While you might think it’s acceptable to put on a few pounds between Thanksgiving and the first major ice thaw, it can be quite dangerous to your pet’s health to even put on a couple of pounds over the winter months. In addition to gaining weight from all that lounging about and extra holiday treats, your pet can develop bad habits or even get into trouble due to seasonal boredom.
People can get motivated and go to the gym, but dogs need their owners to get creative and find ways for them to get active. The seasonal pet tips provided in this article can help you, but if you need more support, visit your local veterinary clinic in Dartmouth. Anchor Animal Hospital provides regular check-ups and care in addition to being a professional Dartmouth emergency vet for pets in the surrounding South Coast area.
Winter Behavior Issues
When the weather is good, chances are your dog is getting out and into the “world” by going for walks around the block, visiting dog parks or at least running around in the backyard. Exercise is an important ingredient in your dog’s all-around health, so you need to provide some sort of activity all year-long. Without an outlet for exercise, behavior issues can come up that you have never seen before, and some can be quite dangerous.
Some of the most common winter behavior issues seen in dogs can include:
- chewing on furniture, bedding, non-chew toys, etc.
- overly hyper greetings – including jumping, pawing, nipping and barking
- getting into the trash can and making messes
- increased aggression and anxiety – barking,
- yipping, growling and snapping
- intentional bathroom “accidents” indoors to show their frustration
The best way to think about these behaviors is like a sort of “cabin fever.” They go a little stir crazy when they can’t get out and exercise in the fresh air, just like people do. The best way to prevent these possible behavioral issues is not by training or discipline when the behavior occurs, but in providing regular daily exercise for your dog, regardless of the weather. You should aim to provide your dog with at least two activities per day to keep them stimulated, as well as socialization opportunities whenever possible, so they won’t develop issues with other dogs.
Idea #1 – Toys & Games
The pet product industry has been working overtime to keep putting out new ideas in toys and games to keep pets busy indoors and out. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to invest a lot of money into the latest and greatest toys. Depending on the type of dog that you have and the things that get him or her interested, you can get away with simple games like tug-o-war, fetch and chase. Each of these basic games helps to teach an important skill or perform a beneficial form of exercise. Tug teaches self-control and helps dogs to learn the “rules” of play. Fetch doesn’t have to be played with a ball, but can be played with stuffed toys, a balled up sock or anything they won’t try to “consume” when they get it. Chase can be played in a garage or basement if there isn’t a lot of room in the living area of your home.
Idea #2 – Food or Treat Hunt
Now the last thing you want to do when trying to get your dog some exercise in the winter, is give him so many treats that all the exercise in the world won’t combat the extra calories. However, that being said, you can play a food or treat hunt with your dog to get the up and moving during the day. Some dog owners put kibble into a food puzzle toy instead of treats, providing an activity during meal time. You can also “hide” treats around the room in spaces where it’s OK for your dog to go. This will get them to use their “sniffer” to find the treats or food pieces instead of just eating out of the bowl. Training your dog to use their nose is a great way to engage them mentally as well, instead of just physically.
Idea #3 – Training Course
Whether you create a homemade obstacle course at home, or take your dog to a canine training center, teaching your dog how to navigate the various stations in a training course can be extremely beneficial. At home, create obstacles with chairs, blankets, tables and other common household items. Think weaving poles, tunnels and jumps! Obedience training can be excellent for most breeds, especially dogs who need to be mentally stimulated throughout the course of the day. This type of play can also help to provide your dog with skills that can be used in other ways to keep him or her safe and healthy.
Visit Your Local Veterinary Clinic in Dartmouth
If you think your dog requires extra attention or if he or she is having difficulty doing any of these activities, Westport pet owners and pet owners throughout the South Coast region can bring their pets into Anchor Animal Hospital. Seasonal pet tips should be considered with regard to the age, health, mobility and agility of your specific pet. If you have any questions or if you need emergency assistance, you can call or visit our Dartmouth emergency vet clinic. Contact us by phone at 508-996-3731 to speak with one of our veterinary staff team members.