Winter weather can mean more time spent indoors. It can be a challenge for pet guardians to keep our furry family members entertained. We reached out to our AnimalKind accredited trainers for some easy activities you can do with your dog to help keep them busy and prevent boredom.
1. Snuffle Mats
A snuffle mat is a handmade treat toy that gives dogs the fun and time-consuming opportunity to sniff and search for hidden treats. The snuffle mat consists of fleece strips tied onto a rubber mat with holes.
AnimalKind accredited trainer Brigette Mayer of Harmony Animal Training & Behaviour describes a snuffle mat as “a piece of foraging play equipment where dogs need to use their nose to root through fabric to find kibble and/or treats.”
Since a dog’s sense of smell is their primary sense, Brigette recommends offering your dog an enriching activity by creating an environment that lets them enjoy sniffing at feeding time.
You can get snuffle mats at pet supply stores, but if you are up for a fun project, follow the instructions in the DIY snuffle mat activity (PDF) or watch the video below:
2. Online Dog Training Classes
If you have some time at home with your dog, why not use it as a learning opportunity and have fun together?
AnimalKind training companies have a wide variety of online options. From self-paced courses addressing specific challenges like the ones offered by Sit Pretty Behaviour & Training to the possibilities offered by Proud of My Dog, which has a free online canine food games course for guardians, you can experience what it is like to take dog training classes online before enrolling in a longer one.
These online resources are a great option, especially if you have time to practice what you learn:
- Sit Pretty Behaviour & Training (self-pace and webinars)
- Proud of My Dog (free + paid options)
- SmartDog (virtual group training classes)
In addition to these courses, one-on-one private online training sessions are also offered by many AnimalKind trainers. Keep in mind these accredited companies use only reward-based training methods, so the time you spend with your dog practicing what you have learned translates into a stronger bond and happy times for you both.
3. Dog Enrichment
When thinking about providing extra enrichment in your dog’s life, the best place to start is to consider what makes them happy. Some dogs are food motivated, while others find the most joy from playing with toys.
- Rotating toys is a practice that will bring excitement to your dog every time a “new” toy is rediscovered. AnimalKind dog trainer Valerie Barry (Dog Partners) does this with her dog Jack, and he loves it. “What I’ve started doing is leaving him six or so stuffed toys to play with. I put the rest away, and then I rotate them out on a reasonably regular, but not predictably regular basis.”
- Try hiding your dog’s toys around the house in different, dog-accessible locations and teach your dog to “find it”.
- Put the toys away in a toy box so your dog can enjoy bringing each one out and spreading them about the house again.
4. Scent Games
Fulfilling sniffing is the term used by AnimalKind dog trainer Allison Schaefer of Ethical Canine. The idea behind scent games is using your dog’s natural sniffing skills in a playful way. The great thing about these games is that they require little to no preparation. The only items you’ll need are stinky and delicious food treats.
Start by hiding a treat under a blanket or towel and encouraging the dog to find it. When they indicate they can smell it, help them get it out. Progress to using larger blankets and wrap the treat up inside. Allison has a Scent Games at Home downloadable PDF that includes 5 scent challenges for you to try.
5. Try New Tricks
We teach our dogs tricks for so many reasons, mainly so that they have something to do with their energy but also as a bonding exercise. AnimalKind accredited trainer Amelia Kellum, of Wag the Dog shares two tricks to get you started:
A trick that requires three things: your dog, some treats and a small object. It only takes three steps: cue, action and reward. Watch below:
A trick where your dog learns to pop up between your legs. Watch below:
Want to make your dog happier? Here are some tips and advice from dog trainers:
- Nosy pups – sniffing their way to happiness
- Sniff, bark, dig, chew! How to help your dog express natural behaviours