Almost every dog owner has had to deal with “canine cabin fever” at one time or another. When dogs suffer from cabin fever, they begin acting out like naughty children. They may leap up and go racing through the house for no apparent reason. They will chew inappropriate things in the house, like the sofa or a rug instead of their sterilized natural bone or rawhide. The most laid-back dog may begin showing signs of aggression or bark at guests that come to the house. They may even begin marking territory or eliminating in the house. This is normal behavior for a dog suffering from canine cabin fever.
Dogs can get cabin fever in any season, not just wintertime. My friend Wendy had to entertain three very energetic dogs during the recent rain storms in California. Here in Minnesota the snow is still so deep that Skye and I are not able to go for our regular walks or even play in her dog yard. There are several ways to help release all that pent up energy. If your house has a flight of stairs you can play fetch with your dog using the stairs. Take their favorite ball or chase toy and toss it down the stairs while you stand at the top. Have them bring it back to you and toss it for them about ten times or until they begin to get tired. If your house doesn’t have stairs you can toss the ball down the length of a long hallway or room.
You can also play hide and seek with a toy you can put treats into. Fill the cavity of the toy, and put your dog on a sit-stay in their crate or another room while you hide the toy. Then release them from their command and let them go find the toy. Doing this several times will help tire them out, and a tired dog is usually a contented dog. There are also many interactive toys that will test your dog’s brain power and make them think while letting them have fun.
If your house is not large enough, check with your local park district or dog trainers in the area to see if there is an indoor area you can take your dog to for exercise. Some trainers will even let you rent time at their training facility to exercise your dog. Take your dog for an extended walk around your local pet shop if they are allowed in the store. Consider taking an advanced obedience training course or agility class with your dog.
You might want to look into the Canine Good Citizenship class, which is the beginning leg for therapy dogs. After finishing a therapy dog course you can take your dog to visit schools, nursing homes and senior citizen centers. Besides getting some exercise and bonding with you, they will be working their brain as well as their body. If you have a treadmill, consider letting your dog use it to get some extra exercise. By setting it on a lower speed, your dog can get much needed exercise and you won’t have them bouncing off the walls or behaving inappropriately.
Another way to combat canine cabin fever is to get a dog training book and teach them some new tricks. Teach your dog to bring in the mail or the paper too. If the snow is not deep where you are and you’re able to get into your yard, consider a brightly colored flying disk or toy for your dog to fetch; this will make it easier for both of you to see. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of canine cabin fever, you and your dog can have a more peaceful time indoors and a more joyful relationship.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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