By: Dr. Ryan Llera
Admit it…you might feel just like your cat or dog on a cold or wet day and prefer to curl up for some down time watching TV or taking a nap. But not every pet is like that, nor should they be! This is the perfect time to get active with your pet and have some bonding time. So let’s have a look at some things you can do indoors because face it, ice is slippery and nobody likes to smell a wet dog.
Wouldn’t it be great if all dogs were relaxed, easy going, and well behaved? Being stuck indoors just means a perfect time to work on training & behavior. You don’t need a lot of space to work on simple commands such as sit, stay, or come. Hand signals can be incorporated as well for those times when you need to keep the noise level down. If your dog is one of those who pulls on a leash, now might be a good time to practice not pulling and only rewarding them when they respond appropriately. Correction can be applied by the handler abruptly turning 180 degrees and reversing direction. One such training device I (and many others) have found to be effective is a NewTrix dog halter which works by applying a gentle pressure on the back of the head if they were to pull on the halter. Once they stop pulling, the pressure is relieved. And make it fun by throwing in some tricks; I love seeing my patients do tricks when they come in for a check up.
Games are also a good idea to get a little exercise and sometimes work the brain. Playing tug or fetch are simple and also don’t required a large space. I highly recommend a soft toy for any toss & fetch games but using a hallway or even just an open floor space can give enough room to toss and retrieve their favorite toy. A sturdy tug toy can provide a positive bonding experience. Your dog should learn the command to drop the toy and not make contact with their teeth on your hands. If they do nip you, let out a yelp so they know it hurts. Another simple game is some simple sleight of hand and 3 bowls. Put a treat under a bowl and reward your pet with praise when they’ve completed this scent work activity which is a very beginner step for training scent detection dogs for police or border patrol duties. Are you looking to involve the whole family? Try a game of hide and seek where everyone goes to a different part of the house and takes turn calling your dog. Once they’ve found you, give them some well deserved belly rubs or a treat and then the next person in hiding calls out.
What about your cat? Yes, Felix needs some attention and playtime as well! In the veterinary world, we refer to this as enrichment. Cats are natural hunters and indoor cats may not get the chance to be as natural as their ancestors (but they are safer inside). Those small colored mice that rattle are an excellent way to trigger their senses. Roll the toy in catnip so they can smell it. Shake it up so they can hear it and then throw it allowing them to pounce on it. This is simulating a hunt inside the house to keep cats entertained, less stressed, and active.
There are so many more things you can do to help stave off boredom while inside and help keep your pets from being couch potatoes. Start off with something simple and maybe create your own games! Now what are you waiting for? Go play with your cat or dog!
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian living & working in Kingston, Ontario where he has been an associate vet at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic since 2012. He is a 2006 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and made the trek up north. He & his wife, Jennifer, share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, and 2 horses. You can find more of Ryan’s blogs at www.drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook or Twitter @DrRyanLlera.