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The Dog Files: Fun Winter Games for Your Pet

by Jennifer Tripucka
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 As a dog owner myself, I know how agonizing these brutal winter {and spring!} months can be with an energetic dog.  Also, I’m very familiar with that guilty feeling because you are not stimulating your dog as much as when it’s warmer out- running with, biking with, playing with, eating with at outdoor restaurants, drinking with at Pier 13 — or just taking that extra long walk along the waterfront because it’s so beautiful outside.


Hopefully, some of these suggestions can help provide some relief to you and your pup during this extremely cold winter season!

Go somewhere new.

Switching up your dog’s path, going new places, or just going on a different route offers the excitement and mental stimulation of new sights and smells, in addition to exercise. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, get in your car and drive to a new dog park.  I like Brookdale in Montclair because it’s bigger than any dog park in Hoboken, and its not too far if you have a car.

Teach something new.

Don’t underestimate your pup!  Dogs love learning, love the challenge, love pleasing their owners, and of course love the treats that come as a reward!  Did you know that mental exercise tires a dog more quickly and thoroughly than physical exercise? Try to teach your dog a new trick each week!  Can your dog balance a treat on his nose?  Shake a paw?  Roll over?  Crawl along the floor?  Jump through a hoop?  Play dead?  Retrieve?  Pick a new trick, and start training!  Don’t forget that consistency is very important when training.  Teaching your pup a new trick will also enhance the bond between you and your dog.  And if you teach them a trick that also relates to obedience training- leave it, off, down – well, ever better!

Give your dog a bone or a food dispensing toy.

Chewing is healthy for dogs, and helps them relieve stress as well.  Food dispensing toys are invaluable boredom busters. While rubber Kongs are great toys and can be stuffed with a great variety of treats and tasties, there are many other options on the market now — check out your local pet store!

Go on a kibble hunt.

If you place your dog’s kibble in a food bowl, chances are the bowl is empty within 15 seconds and the dog gazes up at you upon finishing as if to say, “is that it?”  You can put that food to work for you by making your dog hunt for it with his nose. Instead of dumping the food in his bowl, consider crating him, or putting him in another room, while you hide small piles of food in the house then release him to “kibble hunt.” Initially, make the piles very easy to find. As your dog gets better at this game, practice hiding the food in more difficult spots.

Play hide and seek.

Hide and seek is a great way to exercise your dog’s mind and body and recall skills. You can do this alone or with your friends or family. Hide (or take turns hiding if there is more than 1 person playing) throughout the house, calling the dog to you, and rewarding her generously with treats or maybe a game of tug once your pup finds you. If you are playing with more than 1 person, when the treats are finished, say “all done!” which is the cue for the next person to call him.

Do something old with a new twist.

Turn your dog’s favorite game into a training game!  For every throw of the toy, ask your dog for some obedience behavior or trick as you hold the toy.  As soon as your dog performs, give him some praise, then send your dog after his toy.  Dogs adore this game, once they understand how it works.  For working breeds, it also gives them a fun, satisfying outlet for their built-in drive to work with you.

Arrange a movement.

Dogs benefit from social interaction outside their family unit.  If your dog gets along well with other dogs, find some time to get together with a friend or relative and their dog.  The great thing about a play date is that it doesn’t have to be outside in the frigid cold, it can be inside your homes.  Just make sure to pick up all dog toys if your dog is toy aggressive.


What do you do to keep your dog active and happy during the winter months?!

{Editor’s note: Cats aren’t the only ones that LOVE a laser pointer!}



A little about the author, Loni Rudolph:  Loni lives in Hoboken with her pets, Valentino, Leo and Mya, and she has lived here since 2002, when she started law school at Seton Hall.  After graduating in 2005, and practicing Matrimonial Law for four years in New York City, Loni decided to follow her true passion- animals! She founded Whiskers and Leo Pet Care, a professional dog walking and pet sitting company, in 2008 and never looked back!



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