Fun and Games: A Cure for Cabin Fever

Fun and Games: A Cure for Cabin Fever

As the winter cold streak continues, many of us are finding ourselves trapped inside the house with a dog or dogs that have a severe case of cabin fever. Without regular walks, or even free time outside, dogs get bored. Without physical exercise or mental stimulation, dogs can resort to bad or destructive behavior.

You can curb your dogs boredom with a variety of fun indoor exercises like these:

With a treadmill you can safely treadmillexercise your dog in your home whenever your dog needs it. You can use the treadmill you already have, purchase a used one for cheap off of Craig?s List, or a buy treadmill specifically designed for dogs.

Here?s a video from Bad Rap for getting started with a dog-powered (no motor) treadmill.

Puppy Push Ups
Sit, down, sit, down, sit, down. Easiest ?trick? in the book. It helps burn off a little energy, even if your dog only knows two commands!

imagesFeeding all Meals from Frozen Kongs
If your dog has a lot of energy, chuck your dog bowls all together and only feed from dog puzzles or Kongs.

Try freezing your dog’s food inside a Kong since it. ll take much longer for your dogs to work out their meal, burning more mental and physical energy in the process.

chaseitRile/Recovery work with a Flirt Pole
You can go the homemade route or buy a pre-made chase it toy, but either way, if you have a dog that loves chasing stuff (and has healthy joints), this giant cat toy will rock their world and burn a ton of energy. What?s key to this? Your dog must know basic commands such as: sit, down, wait, take it and drop it for this to be a safe, fun game. If you want to do this inside, get a smaller 2-3 foot flirt pole, for outside, you can go big! Before you try it, take a look at this video from Bad Rap and read this how-to.

Those are some of the easiest cabin fever crushers, but don?t stop here! Be creative and try some of these other tips (keep in mind that all dogs are individuals and what works for some, may not be the best choice for others):

Hide & Seek
Ask your dog to sit and stay while you go and hide in another room, or closet, or behind a curtain. Then yell “come” so your dog has to find you. Body and brain both get exercised, and it reinforces the come command.

Throw a tennis ball or toy up the stairs so your dogs has to work extra hard to chase it. Make sure to keep this game safe! Watch open banisters, steep stair and make sure you are using carpeted stairs!

Laser Light (in small doses!)
Keep ‘dot’ sessions short and sweet! 10 minutes with the laser pointer can be a great workout. Combine obedience work with laser play which is a great way to proof commands on a really amped up dog.

Makeshift Agility Jump
Set a broom up about 6 inches off the ground, held by stacked books, boxes, paint cans, or whatever else you can find. Toss treats across the room so your dog has to run and jump over the hurdle to get it. It?s sort of ridiculous, but it works!

Nose Work
Set up a series of upside down boxes. Hide a treat under one box and ask your dog to “find it.” You can also hide small treats in places around the room and let your dog sniff them all out!

Keeping your dog busy and engaged in the winter months is vital to his health and happiness. Work hard and have fun!


Adapted from

Home Sweet Home: The Importance of Crate Training

Home Sweet Home: The Importance of Crate Training

Proper crate training gives your dog a place to call home.

Home is your “happy” place. It’s warm and inviting, cozy and familiar. You feel at ease at home, all your stuff is there, and you can just hide away from the rest of world when you need a little time to your self.

These are the same feelings your dog should have about his kennel or crate. Many people believe that putting a dog in a crate is inhumane, or seems like punishment. But the truth is, providing your dog with a crate gives him a personal space he can go for the same comfort and privacy you get from your home.

Being at ease in a crate provides your dog security when traveling, prevents housetraining/chewing issues, alleviates separation anxiety and gives your dog a place to “chill” when he’s nervous about strangers or uncertain situations. Dog trainer Katie Grillaert provides these helpful tips and facts about crate training that you can use to provide your dog with his own home, sweet, home.

  • Feed your dog his breakfast and dinner inside of his kennel, so that he’ll associate it with wonderful feelings.
  • Let your dog play “Hidden Treasure:”  leave his crate door open, and hide some delicious, stinky treats in the crate for him to find.
  • Teach your dog to go into his kennel on cue by saying “Go to your kennel” or “Kennel” and then tossing a delicious treat inside the kennel for him to follow. Repeat this many times in a row, and then test your dog: say your cue, and wait for him to figure out that he should go in the kennel. When he does, praise and treat!
  • Place your kennel in a warm, cozy room that the family spends time in. He will feel much more comfortable here, than if the kennel is placed in an isolated spot like the basement.
  • With foster dogs, it is especially important that we prevent separation anxiety. Teach your dog early that he can spend time alone in his kennel even when you are home. Give him a really special marrow bone or Kong to keep him busy and happy.

Here are a few more tips:

Crate Training from Fetch Dog Training on Vimeo.


Katie Grillaert is the Director of Training and Behavior for Save-a-Bull Rescue and owner/head trainer at Fetch Dog Training in Minneapolis. She is CPDT-KA certified with years of experience training rescue, shelter, and foster dogs of all breeds. She also volunteers training and behavioral support for Small Dog Rescue of Minnesota and The Behavior Crew, a division of Foster My Pet.

