Liven up those winter dog days

Winter dog walks-on the right day they can be enjoyable excursions with snow gently falling and a low winter sun in the sky, but on other days they can be downright treacherous with icy sidewalks and no light to help you see the ice before you feel your feet slip out from under you. Sometimes the safest decision is to ignore that pleading look in your dog's eyes and stay inside.

But that doesn't mean your dog has to be bored and restless. There are ways to keep her entertained inside that are fun for both you and your canine companion:

Hide and Seek isn't just for kids! Your dog will love playing hide and seek with you. Just put your dog in a "stay" while you hide yourself in another room and then call your dog. You'll hear your dog scrambling around and sniffing for you. Make sure you're easy to find the first few times you play so your dog gets to succeed. As your dog gets better at this game find harder spots to hide, such as inside a closet in a dark room. Be sure to have lots of treats to reward her when she finds you.

Scent work is all fun and games for dogs. Instead of hiding yourself, hide treats around the house and let your dog find them. You may need to do this with the dog on leash at first until he figures out the game. Give him a search word ("sniff", "seek") and lead him around to find the treats. Once he has the idea, just give him the cue word and let him sniff out the treats on his own.

Snuffle mats are awesome! A snuffle mat is like TV for your dog – great self-entertainment. Just put a snuffle mat filled with treats out for your dog and let her snuffle through it and get rewarded when she finds the treats. Are you a DIYer? Here's instructions to make your own snuffle mat:

Or order one from Amazon: just search "snuffle mat" to see your options.

Food puzzles make dogs smarter! There used to be just one reigning food puzzle toy – Kong. But now there is a plethora of choices available. So instead of just dumping your dog's kibble in a bowl, put it in a food puzzle toy and let him use his brain to figure out how to get to his dinner.

Teach a new trick. Trick training is fun for both of you. Your dog gets your attention and plenty of tasty treats and you get to show off every new trick your dog learns. Need ideas for tricks to teach? Just google it and you'll find plenty of sites to visit. Be sure to keep it fun and positive. And if your dog turns out to be a trick prodigy, check out the titling opportunities with the American Kennel Club:

So don't let winter keep you and your dog from having fun together. Stay safely inside when it's too cold, too icy or too dark and entertain your dog, and yourself, with any of the above games.

Laura Atwood is the public relations coordinator for the Anchorage Animal Care and Control.

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