How to prevent problem dog behaviors caused by winter boredom

Could your pet be bored? After all, this winter is as tough on him as it is on you! He’s stuck inside all day while you’re at work and the kids are at school, then gets just a short walk in the evening because it’s cold and dark and the sidewalks are icy.

According to Traci Simo, a pet care expert with Canine Company in Wilton, boredom can lead to incessant barking and destructive behaviors like scratching at doors and chewing on furniture. “It’s important to address boredom before problem behavior begins,” says Ms. Simo. “Toys, treats and games can help keep your pet entertained for hours.” She offers five ideas that can help:

• Get creative with treats: There are many interactive toys that can keep your pet entertained when you don’t have time or when you are not around. You can stuff a KONG with a favorite treat and peanut butter. To make it last longer, put it in the freezer before giving it to your dog.

• Change up the toys: You don’t have to buy new toys to keep things fresh for your dog. Just pick up all her toys and divide them into several groups. Put out one group and hide the rest. Next week, put out a different group of toys. Your dog will think you went shopping!

  • Dinner hunt: Rather than feeding your dog from a food bowl, sprinkle her kibble around the room and let her “hunt” for her meal. Or try an interactive feed ball that makes your dog work to get his food.
  • Train his brain: Winter is a great time to practice new obedience skills. A little practice every day will keep him engaged and strengthen his bond with you.
  • Walk a new route: Yes, it’s cold outside, but a short, brisk walk is good exercise for both of you. Your dog will get even more out of that walk if you change the route every few days. The fresh sensory stimulation will keep your dog’s mind engaged and active.

Canine Company of Wilton provides at-home pet care products and services such as obedience training, grooming and pet sitting in the tri-state area. Information: caninecompany.com.