Bringing a New Dog Home

Bringing a New Dog Home

(courtesy of the ASPCA)

As of 2007/2008, there were nearly 75 million pet dogs in the United States, living in nearly 45 million U.S. homes. Although the majority of dog guardians (63%) own just one dog, 25% own two, and 12% own three or more. So if you’ve decided to get a second or third dog, you’re in good company!

Save-a-Bull alumni Otis and Tank have formed a great relationship that started with proper introductions when Otis entered Tank’s home.

Adding another dog to your household can bring you and your current dog more fun and companionship. However, it’s important to realize that your current dog, might feel similar to how you might feel if your parents picked your friends and then told you to share your toys with them. In the long run, things will probably work out fabulously, but in the beginning it’s a very smart idea to take a few extra steps to make everyone feel good about the new arrangement. This article provides some guidelines for making smooth and safe introductions and ensuring that your dogs’ relationship gets off to a great start.

Maximizing the potential for a great relationship between your new dog and your current dog is a two-step process. It involves the actual introduction and then management of the new dog in your home. We’ll start with introductions and then give you guidelines for helping your dogs through the initial transition weeks of being together in your home.


  • Leave your current dog at home when you pick up your new dog. One of the worst things you can do is to just throw the two of them together in your car and hope for the best!
  • Introduce your dogs on neutral territory, like on a short walk through your neighborhood, in a nearby park or in a friend’s yard. Have two people, one to handle each dog, while keeping the dogs on leashes.
  • To minimize tension, try to keep the dogs’ leashes loose so that they’re not choking or feeling pressure on their throats.
  • Don’t force any interaction between the dogs. If the dogs ignore each other at first, or if one dog seems reluctant to interact with the other, that’s okay. Give both dogs time to get comfortable. They’ll interact when they’re ready.
  • Make the introduction positive and light-hearted. As the dogs sniff and get acquainted, encourage them in a happy tone of voice. At first, allow just a few seconds of sniffing. Then gently pull the dogs away from each other and let them walk around with their handlers. After a minute or two, you can lead the dogs back together and allow another several seconds of sniffing. These brief greetings help keep the dogs’ interactions calm and prevent escalation to threats or aggression. You can also interrupt their interactions with simple obedience. After a brief sniff, lead the dogs apart, ask them to sit or lie down, and then reward them with treats.
  • Closely observe the dogs’ body language. Their postures can help you understand what they’re feeling and whether things are going well or not. Loose body movements and muscles, relaxed open mouths, and play bows (when a dog puts his elbows on the ground and his hind end in the air) are all good signs that the two dogs feel comfortable.Stiff, slow body movements, tensed mouths or teeth-baring, growls and prolonged staring are all signs that a dog feels threatened or aggressive. If you see this type of body language, quickly lead the dogs apart to give them more distance from each other. Again, practice simple obedience with them individually for treats, and then let them interact again, but this time more briefly. Please the ASPCA’s Canine Body Language article for illustrations of dogs showing what various feelings look like in dog body language.
  • Once the dogs’ greeting behaviors have tapered off and they appear to be tolerating each other without fearful or threatening behavior, you’re ready to take them home. Before you take them inside, walk them together around your house or apartment building.
  • Be patient. Bringing a new dog home requires that everyone make some adjustments, especially your current pets. And it will take time for your dogs to build a comfortable relationship.

The First Couple of Weeks at Home

  • It’s crucial to avoid squabbles during the early stages of your dogs’ new relationship. Pick up all toys, chews, food bowls and your current dog’s favorite items. When dogs are first forming a relationship, these things can cause rivalry. These items can be reintroduced after a couple of weeks, once the dogs have started to develop a good relationship.
  • Give each dog his own water and food bowls, bed and toys. For the first few weeks, only give the dogs toys or chews when they’re separated in their crates or confinement areas.
  • Feed the dogs in completely separate areas. Pick up bowls when feeding time is over. (Some dogs will compete over bowls that recently contained food.)
  • Keep the dogs’ playtime and interactions brief to avoid over-stimulation and over-arousal, which can lead to fighting.
  • Confine the dogs in separate areas of your home whenever you?re away or can’t supervise their interactions.
  • Give your new dog his own confinement area. When the dogs are separated, it might be a good idea to let them get to know each other through a barrier, like a baby gate. Your new dog should be gated in his confinement area, and your current dog should be free to move around and visit when he wants to.
  • When the dogs are interacting, interrupt any growling or bullying behavior with a phrase like “Too bad,” and then quickly separate them for several minutes. Then allow them to be together again. If your dogs seem to react poorly to each other often, don’t hesitate to contact a professional who can help you, such as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) who’s experienced in treating problems between dogs. Please the ASPCA article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a professional in your area.
  • Be sure to sincerely praise your dogs when they are interacting nicely.
  • Spend time individually with each dog. Give each of them training time with you and playtime with other dogs outside your home.
  • If your dogs are very different in age or energy level, be sure to give the older or less energetic one his own private space where he can enjoy rest and down time

Remember – taking it slow is key!
Don’t rush introductions or expect your dogs to be overly accepting right off the bat. Putting in the time necessary to make this transition smooth and painless will result in a lifetime of happiness for your dogs and your family.

Photo by Mary Gelhar