A big thank you to BarknBig for guest writing this blog, as part of our monthly Business Partner Program. BarknBig manufactures premium canine treats and chews, and is located in Loveland, CO. They can be reached at Barknbig.com and 970.663.4561.

With the excitement of the holidays and a steady stream of extra visitors behind us, the winter doldrums may be planning a visit to your house – especially for your dog.  Walks tend to be shorter because of the weather which leaves even more time for your dog to be bored.  What to do?  Liven things up!

Play Games or Teach a New Trick

When forced to spend a lot of time indoors, playing games or learning a new trick are excellent ways to stimulate your dog and keep boredom at bay. I used to have a dog named Macie – a wire-haired terrier mixed with nosy-neighbor dog!  She was adopted from a Humane Society in Denver and, to this day, she’s the smartest dog I’ve ever had.

One of Macie’s favorite games to play was hide and seek.  I would have her sit on the rug in front of the kitchen sink and tell her to STAY.  I would then go hide.  Once I was in place, I would yell, “Ready or not, here I come!” and then call her to come find me.  She would go from room to room looking for me.  When she was close but then turned around to go to another room, I would whimper like a whining puppy.  She would stop dead in her tracks, her ears would perk up, and she’d intently resume her search.  Sometimes she would find me behind the bedroom door.  Sometimes she would find me curled up under a cover on the floor.  She even found me in the tub behind the shower curtain.  Her excitement when she found me was pure, heart-warming joy.  Your dog may enjoy this more than you think.

Dogs also like to play FIND IT and WHERE IS IT.  For FIND IT, I like to use plastic Easter eggs.  I would put one piece of Macie’s food inside each egg, then ask her to sit and watch me while I hid them around the house.  When all the eggs were hidden, I would tell her to FIND IT.  She always did!

For WHERE IS IT, we also used pieces of dog food under plastic cups.  I would show her which cup covered the food, then mixed them up and asked her, “Where is it?”.  Her nose enthusiastically tipped the right cup over and she proudly consumed her reward.  BarknBig dehydrated lung treats are perfect for FIND IT and WHERE IS IT.  Beef and bison lung fillets are 100% U.S. single-ingredient, airy treats that can be broken into small pieces for use when you play games with your dog, or as training rewards for star-pupil behavior.

A little more physically stimulating is popping bubbles.  Dogs are fascinated by bubbles floating through the air.  Very excited dogs will plan their jumps before the last of the wand is empty.  Children’s non-toxic bubbles are readily available, inexpensive, and most important they’re safe!

Feeding Time

One thing that pets do year-round is eat – but ditching the traditional bowl and switching it up with an interactive dog bowl during winter is a mentally stimulating activity that helps to fend off boredom. There are feeders that naturally slow the pace at which dogs can eat because they have to find and dig out the pieces of food rather than just gulping the entire bowl in 3.2 seconds.

There are also puzzle bowls that take it up a notch.  Pieces of food are released through various openings – but only when your dog pushes the right buttons.  By using these types of bowls only during winter months, it relieves boredom when dogs really need the stimulation.  By taking it away for part of the year, it becomes a new challenge next season.

Treat Time

Dogs love treats – a LOT – and they also like to work for (and savor) their treats.  Enter stuffed treats!  BarknBig Premium Canine Chews, located in Loveland, CO, just a few miles from Larimer Humane Society, makes fully consumable treats that are not only delicious but also very healthy. 100% U.S. beef or bison trachea strips are delicious just the way they’re made – and they’re even more delicious when filled with wet dog food, peanut butter, and pumpkin.  To take it up a notch, freeze the filled trachea strips and watch your dog savor every last morsel. BarknBig also carries beef and bison bones: frozen raw bones as well as slow-roasted bones.  These delicious single-ingredient healthy bones not only make your dogs very happy, they contribute to your dog’s mental stimulation and they’re also very helpful at controlling plaque on your dogs’ teeth.

Winter boredom doesn’t have to be a thing for your pets this year.  With a little imagination, you can be the best boredom-buster in town!  So long as your dog is stimulated and rewarded for excellent participation, they will be happy, healthy, and looking forward to longer days and warmer temperatures – just in time for walks to resume!