Keep your pooch occupied indoors with tips from local trainers

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 14, 2015

 Pet parents can take dogs like Kaiser, front, and Apollo to indoor puppy playdates to keep them occupied during colder months.

Pet parents can take dogs like Kaiser, front, and Apollo to indoor puppy playdates to keep them occupied during colder months.

Photo by Deb Jacques


METRO DETROIT — You and your dog probably had a lot of fun together this summer, right? Long walks as the sun went down, exciting trips to the park and maybe even a dip in a nearby lake.

But brace yourself: Winter is coming.

The options for keeping your pup occupied seem to drop right along with the temperatures, since dog parks and long jaunts around the neighborhood are more difficult in the cold. So what’s a pet parent to do?

Get creative, that’s what. 

Reggie Williams is the director of training at Scrubbers self-serve dog wash and grooming in West Bloomfield and Royal Oak, as well as a dog care and obedience specialist for Leader Dogs for the Blind. He said that, just like us, dogs can get a mean case of cabin fever after being stuck inside for too long.

“One thing you need to keep in mind is that, like humans, dogs miss that vitamin D from the sun. Lack of sun puts us all in a bit of a depressive state,” Williams said. “You’ll start to notice if your dog is restless if they start to self-mutilate, like chewing off the hair on their paws or legs. The wrinkled face is another sign that the dog is stressed and needs some form of outlet.”

A little bit of movement can go a long way, Williams said, when it comes to curbing pet anxiety. Not sure you want to brave the chill long enough for a proper walk outside? That’s OK, just go for shorter walks to the end of the block and back. But make sure you really pick up the pace to make the excursion worthwhile for both of you.

You can give Fido a workout indoors too. Williams said one of his favorite activities is running up and down the stairs with a dog to tucker them out, or even play games.

“You can practice their recall training inside the home. If your dog knows how to come, then place everybody in the family in a different room with treats and tell the dog to come,” he explained. “Make them sit and offer the treat. So he’s running through the house to each individual, and after 10 to 20 minutes, you will see a tired dog. And it involves the whole family — how often can you say that?”

Activities like that are especially helpful during high-energy periods, which Williams said tend to occur daily in dogs in the morning and at around 6 p.m. And just like any other fitness routine, make sure your pup is getting plenty of vitamins through things like vegetables. Carrots are usually a canine favorite, he noted.

But it’s not just important to stimulate muscles, according to Deborah Vitale, owner and head trainer at Beaches Pet Resort in St. Clair Shores. Pets need to have their minds stimulated as well.

“Mental activity is as important as physical activity, and it can make dogs just as tired,” said Vitale.

Vitale agreed that recall games, like Williams suggested, are a great way to keep your pup’s brain sharp. She also suggested taking your four-legged friend out from time to time to keep things from getting too mundane.

“A lot of facilities have fun classes. We have an intro to agility class, and starting this winter we’re going to start a rally class,” she said. “Those are good to keep up with those basic obedience skills and get them moving, but also for socialization.”

Just like their owners, pets need to see some fresh faces and have fun with friends, particularly during the winter. At Beaches Pet Resort, which offers day socialization, Vitale said she will group dogs in groups of five to 15 for play with other dogs of a similar size and temperament.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I know a lot of doggy day cares will put all the dogs together to run around, and that can be overwhelming for them,” she said. “Small groups in an appropriate play group work much better. You want your dog to come home tired, but not exhausted. Just like people, they’re crabby when they’re overtired.”

Vitale also suggested pairing your pooch up with other dogs you know who belong to family or friends for visiting.

“You can get a few people together for doggy playdates. Say, ‘I’ll take them this time and maybe you take them next time.’ The small group is a great way for them to (socialize).”

For more information on Scrubbers services, visit or call (248) 973-8212.

To learn about Beaches Pet Resort, visit or call (586) 350-0776.