Staying Sane in the Cold - by Tara

Staying sane in the cold - by Tara
How Stevie and I are staying sane at -20.
I am by no definition in anyone’s book, a dog trainer. I am just a busy 38-year-old who keeps adopting high-needs dogs and just wants to enjoy our best lives together in the time we have.
And this week, you know what our best lives included? Not going outside! But that cold has lingered. After nearly a week of hibernating, I tried punting Stevie outside to see if she had any interest in doing something. She did not. Stevie has been a rockstar this week, but she often is when she feels she is choosing to not go outside (if it’s warm out, and I’m just being lazy, by day 3.. it is a different story).
By this point I also missed the connection and quality time I felt we weren’t getting from the walk or fetch time. She spends much of the day alone right now, and I felt she wasn’t getting a fair deal. So, I dug up some of my old tricks that I used to do with Porter. We have started clicker training and working on impulse control, but I wanted to do something with the same mental stimulation, but a little bit more fun. Porter loved Hide and Seek. Could she learn it too? Turns out she could and fast. Here’s what we did.
Hide and Seek.
How we play it: Our house is open on one end, with the bedrooms and bathrooms coming off a hallway through the other half of the house.
First, I set Stevie up to Stay in the living room on the open end of the house, just out of sight of the hallway (so she can’t see me setting up down the hallway). This can be either on her mat, or currently we are working on a “crate up” type command so I ask her to go to her crate and stay.
Since we aren’t walking much, I used her cup of kibble that would have been her dinner. Still exciting! My dogs have all been total pigs, but higher value treats are good too if needed. I haven’t yet ended up with 4-year-old dried cheese or liver behind the door to the back bedroom.
Since it’s her first time, the first round or two were set up for her to win. I took a handful of kibbles and walked to the end of the hallway and made little kibble trails into each room. Just a couple, but close enough they were easy to follow out of the hallway and into each room a few feet. I did this through the 4 rooms and a couple in the nooks in the hallway. I then used my last kibble to make a tiny trail into her line of sight.
Back in the living room, I released her with an excited “Go find it!”. She ripped straight up to the first trail. And then hopped to the next she could see down the hallway. And then each room. She totally got it!
We played many rounds as we worked through her dinner. The rounds got more challenging as I pushed the kibble piles farther into the rooms (and a bit into the dark) with no leads and shook up how many rooms had treats.
After half an hour, she had found all her dinner, worked on her stay (big improvements!), had to use her brain, and got a bit of exercise. And we got to connect. If this cold weather sticks, give it a shot and have some fun with your dog!