Do Social Distancing and Severe Weather Look Alike? Dog Trainers Weigh In

Since The Inquisitive Canine is based in California, we realized we don’t really deal with many of the things that keep folks stuck indoors during the winter months. For those who are not as fortunate (in our opinion), we were curious to learn how they are able to find new adventures indoors, when the outdoors is not cooperating. While we recognize that self-isolation during a global pandemic is not exactly the same as inclement weather, there are probably some overlaps!

Could this sheltering-in-place be less challenging for those who endure long, arduous winters every year, since they might be used to having to be indoors? We reached out to colleagues and asked how they got through the winter blues, in the hopes that it will inspire you to soldier on during this more challenging time.

Here’s what we learned:

Maya Kolankowska

Student, The Academy for Dog Trainers, Quebec, Canada

TPG: What type of activities do you engage in with your dog when stuck indoors during the winter? This could be things you do with your dog, or enrichment activities to keep them busy on their own.

dog training fun outdoorsMK: My Boston terrier has arthritis in both front legs, so I cannot do lots of high-intensity play with lots of direction change indoors. We have to resort to training and mental stimulation. I have a lot of Nina Ottosson puzzles, interactive toys that are stuffed and frozen and given each day. I also do mini-training sessions, and I prepare surprise treat/kibble boxes, and up the level of difficulty gradually. Another favourite thing of mine is having her “go find” her food, which I hide. She is really good at it now. Finally, we also do tug sessions where we practice cues like drop, leave it, and take it.

TPG: What are some of your favorite things to do throughout the year?

MK: We enjoy hiking, either on a long lead or off leash, walking in the woods, meeting new doggy friends and practicing positive interactions. I have amazing neighbours who are more than happy to work with me and our dogs.

TPG: Are there any types of activities you save for this time of year? How do you change up your routine, if at all?

MK: I tend to do more mental enrichment during winter months since my dog does not enjoy winters. Once it is nicer, we practice outside with more distractions and do some refreshers on those behaviors.

TPG: How are things different with COVID-19 isolation compared to winter conditions where you are?

MK: We do not frequent dog parks due to my dog’s arthritis, but we are definitely missing out on social doggie interactions on our walks. At other times, I would usually tend to walk with neighbours, especially if their dog is “reactive”; this helps my dog and theirs.

Jennifer Pratt, CTC, CSAT, CPDT-KA

Owner, Wag the Dog and Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

TPG: What type of activities do you engage in with your dog when stuck indoors during the winter? This could be things you do with your dog, or enrichment activities to keep them busy on their own. 

Wag the Dog Puzzle ToyJP: I up the food puzzle rotation even more than we already do otherwise, and find new ways to teach him new tricks that are variations of using hand targeting as a base. 

TPG: What are some of your favorite things to do throughout the year? 

JP: Teaching him new tricks that I make up and find entertaining!  Working on husbandry training to up my game for both my dog and my clients.

TPG: Are there any types of activities you save for this time of year? 

JP: Honestly, no. There is just more time to devote to indoor use of feeders.  (We use them outside in the yard to up the hunting factor when it is nice out!)

TPG: How are things different with COVID-19 isolation compared to winter conditions where you are? 

JP: With me having less work coming in, Ed and I have been able to take longer sniffaris. 

TPG: What have you considered doing once the snow melts and you’re able to go outside? If you’re still under quarantine, how will things change for you? Will you keep up the same routine you use in winter, or do something else? 

JP: My dog loves being outside when it is nice out, so we will be adding in trips to go and find new sniffari locations for him to explore, and spending more time outside with me gardening and him sunbathing.

No matter where you are, or the conditions you may be experiencing, you can see that both physical and mental enrichment are important for your dog’s well-being. Maybe now is a great time to set up that indoor obstacle course, train that trick you’ve been wanting your dog to learn, or clean out your t-shirt drawer and make a new toy for them to play with.

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive or adventurous canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and well Tweet ya back!

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