5 Ways to Keep Your Energetic Dog Entertained When You Can’t Go Out In The Rain

The weather outside is frightful! Throughout the late spring and summer, many parts of the United States see regular rain and heavy thunderstorms. That can make it hard to go outside as much as you – and your dog – would like to. 

Dogs vary greatly in their responses to rain, soggy ground, and sometimes cold spring weather. Some dogs LOVE rain but really hate wet grass under their paws. Others won’t set foot outside when the rain  is coming down, but they are ironically happy to play in a lake or pond.. Still others are willing to go out only long enough to take care of necessities and then run right back inside. If you are able to safely get your dog some outside time, make sure to keep an eye out for puddles that may contain things like oil from a car or pesticide run off and clean their paws completely when you’re back home, or invest in paw protection before you go out. Even so, there are times it’s just too wet  and nasty for man or beast to leave home.  

And if you’ve had an energetic dog going stir crazy in yucky weather, you know how badly that can go, for you and your furniture…your shoes… your plants…your treat supply.  Even the most wonderful dog can go a little wild when they are unable to burn off excess energy. If, like so many of us, you’re working from home, it’s even harder! In their doggie brains, you’re there and that means you’re available for a walk! (They don’t check the weather apps.) How can you keep your pooch occupied for an extended time when they can’t go out much?

The Shell Game

This used to be a staple on game shows for humans!  Use three opaque cups (clean, empty yogurt containers are perfect) and put a treat under just one of them. You must let your pet watch you do this. Then, while they watch, mix up all three cups, swapping their positions several times. Step back and see how long it takes your pooch to find the treat. They’re developing scenting skills and solving a puzzle, which is great for their brains.

Treat-dispensing Toys

We all know how much our dogs love their treats! Making those treats harder to get will keep them occupied for hours (or at least minutes). Whether you choose a Kong, a Buster Cube, a Genie, a DIY option made from a tennis ball or something completely different, your dog will be intensely occupied trying to get at the goodies inside! Some pet owners swear by peanut butter inside a Kong! (Pro tip: if peanut butter is your dog’s favorite treat, make sure you use a toy that can be safely washed with HOT water and soap or run through the dishwasher.) 

For an extra level of difficulty, get a few of these toys, fill them up and hide them in your dog’s favorite spots while they’re napping. If you have flights of stairs, a basement, multiple levels of your house, make the most of your space. Their noses will lead them to the treats and extend the fun and mental workout!

Interact as Much as You Can

Tug of war, wrestling, fetch, hide and seek – all of these will keep your active dog engaged inside. What you can do is obviously dependent on how much space you have and how big your puppy is. It’s SO hard for them if you’re working from home and focusing on anything BUT them. Taking even 20 minutes to play with them, twice a day, followed by delivery of a fresh Kong, will satiate their needs for both activity and YOU time. 

If you have stairs inside your home, you can use those to make the most of “fetch,” throwing things to the top and bottom, and wearing your puppy out.

Slow Feeding Toys

Snuffle mats, puzzle feeders, lick mats and other options take the treat-dispensing toy to another level. These creative options, available online and at major pet retails outlets, make your dog work for their food. Unlike cats, dogs are known for scarfing their food down. Slow feeders can help keep your pooch from eating too fast, while keeping them entertained. 

They exercise your dog’s brain in ways you couldn’t imagine!  If you want to make a slow-feeding toy specific to your pet, Pinterest and YouTube have tons of options and detailed directions to help you out.  The idea is that your pet has to solve the puzzle or follow the path to get to their dinner.

Learn More Tricks

IF you have the time, being home with your dog can be a great time to learn new things. We know that, even if you’re working from home, you may not have the time you WANT to devote to your dog. But if you do have the time, indoor time is a wonderful opportunity to teach even an old dog new tricks. Check out YouTube and Pinterest to learn more awesome ideas about how you can train your dog while spending more time inside.

Get Another Dog

We know…. This might sound counter intuitive. Two dogs are more work than one. But the bonus is that they keep each other entertained! Two dogs, no matter their relative ages, will keep each other exercised, entertained, happy and healthy. They will chase each other, play tag with each other and tug of war over anything they can (hopefully not your favorite shoes!). 

If you already have a younger dog or puppy, getting them a BFF will have exactly that benefit. They’ll have a friend for life who will grow and age with them. If your dog is older or senior, getting a younger dog will help them become revitalized, more energized and healthier. Of course, it’s important to make sure that the dogs have chemistry and play well together. 

It’s not easy to get your energetic dog to stay calm when they can’t go outside like they’re used to. But there are lots of ways you can help your dog burn off calories and adrenaline, no matter what the conditions outside are. Playing inside as much as you can and keeping your dog’s brain active will help make that easier. 

