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As we transition from the social activity of warm summer days to the more isolated existence that defines winters in the northern Midwest, we naturally become more sedentary. We spend less time walking the neighborhood, visiting the dog park – or even chatting with the neighbor across the fence.
As we settle into our more subdued winter reality, it is easy to forget that our pets are affected by these changes as well. Our cats, most of whom appreciate a daily routine and predictability, may be stressed by the additional company throughout the day. (Or, if your cat is like mine, he is stressed because you’ve interrupted his long daily nap.) On the surface, cats seem to have made laziness into an art form. In reality, they are designed for short, frequent periods of intense activity rather than longer, slower-paced exercise sessions.
Our dogs can easily become bored without their long daily walks or trips to the dog park. Frequently, behavior problems start when a dog is bored, lonely, or lacks enough exercise. Playing with your dog is one of the best ways to keep him happy. This helps with both physical and mental stimulation and increases the bond between pet and owner.
Mental stimulation can be a less obvious need, but is especially important if physical exercise is underprovided. Choosing a proper toy can help a dog stay interested, even when spending time alone. Toys that allow treats to be put inside can create a challenge for a dog, and are often great toys for dogs that spend time alone. This type of toy will often keep a dog occupied for extended periods of time. Engaging your dog mentally and physically on a daily basis will help keep him healthy happy and reduces the risk of behavior problems.
We like the types of interactive toys that enable pet owners to play along with their pets, that challenge their pets mentally and physically, and that also initiate the pet’s ability to engage in play when the owner is away. Some great choices include the following:
- Stuffed Kongs
- Nina Ottosson’s toys
- Kyjen toys
- Seek-A-Treat toys
Here is a link to a video of Floyd playing with interactive toys – Nina Ottosson’s Cat Pyramid and Seek-A-Treat’s Shuffle Bone.