by Carol Bryant for

Cabin fever. Winter blues. Whatever you choose to call it, both humans and our dogs can get a case of the wintertime blahs. No need to fret, worry, pace or line the house with sunlamps. There are things pet parents can do in the name of dog to keep their pooch in tip-top mental and physical shape as winter envelops this time of year.


Shop: Set a budget and get your dog something new to play with. It can be as simple as a new ball or chew toy, or one of the new thinking/”brain” games on the market. These toys will keep your dogs busy and entertained.

Hide: One of my favorite indoor games is “hide and go seek” with my dog. I’ve been recommending this game for years. Simply hide and have another person keep the dog in a separate room. I keep a little doggie treat in my hand. Let out a “find me” shout and let the games begin. If space is limited, don’t worry- around the corner, in the closet or behind a door will work just fine!

Exercise: Have you seen how busy gyms are this time of year? We make our New Year’s resolutions and take to treadmills and workout machines. The same can apply to Fido. Try some indoor activity. I chase Dexter from room to room. He and I also run up and down the steps a few times. For older dogs, or those with vision problems, hold a treat in one hand and allow Rover to roam with you from room to room. Movement is good, muscles stay active and dogs won’t get bored.

Kong: One of my favorite words in the universe for indoor play. I am truly madly and deeply thankful for Kong toys. If I had a nickel for every time I recommended Kong toys, I’d be a semi-rich person by now. Insert treats or sliced up vegetables (or even dog kibble) and let Fido explore, investigate and ultimately knock the treats out. Be careful not to make it too hard for dogs to get the contents out.

Play Dates: Throughout the year, my dog has play dates. A group of us take turns as to which house to visit. If you have a monthly or twice-monthly play date for your pooch with other canines, it will stimulate his mind and give him something fun and out of the ordinary to do. Visiting and playing with others comes in handy especially when outdoor play is at a winter minimum.

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