

If you do leave your dog(s) at home, make sure that they are safe and comfortable. Be sure they have plenty of fresh water and AC or fans to keep them cool. Nervous dogs pant and pace so they need be kept well hydrated.

5.14.18 Keep Cool

Be sure your pets have plenty of fresh water and access to shady areas when they are outside. When indoors, fresh water and fans are a must!

Consider leaving the TV or music on to help drown out the scary noises outside. Many people find success with crating their dogs or confining them to a safe, escape-proof room. Be sure your pup has access to their favorite bed or cozy spot. For example, one of my dogs finds solace under our bed, so we let him “hide” there where he is most comfortable when he gets nervous.

There are plenty of herbal calming treats available with natural ingredients such as chamomile and lavender that can help dogs relax during scary times. In extreme cases, talk to your veterinarian about medication or holistic treatment options to help keep your dog or cat calm over the holiday season.

Compression vests, such as the Thundershirt or similar, can also be very helpful for calming anxious or fearful dogs.

Make Your Own Fun

If you have an animal who is especially terrified of firework festivities, consider staying home with your furry friend.

As the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog, so plan ahead. During the day, take your dog for a nice long walk, go to the park, or have a playdate. Letting your dog(s) run around, play, and romp during the day is a great way to ensure they will be tired later on.

 

Dog running with ball.jpg

To help your dog relax during fireworks, be sure to exercise them earlier in the day so they can run around and get out some energy. This will ensure they are tired later on in the evening.

 

As the evening approaches, make sure your dog eats dinner and uses the bathroom before the fireworks and festivities begin. If you plan to administer calming medication or treats to your pets, always follow instructions and allow time for them to kick in.

Be sure to keep windows closed (especially if you leave your pooch home alone) since open windows let in more noise and insect screens will NOT contain your pet. Dogs and cats can easily escape from open windows. Turn up the TV or soothing music and snuggle on the couch with your favorite buddy and let them know they are safe.

Although Independence Day is technically only one day a year, people tend to celebrate for a week or so before and after. So be sure that you are adequately prepared to keep your dogs and cats happy and safe during this holiday season.