7 Ways to Help Your Dog Overcome Cabin Fever

People are not the only ones to suffer from cabin fever. Dogs can also get depressed when stuck indoors for long periods of time. This typically occurs during harsh winters and even extends into the early spring when downpours often transform backyards into mud pits.

According to the Animal Behavior College (ABC) being housebound for extended periods can result in restlessness for dogs. Dogs of all breeds require daily exercise and mental stimulation to take away stress and prevent destructive problem behaviors.

Following are seven ideas to help keep your dog physically and mentally motivated:

Consider breed type when choosing games  

All dogs are motivated and driven by certain things. To find the best game for your dog, research his or her breed traits, say ABC training experts.

For example, Labradors were bred to retrieve small game and objects and will respond well to fetch or hide-and-seek types of games. Herding group dogs, such as border collies or Australian shepherds were specifically bred to herd livestock. For these dogs, trainers recommend laser-pen beam games. By moving the beam in various directions, dogs get the sense that they are “herding” the beam. Anyone who shares a home with a member of the hound dog group like beagles or basset hounds knows that they are motivated by scent. These dogs can be kept busy searching for treats that have been hidden around the house.

Play games that encourage dogs to be active

Unless the weather is really frigid outside, dog trainer Tracey Manne takes her dogs for a walk every day. But she also makes sure to set time aside for fun indoor activities.

“Our dogs just want to be with us and it’s important that we spend time interacting with them,” said Manne, owner of Pawsitive Results Dog Training and Comfy Canine Care. “I spend time indoors playing with my dogs every day. We play games like tug-of-war and fetch.”

Throwing a ball or favorite toy to the top of the stairs and asking your dog to “go fetch” provides a great workout for dogs who are especially stir crazy.


Puzzle toys provide mental stimulation

There’s no shortage of puzzle toys on the market. One of the most popular is the Kong Classic, a sturdy toy with a hole in the middle for hiding treats. Manne crates her dogs when she’s not home and reserves the Kong toy filled with treats for when her dogs are in their crates. Many people freeze the Kongs overnight. The idea is that it will take dogs even longer to get at all of the hidden food.

Manne also uses puzzle toys with compartments to hide the treats. Her dogs have to figure out how to twist the toy a certain way to release a treat. There are also a variety of toy balls with compartments for hiding treats. Many of these balls have to be bounced vigorously before treats are released so they provide stimulation and exercise. Rover.com offers a list of popular puzzle toys and there’s a helpful review of puzzle toys for dogs who get bored easily at Bark.com.

Have a training session

Manne said dog owners should constantly work on training their dogs. Just a few minutes a day makes a big difference and this is a great activity when confined indoors. I reserve our dogs’ favorite treats for games of sit and stay. I start in the same room as the dogs moving further and further away until they stay while I go into a different room. They really enjoy these sessions and so do I.

Clicker training is another great indoor activity—you click and treat your dog for giving the desired behavior,” Manne said. “You can teach your dog to do fun things like roll over, shake paws or bring the newspaper.”

To avoid weight issues she recommends using small training treats (the size of a pea) that are low in calories with a really good flavor to motivate dogs. If your dog tends to be on the heavy side and you’re not using low-calorie treats, it’s a good idea to give less food at regular mealtimes. This is especially important if you’ve had to cut back on outdoor exercise because of the weather.

Find an indoor doggy play space

When the weather prevents you from giving your dog sufficient outdoor exercise check to see if a local trainer might rent you time in an indoor training space. Enrolling your dog in a doggy daycare a few days a week can also help them release pent-up energy as they get to play with other dogs. Some communities have indoor dog parks. For example, the Fido Fitness Club that serves a number of townships on Long Island, NY has an indoor dog park open to members of the club. The park is heated in the winter and its compressed rubber foam floor is easy on dogs’ paws.

Head to the Pet Store

Large pet chains like Petco and PetSmart welcome dogs so consider heading to the store to do some laps around the aisles. This not only provides exercise but will also help with socialization as you’re sure to meet other dogs.

Enroll in a class

Instead of being cooped up inside how about enrolling your dog in an advanced obedience class or maybe take up agility to teach your dog some new skills? The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program lays the foundation for other AKC activities such as obedience, agility, tracking and performance events. The program is open to purebred and mixed breed dogs and is designed to enhance the bond between owners and dogs.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago


Glennis W
Glennis Whitney9 months ago

All so adorable and interesting Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney9 months ago

All so cute Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney9 months ago

A happy animal is a happy house Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney9 months ago

Very interesting story Thank you for caring and sharing

Lesa D
Lesa D9 months ago

doggone it!!!

thank you Vera...

heather g
heather g9 months ago

It's good to keep your pets happy - in all types of weather..

Louise R
Louise R9 months ago

thanks for sharing

Melanie S

Most dogs like to go for car rides!

Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

Thanks for sharing