This winter our weather patterns have been a tad unusual for sure. As a result the panic calls have been coming in March instead of the more typical January. The panic calls that occur often like clockwork about 2-3 days after the first major snow storm. Most often from adolescent dog owners, for whom this is the first winter of the relationship. Nearly all relate a sudden behavioral change in their dog. And after a few questions it becomes clear nearly all are related to the fact their boisterous young dog has been cooped up in the house for 2-3 days.
So my gift to all owners out there experiencing their first snow days with their young dog, a few Snow Day Survival Strategies:
1. Remember that though the cold and snow may cause you to want to hibernate, (and you might be exhausted from shoveling) your dog’s mental and physical needs still have to be met. If they aren’t, well, some behaviors you might find alarming or annoying may start to occur such as chewing objects, barking at every little thing, pestering the heck out of you, your family members or other pets, toileting in the house (especially if you aren’t taking the dog out as often or for as long as you otherwise would in warmer weather), refusing to come inside when called, and so on.
2. We are New Englanders, hardy stock and all, so if you can safely, bundle up and get outside. A brisk walk can do wonders for your dog’s energy and you may find yourself nice and toasty warm after the first block or so. YakTrax are great for helping with traction on icy paths.
3. If a walk isn’t in the cards, some yard play (use a long line if you don’t have a fenced yard) can do nicely. Playing king (or queen) of the snow mound, hide and seek with toys or treats in the drifts, bounding through the snow, chasing snow balls, you’ll have a panting tired pup in no time.
4. If you can drive, pop the dog in the car and practice your skills or exploring somewhere new. Even the local shopping plaza parking lot can be a new and exciting place to train. (Be mindful of salt on your dog’s feet, and use booties or paw wax as needed)
5. If outside really isn’t your or your dog’s cup of tea, indoor games can also be had. One of our favorites is hide and seek. You can play many variations of this using toys, food, or people.
6. Food based puzzle toys can give your dog some mental enrichment in the house. Kong’s, Busy Buddy, lick it mats and snuffle mats are some of my dog’s favorites.
7. Training is a fantastic way to burn off some of your dog’s mental and physical energy. Review your foundation skills or teach a completely new skill! When was the last time your dog learned a new trick? Play dead, roll over, paw, back up, and spin are some classics. Or if you’d like to get fancy, teach your dog to close the kitchen cabinets, put their toys away in a bin, or get you a tissue when you sneeze.
With a little preparation your dog’s first snow storm and the days following can be ones of full of fun, learning and enrichment. Enjoy!