Winter Training – What to do when the weather outside is frightful!

dog training in the winter
It’s unlikely to be this beautiful outside for long in Hampshire over the winter – so what can we do instead?

We all know that dogs need exercise and stimulation, and a lovely long rambling walk which allows the dog to sniff, includes training and engagement with you and allows them to interact with nature and other people and dogs where appropriate provides it all.

This is easy to accomplish in the summer, with long, light evenings and a warmth lasting into the night. However, a dogs needs don’t change just because the weather does. You must get out with your dog when possible so that they can stretch their legs and have a frolic, but when you can’t? When the walks are cut short due to wind, rain, snow, ice, mud, howling gales, hailstorms, Christmas cheer and New Years hangovers?

Thats when we need to turn to mental stimulation for the win! If a dog’s brain is full and happy, the dog will be full and happy.

So, what can we do to stimulate that brain?

My favourite go-to is trick training. Many tricks can be taught with minimal to no equipment, in little areas and often with little prior knowledge. Teaching a dog to wave, roll over, play dead, tidy up their toys and jump through hoops are great ones, and will earn you extra kudos as party tricks (Ask me how I know! Ocean is such a show off.)

Scentwork is great too. You can either hide little treats around the room and set your dog off, or teach them to hunt for a particular scent. You don’t have to use a ‘proper’ scent kit unless you want to – herbs and spices from the kitchen will work, just be careful to choose something dog friendly! Remember to keep it simple for the inexperienced hunter, they need to win at this game to build up resilience to keep searching when they haven’t found anything. You want them to win!

Puzzles are brilliant, you can buy all sorts of treat puzzles these days, from simple treat balls to snufflemats to full logic building challenges. However, you can also build your own. A simple one is to stuff a box full of upended, empty, toilet and kitchen rolls until they are jammed in, then sprinkle treats inside them. The dog will have great fun learning their own technique for getting every last morsel of food out. If you take all the hard plastic off of a bottle you can even put a couple of treats inside and watch your pooch attempt to get them out. Be careful with these games though, and supervise at all times to make sure they aren’t ingesting anything which isn’t part of the game!

And lastly, and most importantly…. Play With Your Dog.
Play with them. Grab that tug, hide that ball, run round the house on all fours, play bitey hand, whatever it is your dog likes to do as a form of bonding with you, let them. Ocean likes to tug with me, but she loves to wrestle with my husband and retrieve balls for my one year old boys. Just a 10 minutes several times a day, and your dog will not even notice that he had a measly five minute walk in the rain to the bottle bank before your neighbours noticed the pile growing on your front porch.

There are plenty of virtual challenges you can do with your dogs over the winter months to keep you going – and remember our classes run all the way through winter, and we also do workshops on trick training and playing as a relationship builder, so feel free to enquire about those!

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