What an amazing start to 2017! All the dogs are happy. Everyone is learning and enjoying long naps. It takes such effort to think! I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that Indoor Training is the key for the winter months. Think of it as IT for your dog!
Your dogs naturally greet each day as if it was a brand new flavor of their favorite treat. Just like you, mixing it up makes all the difference in having a hum-drum day or a super day. When you trudge through same-old-same-old routine for too many weeks or months and nothing new happens for your dog, boredom and misbehavior can creep in. This is not the best way to keep your spirits up through the colder more house bound season.
You can easily add little updates to all of your basic routines that will make a big difference for your dog. For example, instead of asking your dog to Sit and Wait before you give the cheerful OK to eat breakfast, ask for Sit, then a Down. Maybe even ask for a few repetitions of doggie push-ups. Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit. It’s easy! You might want to try some push-ups too! Right? If you usually have the food dish in the same place every day, try moving it around–a few feet to the left one day, a few feet to the right the next.
You can do something new at the door too. You usually ask for a wait before opening the door to let your dog out (I hope!) Make that Wait last while you count to three. Count out loud and use your fingers to show your dog One, Two, Three fingers then let them go on OK! Now you are teaching your dog how to count!! This will blow their mind! You might enjoy trying to get to Five then wave them through!
Another way to add interest for your dog, is to vary the hold time by a few seconds with every command so your release command is not so predictable–sometimes shorter waits, sometimes longer. If you and your dog are suffering from an extended period of rain or snow and you just don’t want to take the walks, go for a car ride with no destination! Drive around your neighborhood for a couple of miles or go get gas and come home. Your dog with really enjoy that and forget all about being stuck indoors!
Your pattern of praise might also need to be freshened up. Does your dog get a split second Good Dog with a pat on the head that goes by so fast she missed it? Try to count in your head and give some good rubs and affection for five seconds. You’ll be surprized at what a difference that can make in the amount of happiness you share.
We have set up our indoor rally-type course with a few mini-agility obstacles. This can be as simple as walking through the house on leash and stopping in each room to ask for a Sit or a Down. You can put out a few chairs in a row and walk around them in a serpentine pattern or even invent an IT version of Musical Chairs! All these little Indoor Training games are wonderful exercises for your dog and can replace that walk around the block when the weather is just too unpleasant. IT helps keep me on my toes too and I am not so ho-hum!! Arf!
Along with Indoor Training, I recommend Interesting Treats to ramp up the enthusiasm. But winter is not the time for putting on extra weight with too many rich treats either. Try cutting up a cooked hotdog into 1/4 pieces and put it into a bag with a cup or two of your regular kibble. Seal it and shake that up. The hotdog yumminess will infuse the whole bag. Do those IT games throughout the day and then feed a little bit less kibble at meal time.
Dogs are pretty smart and quickly learn to anticipate your every behavior with great accuracy and we humans do settle into our patterns! Mix it up just a little and you and your dog will enjoy the interesting new rhythm so much you won’t mind being snowed in!