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Build A Bond With Your Dog This Winter

The weather isn't great at the moment and outside time might be restricted for you - it definitely is for me and my dogs! You may be worried that your dog will get bored at home with fewer walks. To be healthy and happy dogs need to be stimulated, and to some extent exercise does meet this need - however it's not the only way to provide enrichment. Games and activities can be great fun for both owner and dog, build up your bond and strengthening your relationship; Everyone will feel the benefit! So now is a perfect time to get stuck in and look for new ideas to keep your dogs mentally healthy and occupied!

Here are some ideas for fun and engaging activities for all dogs, of all ages and abilities.  It will help your dog develop confidence along the way!

There are lots of toys/puzzles and games out there but they can be quite expensive, so here's the challenge - why not get creative and look around for resources to make free games, your dog will love them just the same, and you'll have fun making them. Look around for boxes of differing sizes, plastic bottles (remove the cap), egg boxes, old baking trays, fabric pieces, old towels, toilet roll middles, newspaper etc.

Try 'binning the bowl' and use their food allowance throughout the day. Sprinkle kibble in boxes stuffed with scrunched up newspaper, pop a few pieces into a plastic bottle or toilet roll (with the ends folded over), play hide and seek with some of the kibble, play catch the kibble- always a favourite in my house!

Here's my dog Nellie exploring a box during playtime!

An important part of a happy dog is promoting calmness - dogs need rest and down time, this can often be underestimated or overlooked. A great activity for this is a stuffed kong or similar toy; put in a portion of your dog's daily allowance of soaked kibble/food into the kong/toy and pop it in the freezer. When you want your dog to settle, find a quiet space and let your dog calm themselves with the frozen treat.  A licky mat is also great for this, simply spread some meat paste, (dog friendlly) peanut butter or some wet food on the mat and this will provide a calming activity for your dog.

Sniffing is a massively calming activity too, and if a walk isn't on the cards then a snuffle mat or snuffle ball provides natural foraging skills and puts your dog's mind and brain to work. Its hugely satisfying and self-rewarding for your dog and you'll have a calm, contented dog in no time. Simply sprinkle food onto the mat or in the ball and your dog will do the rest! Don't worry if you don't have the materials to make a snuffle mat/ball, simply roll up kibble in a towel or piece of fabric!

Here's Nellie and one of my other dogs, Harvey, sharing the enjoyment of a snuffle mat!

Clink on the Link to see how to make your very own snuffle matl! Whatever your budget or available materials, there's always lots of opportunities for you and your dog to have fun together. Once you see how much your dog benefits, I'm sure it will become part of your daily routine rather than a just bad weather activity!