JoAnna Lou
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Indoor Fun
Keeping busy when it’s cold outside
Nemo plays with the DogTornado he got for Christmas.

The freezing weather and snow have been making me and the dogs a little stir crazy lately, especially now that the holidays have come and gone. 

Here are some of the activities I have lined up to keep the pups busy until the snow melts.

Food Balls and Kongs
An easy way to occupy the dogs is to feed meals in stuffed Kongs or food balls, toys that can be filled with kibble and rolled on the floor to release the treats. 

My Sheltie, Nemo, has gotten quite good at getting kibble out of most treat balls, so I usually use the Nina Ottosson DogPyramid, which is more challenging. The beehive-shaped toy is weighted at the bottom so that it always returns to a standing position.

Nina Ottosson Interactive Toys
Speaking of Nina Ottosson, my crew got a couple of her puzzle toys from Santa this year. There are several different versions, each with varying degrees of difficulty. They require a little more thought than the food balls and are definitely more interesting for the humans to watch!

Tugging with your dog is a great way to get lots of energy out--humans included! (I’m always amazed at how tired I feel after a good tugging session). Check out my previous blog for instructions on how to make your own tug toy from an old t-shirt.

Shaping Games
Playing with the clicker is a great relationship-building activity that you can do together. You’ll be surprised how exhausted your pup can get from just using his brain! This doesn’t mean that you have to actively train a new behavior; often it’s better if you don’t have a set outcome in mind. If you’re new to shaping, try the 101 Things to Do with a Box game.

Do you have any favorite indoor activities?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by Dog Connections | January 1 2010 |

It can be difficult when the weather is bad to keep our dogs active physically and mentally. All the activities you listed are great.

I have a couple to add to that.

Go Look Game: Hide a treat or favorite toy somewhere in the house and get your dog to go look and find it.

Practice down stay: Have your dog on a down stay in one room. Walk away in a different room. Your dog has to wait until you call his name to find you. I usually then play tug a war or ball.

You can also teach your dog to through the ball back to you. First have him in a sit position, facing you. You sit on the floor too. Through the ball and get him to through it back at you. Great to play in small places. I use to play this game a lot when I was stuck in hotels with my dog.

Interesting point: 10 minutes of mental activities will get your dog as tired as one hour walk.

Submitted by Jill | January 6 2010 |

I will put a few treats, a kong, or even a marrow bone wrapped up in a towel or blanket. The dog will not only have to hunt to find it, but then she will have to "dig" it out.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 7 2010 |

I read about a homemade puzzle on the I Love My Bad Dog blog. Take a muffin tin. Put treats in each of the holders. Put a ball on each, and let them track down the treats. Kept my pup working for awhile. When I put it up on the counter, he stared longingly at the tin.

Submitted by Lisa Wogan | January 7 2010 |

How about Living Room Agility? Check out Christina Sondermann's story in Bark last January. http://thebark.com/content/living-room-agility

Submitted by Anonymous | January 13 2010 |

Regarding "tugging": I have always heard that playing tug-o-war with a dog can encourage biting.

Submitted by JoAnna | January 13 2010 |

It's a common misconception that tugging can encourage biting and other aggressive behaviors. Tugging, done properly, can actually teach self-control among other benefits. I love this topic for a blog post. Stay tuned next week!

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