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Deb Collins

Deb is a New Zealander, aka Kiwi, who lives in Maine with her husband, Mike, and her happy-go-wiggly Labrador Retriever, Ted. In 2011, Deb launched her own online business. HappyME, to celebrate happy Maine stuff and exploring Vacationland with your dog. Deb will be blogging about everything dog and sniffing out fun things to do with your wag. More at | On Facebook at | Follow on Twitter @happyMEstuff

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Posted: January 15, 2015

Got cabin fever? 5 dog-friendly ways to beat the winter blues

When the weather is really frigid, it’s easy for you and your furry best friends to come down with a case of the winter blues. Here are five different techniques to make sure your dog doesn’t turn into a couch potato and pack on the winter pounds.

Written by: Deb Collins
Got Cabin Fever?

Got Cabin Fever?

1. Work to Play

Our dog, Ted, loves to turn daily tasks into a game, which can be a great way to multi-task and make chore time more fun.

Just Add Ball
Ted is a member of B.A.A aka ball-aholics-anonymous, he loves to insert ball play into our daily chores like vacuuming and shoveling snow. It’s a great exercise in patience for Ted as he waits for the next ball toss or kick and it makes chores a little more fun for us too.

Shovel Ball

Shovel Ball with Ted

Give Your Dog A Job
Most of us feel better when we are productive and dogs are no different. Add some daily rituals to help punctuate your dog’s day. Ted is a retriever so some of his daily ways to earn cookie pay includes collecting his Zogo toys from around the house for stuffing purposes. See my Thanksgiving Pacifier recipe article if you want to know more about these doggy treats. Our previous dog, affectionately known as Angel Kaye, loved to be given different  tasks. Before walkies in the morning Kaye would bring my husband and I our shoes, she always managed to bring us both matching pairs.

Ted brings his "Zogo" toy to be re-stuffed with tasty morsels.

Ted brings his “Zogo” toy to be re-stuffed with tasty morsels.

2. Errands With a Wag

If your dog is a social wag, then being inside and not seeing other people or dogs can definitely lead to a case of cabin fever. If you’re heading out to do some errands and your dog enjoys a car ride, this can be a good way to break up their day and stimulate their senses.

Ted would love to drive if he could. He's my backseat co-pilot - he always wears his Kurgo safety belt.

Ted would love to drive if he could. He’s my backseat co-pilot – he always wears his Kurgo safety belt.

Cash in at the bank
Our Ted loves it when I go through the bank drive-through. The transaction capsules at our local bank always deliver a cookie and if he’s lucky, he’ll get one at the beginning and tail-end of the transaction.

Weigh in at the vet
It’s a good idea to pop-by your vet’s office for unscheduled “hello” visits to ensure your dog perceives the vet as a positive place that’s all about happy greetings and treats. Regular checks of your dog’s weight is a good idea – it’s hard to notice weight changes when you see your best friend everyday.

Visit your local dog shop
When you need wag supplies, your social best friend will enjoy the opportunity to smooze with staff at your local dog store. You can also check out their websites and social media channels to discover in-store activities like training sessions and informational clinics.

3. Inside Games

On those particularly cold days when you need to limit your outdoor playtime, there’s no reason why you can’t bring the fun and games inside. Practicing simple training exercises indoors can be a good way to pass the time and you can spice it up with different games.

Puzzles are loaded waiting for the "go" command. Ted is playing Casino and cousin Laddie will tackle the Tornado.

The Puzzles are loaded waiting for the “go” command. Ted is playing Casino and cousin Laddie will tackle the Tornado.

Puzzle time
Picking up a puzzle from your local pet store can be a great addition to your after dinner repertoire. Nina Ottosson’s range of puzzles allow you and your dog to play fireside – some dogs will use their noses and others will paw their way through the game. The idea is for this to be an owner and dog bonding time. Ted patiently lies there, intently watching, as I set up the game of the day. I have coined certain phrases to help him along like “slide it” for moving pieces or “flick it out” for plugs.

Hide and go seek
An old favorite that allows your dog to release some energy and do a little doggie detective work. This is a good training game for kids but there’s no reason why big “kids” can’t play along. Ask your dog to stay and then go somewhere in the house and hide. When you’re ready, call you dog – we use the command “find me”. Your dog might need a little guidance from a training partner. You can add sound clues from your hideout to help your dog if their nose is not detecting you. When your dog finds you, reward them with praise and a treat – then play it again. It won’t be long and they will get to know your favorite hiding places and get better at tracking you down.

4. Schedule a Play-Date

If your dog is used to bumping into dog-lovers and tail-waggers on their neighborhood jaunts or hikes, you might find during the winter months that you need to make plans rather than leaving it to chance. Have like-minded friends bring their dogs over for a play-date or meet them for a hike – ruffing around with a playmate can be a great way for social dogs to let off some steam.

Play date

Playtime feeds a social dog’s soul

5. Go Play In Winter’s Wonderland

Don’t use winter as an excuse not to exercise your dog. The snowy trails make a perfect natural treadmill where the added resistance will help you and your dog burn more calories. Be sure to bundle up and add some Mushers Wax to your dogs paws. Add an extra coat if your pal feels the cold and adjust your outdoor time depending on the temperatures.

Ted Beach Dance - D.Collins HappyME, LLC

Maine’s beaches go to the dogs in winter. Go play!

Winter has it’s doggie benefits with more dog-friendly beach time. Check out my Maine Wag article Happy Tails Unleashed for off-leash beach destinations in the Greater Portland region and go blow-out the winter cobwebs with your four-paw drive.

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