Yes, pets can get cabin fever. After a long winter, it’s not uncommon to see them exhibit restlessness, and even act out some less than desirable behaviors.
Dogs especially may leap up and go racing through the house for no apparent reason (the zoomies). They will chew inappropriate things in the house, like the sofa or a rug instead of their toys or treats. The most laid-back dog may begin showing signs of aggression or bark at guests that come to the house. In some instances, pets may even begin marking territory or eliminating in the house. This is normal behavior for a dog suffering from canine cabin fever.
Help them release all that pent up energy.
Play – If your house has a flight of stairs, you can play fetch with your dog using the stairs. Take their favorite ball or chase toy and toss it down the stairs while you stand at the top. Have them bring it back to you and toss it for them about ten times or until they begin to get tired. If your house doesn’t have stairs, you can toss the ball down the length of a long hallway or room.
Hide and seek – Put treats into a toy. Fill the cavity of the toy, and put your dog in a sit-stay in their crate or another room while you hide the toy. Then release them from their command and let them go find the toy. Doing this several times will help tire them out, and a tired dog is usually a contented dog. There are also many interactive toys that will test your dog’s brain power and make them think while letting them have fun.
Use an exercise facility – If your house is not large enough, check with your local park district or dog trainers in the area to see if there is an indoor area you can take your dog to for exercise. Some trainers will even let you rent time at their training facility to exercise your dog. Take your dog for an extended walk around your local pet shop if they are allowed in the store.
Agility training – Consider taking an advanced obedience training course or agility class with your dog.
You might want to look into the Canine Good Citizenship class, which is the beginning leg for therapy dogs. After finishing a therapy dog course, you can take your dog to visit schools, nursing homes, and senior citizen centers. Besides getting some exercise and bonding with you, they will be working their brain as well as their body. Consider bringing your pet to Westfield Veterinary Group to take advantage of a custom designed exercise program by our rehabilitation department. This can include the treadmill and other forms of exercise – burn off energy and improve conditioning!
Tricks and Treats – Another way to combat canine cabin fever is to get a dog training book and teach them some new tricks. (They love the motivating treats – but go easy). Teach your dog to bring in the mail or the paper too. If the snow is not deep where you are and you’re able to get into your yard, consider a brightly colored flying disk or toy for your dog to fetch; this will make it easier for both of you to see.
By recognizing the signs and symptoms of canine cabin fever, you and your dog can have a more peaceful time indoors and a more joyful relationship.