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Winter Activities for Dogs: Use up That Excess Energy

By Liz Palika

Winter Activities for Dogs

Cold and rainy or dark, snow-filled days can wreak havoc with your dog’s normal routine. He is going to expect his walk and play sessions to happen on schedule and when they don’t, he’ll be restless and unhappy. You can substitute different activities, however, that are even more fun and use up that excess energy.

Trick Training

Trick training is great fun. When you teach your dog tricks, you’ll practice your training skills; it may not be obedience training, but it’s still training. Plus, you’ll have fun, your dog’s tail won’t stop wagging, and you’ll keep his brain and body busy on those cold, winter days.

There are a variety of tricks you can teach your dog. A simple trick is ‘Take a Bow,’ while a more complicated but awesome trick is ‘Teach the A, B, C’s.’ You can also teach your dog to touch a target, play peek-a-boo, or weave through your legs. If you’d like a little more active trick, teach your dog to have fun with a hoop.

When your dog has learned several tricks, you can put them together so that you create a routine. Add some commentary to it and then show off your skills.

Obedience Training

When winter weather has you stuck in the house, use some of that time to do some obedience training. You might be surprised how much training can be done inside.

Practice the sit, down, and stay in various places around the house. Ask your dog to do a down-stay away from the dinner table while people are eating. Have him sit at the front or back door so you can towel him off before he comes in the house.

The watch me command is easy to teach inside. Practice this in different parts of the house – even the garage and the porch – or while you’re watching TV. Have a few dog treats at hand and when commercials come on, practice a few times. Keep the training fun and exciting. Vary what you’re doing and mix it up with your trick training.


The hardest part of being housebound is making sure your dog is getting enough exercise. If you have a toy or small breed dog, this isn’t as tough but it’s hard to exercise a large or giant breed dog inside.

However, puppy push-ups can be a good brain and body exercise for dogs of all sizes. Start with just a few push-ups and then increase how many your dog does. See how many your dog can do in 30 seconds.

For more exercise, if you’re not in a second or third floor apartment, and if you have carpet, toss a ball down the hallway and let your dog do some retrieving. (Don’t do this on a slippery floor as the chance of injury is too great.)

To make things more exciting, and to increase his exercise, add a few obstacles for your dog to jump over as he dashes down the hall. Place a board sideways across the hall so it becomes a jump. Keep the jumps very low as flooring isn’t the best for jumping. Two inches for a toy breed dog and eight inches for a giant breed dog is fine.

Be Imaginative

Use your imagination to keep you and your dog busy. Play games, learn tricks, and find new things to do. For example, food-dispensing toys are awesome. Keep in mind, a bored dog – especially a puppy or adolescent – is going to get into trouble. He may chew on your belongings, raid the trash cans, bark too much, or bounce on the furniture. Keeping your dog’s brain and body busy is the best way to prevent problem behaviors. 

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