6 Indoor Enrichment Ideas for Your Dog During Winter
Written by Kristian Porter (pictured with her dog, Tilly)
If your dog’s outdoor routine is non-existent because of short days and frigid temperatures, enrichment activities will be your dog’s new best friend.
In Minneapolis (where we’re based), double-digit negative wind chills mean my dog’s outside time is limited to short potty breaks only. Even though we’re confined to the house most days, she still needs the same amount of enrichment to stay happy and healthy.
Here are indoor enrichment ideas to keep your pup entertained and engaged, even on the coldest days.
Why is Dog Enrichment Important?
Enrichment helps satisfy your dog’s physical and mental needs by engaging their natural instincts. These activities give your dog a sense of control over their environment, which reduces their stress levels and keeps their brain engaged.
During warmer weather, your dog gets a lot of their enrichment from daily walks and playtime in the park. In the winter, you have to be a bit more creative.
Without enough enrichment in your dog’s day, your dog gets bored and frustrated–and that’s when the behavior issues creep in.
Winter Activities for Dog Mental Enrichment
One key thing to remember is that not every enrichment activity is going to be fun and engaging for every dog. As Purdue University’s Veterinary Department says, “Enrichment is only valuable if it matters to the dog.”
Try out a few of these enrichment activities with your dog to better learn their language, what they like, and how you can best meet their needs.
1. Hide-and-Seek and Nose Work GamesOne of my dog’s favorite wintertime activities is a good game of hide-and-seek. We do this in a few different variations:
You Hide, and Your Dog Finds YouWhen you’re ready, you give your dog a “release” command, or teach them a new command like “find me.” Then, using your scent, your dog will sniff through the room until they find you.
You can work up this version by hiding around the corner at first, then revealing yourself with the “find me” command.
As you do this motion repeatedly, your dog will start to look for you around the corner, and you can reward that behavior. From there, slowly increase the distance and duration that you hide from your dog.
You Hide Your Dog’s Toys“Find it” is my dog’s favorite version of this game, where I hide one of her toys somewhere in the house.
Over time, I’ve made the game more challenging by hiding her toys inside baskets, under blankets, and even inside the cabinets.
This works great with toys that you can put dog treats inside of, like our Hive Chew Toy. The added incentive of a dog chew or dog treat inside of the toy helps to train their nose and reinforce the rules of the game.
2. Lick Mats
A lick mat (with something tasty spread thinly on it) is fantastic because is serves three different purposes for your dog:
- Your dog gets a delicious dog treat, and what’s more mentally enriching and boredom-busting than a yummy snack?
- It slows down your dog’s eating, which keeps them engaged for longer and forces them to think through their eating, like problem-solving.
- Licking is calming for dogs, so lick mats are natural stress relievers.
Lick mats, like our Hive Disc (which doubles as a frisbee–how fun is that?!), keep your dog occupied for a long time. In fact, it’s enough to make my dog ready for a nap by the end of it.
When it comes to lick mat recipes, the ideas are endless. You can try peanut butter or yogurt; my dog loves it when I make a fruit smoothie, spread it on the lick mat, and then put it in the freezer for a little extra challenge.
3. Puzzle Toys and Food Brain TeasersPuzzle toys and DIY food brain teasers give your dog a job to do, and most dogs love to have a job. These toys and puzzles, like with the lick mats, use food as an incentive to solve a problem, which is a great way for your dog to burn off extra energy.
A few great food puzzle options include:
- Snuffle mats
- Store-bought puzzle toys
- Muffin tins filled with dog treats and covered with tennis balls
- Dog treats hidden inside dish towels or rags
4. Get Creative with DIY Dog Enrichment
As I mentioned in that last point, not all enrichment activities must be store-bought. There are tons of great ways to engage your dog’s brain with items you have lying around the house.
One fun option that my dog loves is an indoor obstacle course. This can be as simple or complicated as your dog wants it to be, and you can make obstacles out of practically anything.
I’ve used a broom handle propped up on two laundry baskets as a DIY pole for my dog to jump over and the coffee table as a make-shift tunnel for my dog to crawl under.
Another fun idea is a “shell” game. I’ll grab three cups from the kitchen and hide a dog treat under one of them, then mix them up. My dog will have to choose the right cup to get the dog treat.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and use what your dog loves to spark new ideas.
Training isn’t just about obedience – it’s a fun way to engage your dog’s brain and build your communication skills.
To keep your dog engaged in training sessions, start small. Use a valuable currency for your dog, whether that’s playtime with a toy they love or a delicious training treat, and give them quick wins at first to keep things fun.
Some fun tricks to teach your dog on a snowy day include:
- Play dead
6. Bring the Outdoor Exercise In
Stairs work as a quick way to get your dog’s heart pumping, and you should never underestimate a good game of tug-of-war. Whether it’s a game of chase around the house or a game of fetch in the living room, playing with your pup–even for just 30 to 45 minutes–can be enough to tire them out.
You can even try new, fun activities like yoga with your dog, or incorporate them into your own workout routine.
Dog Enrichment Toys Your Dog (and the Planet) Will Love
If you’re looking for a fun new toy to keep your dog entertained this winter, we have so many great options to choose from. Whether your dog is looking for a chew toy, a good game of fetch, or a treat dispenser, they can have it all with our multifunctional toys.
What’s even better is that 1% of every purchase of our dog toys and treats goes towards planting wildflowers to create healthy bee habits.
Shop our line of dog toys today, and your dog (and the bees) will thank you.