a girl petting her dog

Keeping your dog entertained indoors

By Sam Sommers

Almost every winter in Minnesota, we experience something that we nicknamed “The Polar Vortex.” The temperatures drop with highs sitting around 0°F and lows anywhere between -10° to -20°F, which does not include the windchill. 

Just like people, our pets are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. In Minnesota, there are laws in place to protect pets that are kept outdoors. Learn more about the statutes here. Cold weather can affect each animal differently based on medical conditions, age, breed, coat, body fat, and overall activity level. The following chart is a helpful resource to understand how cold is too cold for our fur kids. 

So, how do we keep our dogs entertained indoors when it is this cold outside? Here are a few ideas:

a chart for cold weather

Play games

Engaging in play with your dog is a wonderful way to bond! Try playing games like hide-and-seek or “find it” by placing a toy or treat in a secret spot that your dog can locate by using their nose. If you have a long hallway or a large open area in your home, you can also play a game of fetch. Tug-of-war is another great option! 

Use the Stairs

If your dog’s knees are in good shape, the stairs can be an excellent tool for some quick exercise. If you live in a multi-level home, try standing at the bottom of the stairs, throw a ball up to the top of the stairs, call your dog back down to you and repeat! If you live in an apartment building, another option is to leash your dog and take a few trips up and down the stairs together. 

Mental Stimulation

Physical exercise is essential for every dog, but so is mental exercise. Try teaching your dog a new trick or command, such as “rollover” or “shake.” There are plenty of YouTube videos available with instructions on how to do it. Another fun method of mental stimulation is a puzzle toy, which you can find at almost any pet supply store, or you could create your own DIY puzzle toy with items you may have lying around the house. Puzzle toys hide treats that your dog will have to really work for. This activity will strengthen the dog’s cognitive ability as he or she figures out how to get to the tasty snacks. 

Indoor Agility Course

Agility and obstacle courses are great ways for dogs to exercise in smaller spaces. Try using household items like chairs, ottomans, blankets, empty boxes, laundry hampers, broomsticks, or maybe you have an old hula hoop laying around. You will have to use treats and positive reinforcement to train your dog on how to get through these obstacles, but you might be surprised how quickly your dog catches on!

Do you have other ideas or suggestions? We would love to hear about them! Email content@ruffstartrescue.org or share with us on Facebook or Instagram.