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Things to Do With Your Pet Inside During the Winter Months | Hastings Veterinary Hospital

Things to Do With Your Pet Inside During the Winter Months

Winter is upon us! While this season is usually marked by cozy nights at home, time spent with friends and family, and the odd festive celebration, it’s also often a challenging time for pet owners. Between rain, snow, and the cold, it’s often a lot to ask to get pets outdoors as often as you’d like. This is especially true for senior pets, who may have a harder time walking on frozen ground or staying warm in cold temperatures. 

So what to do? Despite the weather, there’s always a way to give your pet the mental and physical stimulation they need—even without leaving the house. In this guide, we’ll go over a few ideas for things to do with your dog or cat at home during the colder months of the year.

Before We Begin: A Note on Cold Weather and Bathroom Breaks for Dogs

One common issue we hear about from dog owners is that their small pup doesn’t want to go outside to do their business when the weather is too cold. While we can’t exactly blame them, this can still lead to challenging situations and possibly a frustrating mess to clean up. 

So what’s the solution? Here are a few ideas:

  • Try dog booties to see if cold feet is the problem. Paw pads are sensitive, and this might be enough to get them comfortable enough to go outside for their bathroom break.
  • Invest in a doggy jacket—just as with cold feet, sometimes it’s just too cold for a dog to want to go outside. Try out a jacket or sweater designed to keep your pup warm while they’re outside.
  • Try making a designated potty area. If your dog is used to going on grass, they might get confused when it’s covered with snow. Consider leaving a small path and area shovelled clear for them to do their business.
  • When they do go, be sure to reward them. This will help form a positive association with going outside in cold weather, and should make them more likely to do it consistently.

Another great reward idea is to try one of these activities after your dog has been outside!

Indoor Activities for Dogs

Dogs can be more challenging to keep active and stimulated indoors during the winter months. They generally need lots of exercise, which can be hard to come by when the weather outside is frightful. Here are a few indoor ideas to keep your dog occupied:

1. Play Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a great game to play with your dog. Not only does it help foster their instincts to seek things out, but it’s also great for honing their skills, such as ‘come,’ ‘sit,’ and ‘stay.’ All you have to do is command your dog to stay in a room while you (or one of your children) finds a place to hide. Then, simply call your dog to come and wait for them to find you! Be sure to reward them with pets, treats, and/or praise when they do find you in order to keep the game fun for your dog. 

2. Come Up With a Game

If hide and seek isn’t your dog’s style, there are still lots of other games to try out with your pup this winter. You can buy puzzle toys or interactive treat dispensers for your dog to play with. Load them up with your dog’s favourite treats, and you’ll see just how engrossing these simple toys can be. Of course, you can always make your own game out of things you have at home—try putting a few treats in a muffin tin and covering every hole with a tennis ball. Set it down for your dog, and watch as they work out which ones have treats and how to get at them.

Don’t be afraid to get creative when coming up with games for your dog. As long as there’s some kind of reward involved, they’ll probably be very motivated to play, helping to keep them occupied and fending off cabin fever during the winter.

3. Teach Your Dog a New Skill

The winter is a perfect time to work on skill training with your dog! There are all kinds of skills and tricks to consider teaching—you could try naming specific toys and teaching the names to your dog, instructing them to bring you a specific toy and rewarding them when they do. You could teach them to go to their bed when told to, or even teach them to clean up their own toys!

If you have a younger dog, this is also a great time to work on foundational skills. You can practice loose-leash walking (so that your dog isn’t always tugging you along) inside, teach a puppy to sit, stay, or lie down, or even work on something a little more fun, such as shaking a paw.

Indoor Activities for Cats

Whether your cat normally likes to hang out outside or is indoors all the time, it’s common for cats to get a little pent-up during the winter months, especially when more people are at home all the time. Here are a few ways to keep them occupied and help them get some exercise at home:

1. Make a Perch

As you probably know, cats love a high-up vantage point to sit on and peer out over the world. Creating a little perch for your feline friend is a great way to encourage them to climb around, and they’ll be able to enrich their mind by taking in the world around them. We recommend creating a perch near a window since cats love watching the world go by. 

Make sure the window is clear of objects. If you have blinds or curtains, it might be worth moving them so your cat isn’t tempted to play with them. Also, be sure that the perch itself is secure and stable—a cat tower is one idea, but you can also install a shelf or some other kind of sturdy platform for your cat to sit on.

2. Create Something for Your Cat to Explore

Cats love to climb around and explore! You can help your cat keep an active mind and body by creating little obstacles and exploration courses around the home for them to play in. These don’t have to be incredibly complex or expensive—in fact, you can create a very fun exploration area out of something as simple as a few cardboard boxes. Some cats might prefer to dig around in crumpled wrapping paper, or perhaps cozy up in a blanket fort. Even a tap left slightly open so that water is dripping out can occupy your cat for ages.

Experiment a little to see what your cat enjoys the most—and always supervise them when they play with something new to make sure they stay safe. 

3. Teach Your Cat a New Trick

When people think of teaching a trick to a pet, cats probably don’t come to mind. But in reality, cats can and will learn new tricks and skills if you set your mind to it! Whether you want to teach them to sit, jump onto your arm for a treat, or even play fetch, you can absolutely teach your cat a new trick this winter with enough patience (and treats).

Wintertime doesn’t need to be boring for your pet! With the right attitude, you can help keep their minds occupied and their bodies active all season long, which will help the warmer months come along that much sooner. 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

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