If you have a husky, shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog or any mix of the furry variety, your time has come.

It’s winter, and your fluffy companion can finally run, roll and romp in the snow. While they love the cold, most dogs (and the humans who love them) do not like to be outside for too long. Keeping them active can be a challenge.

Here are a few ideas for some indoor play. The Shell (shoebox) game: Take three shoeboxes or plastic cups, and hide a treat under one. Rotate and see if your dog can find the treat. Create a mini-indoor obstacle course by using chairs, books, laundry baskets, etc. You can teach your dog or cat how to crawl through, jump over, weave around or jump in!

Providing your dog has no back, leg or hip issues, the stairs are a great way to get out energy, either by playing fetch or making your pup stay at the top/bottom of the stairs and placing treats on certain steps for them to get.

If you have an indoor game that your cat or dog loves, please email me and let me know!

Q: Last winter we had a terrible time getting our Yorkipoo to go outside to do her business. She hates the cold. Any suggestions?

–Carol and Barry, Pikesville

Small-boned dogs usually do not like snow, rain or the cold. Since your Maltese falls into that category, there are several things to try. Create a space for her to go potty that has a bit more shelter. For example, a large box with a side cut out so it has three sides. Put sod on the bottom; this will shield her from the wind and provide a warmer and safer spot for her to go. Also, playing with her a bit to get her heartrate up and make her “warm” before going out to potty should make it more positive. Always give her a unique treat that she only gets when she goes outside, even if she is housebroken, and she will associate the outside with that yummy treat. Depending on your living area, if all else fails, you could buy an indoor yard, aka, a doggie litter box. This sounds worse than it is; they do a great job of simulating the outdoor space and are very clean.

Q: Our 7-year-old son is afraid of dogs. My husband and I both love dogs. We had a shepherd mix before our kids were born. Both of us were looking forward to having a family dog. My daughter, 10, has been begging for one. Have you ever run across this before?

–The Stein family, Columbia

As someone who teaches children about the nuances of being safe around dogs, this issue is close to my heart. I have seen children paralyzed with fear. Since the rest of your family isn’t afraid, that’s half the battle. Finding out exactly what he is afraid of is the key; typically it is the nipping, barking and jumping. There are several endearing and silly dog books for children; the “McDuff” series, “Good Dog Carl,” “SkippyJon Jones,” and tons more! Start by reading them with him and ask if that particular dog in the story is scary and why. Then discuss what was good about the dog. Get him, or the family, a stuffed toy dog, one that the whole family has to take care of and love. The Humane Society and Maryland SPCA also offer times when children can read to the shelter dogs. Allowing him to just spend time “helping” the dogs where he has limited contact will help boost his confidence as well. You could even get a leash/collar and pretend to feed and walk him. This will create more of a want for a real one. 

Joy Freedman is a dog behaviorist and obedience instructor. She can be reached at joy@4pawspetservices.com or www.joyfreedman.com .

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