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My Top Five Favorite Activities for Cold Weather Enrichment

Brrrr, it’s cold out there! It’s officially Winter here in Chicagoland, and with extremely cold temperatures and blowing winds come shorter walks and cabin fever! When it gets below freezing I don’t like walking with my dogs for more then 15 minutes at a time, so we have to get a little creative here to make sure that Regis and Phoebe aren't bored to tears (and Mary isn’t driven crazy!) The following list has my go-to activities for keeping my dogs entertained while we eagerly wait for spring:

1. Puzzle and Food dispensing toys (Store bought and home made!)

Disclaimer: I’m a huge fan of having dogs work for their food in all seasons, not just cold weather! Regis and Phoebe rarely eat out of a bowl, and we have a number of store bought and home made food dispensing toys that we can use. There is a behavioral phenomena in dog behavior where, even if they are offered ‘free’ food, dogs will choose to work for their food. It’s called contra-freeloading, and is a great way to crate enrichment opportunities for our dogs.

Some of my favorite food dispensing toys are the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball, the Kong Wobbler, this Snuffle mat, and the original Kong (See “How to Stuff a Kong” for ideas on how to feed your dog’s meal out of the kong). You can also purchase puzzle toys such as this one created by Nina Ottosson. Each of these are easy to use and put your dog’s regular kibble in. Just put your dog’s kibble in it, and watch them work!

You can also create some food toys at home with cheap materials such as boxes, toilet paper rolls, milk jugs, and old material. For a food dispensing toy, try put holes the size of your dog’s kibble or larger through a milk jug using a drill or sharp knife and fill it with your dog’s meal. You can make a home made snuffle mat using leftover fleece material and a rubber sink mat. And, like I did below, you can simply stuff a box full of toiler paper rolls and scatter their food or treats into each roll so that your pup has to pull them out to get to the food at the bottom of the box. Your options are only limited by your own imagination.

Box with toilet paper rolls