To take your dog almost anywhere, no matter the weather, get them certified as an Emotional Support Animal! The laws are going to change and prices will increase, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to make that happen, at the best possible prices. Get your pet certified as an ESA now!

What Can a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) Help With?

Just the physical connection with  a dog can create calm in chaos and reduce anxiety and stress. Although that’s true for any beloved pup, a Psychiatric Service Dog is so much more than just a cute pet!

A PSD helps individuals with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions by performing specific tasks. A service dog must have completed specialized training that is legally defined by the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Remember that support and comfort animals, although just as valuable to the people they help, don’t require that level of training or certification.

The training of a PSD is extensive and usually takes a year to two years to complete. A Psychiatric Service Dog must be housebroken, under the control of the handler at all times and vaccinated according to state and local laws. Although your current family dog or cat can become an Emotional Support Animal, it’s not advisable to try to train your existing furry friend to become a PSD; you should adopt a new dog and train it to serve as a PSD from the beginning or adopt a dog who is already trained.  

These service dogs are trained and equipped to provide profound support to those they accompany in a number of ways. Check out some of the benefits that a PSD provides to a person’s mental and physical health.

Grounding

A PSD can be a great aid in reducing anxiety for the person they accompany through the practice of tactile stimulation (grounding). Grounding is a dog-to-human connection such as the touch of a paw, brushing against the person’s side, sitting on the person’s feet, laying on or beside the person, or licking their face.

The best method of grounding depends on the individual service dog and the person they are supporting. The individual experiencing anxiety or stress may find certain methods of grounding more soothing than others. Similarly, each service dog may instinctively find different ways of grounding that are effective for the person they accompany. A PSD has the training and instincts to figure out what method works best for their person.

Tasks

Another great benefit to having a PSD is their ability to help with tasks. Among other things, a service dog can be trained to retrieve medication, find a phone, or get another person to assist in a medical emergency. So the PSD provides peace of mind to the companion and their friends and family as a reliable resource.

Safety

A service dog may also perform safety checks in a room or turn on a light for someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. With their ability to identify danger and help lessen the risk of it,  Psychiatric  Service Dogs provide both safety and security to their human companions.

Exercise

Since both dogs and people thrive on enjoying some time outside, a service dog becomes a wonderful incentive to get out in nature, exercise, and enjoy some fresh air, all of which can improve some symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also offers great bonding time!

Companionship

A service dog offers the much needed companionship that can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing company to its human, along with grounding, motivation to exercise, and a source of security. A 2005 study showed that patients in long-term care facilities reduced their feelings of loneliness by visiting with dogs. The effect was stronger when dogs could visit them one on one, instead of in group settings, probably since people had more intense interactions with the dogs. Animal visits alone were enough to reduce feelings of loneliness.

Mood Boosters

Here’s the bottom line: it’s hard not to love them! In addition to their ability to perform much needed tasks, service dogs come in a cute, furry, affectionate, playful, lovable package! That contributes to their abilities to reduce stress and anxiety and to boost mood. It is easy to smile and be comforted when these furry companions go in for cuddles. Additionally, the security they provide allows the indoor people to feel relief, to let go of anxiety.

Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Health

Service dogs have even been shown to improve heart health while reducing blood pressure and regulating heart rate. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) demonstrates a PSD’s effectiveness in lowering blood pressure in individuals. Blood pressure was lower when the dog was present during the entire time than when the animal was just introduced during the second half of the observation time. Another study compared the effect of stroking a dog versus resting, chatting, or reading in undergraduate students. Blood pressures were significantly lower when stroking a dog than when chatting or reading; however, it was lowest during rest. A positive attitude toward companion animals was associated with lower blood pressure overall.

People who are managing a variety of psychological challenges might benefit from the aid of a Psychiatric Service Dog. When taking into consideration all the benefits listed above that a Psychiatric Service Dog provides, it is no surprise to learn that the aid of a PSD can promote an improvement in overall health.

In fact, another review from the NCBI showed that a PSD can help with the following: reduce depression, improve mood, encourage more positive interactions with other people, a decrease in cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and a reduction of reported fear and anxiety. The presence of a PSD collectively provides this incredible secondary ability of improving the overall health of the person they accompany. Anyone in search of a meaningful and impactful means of managing their psychological health and symptoms could benefit from a Psychiatric Service Dog.

7 Ways to Relax with Your Pet

Pets are so good for us! Just having a pet in your home can make you less stressed and bring both joy and unconditional love to your household. It can also help you relax and reduce stress!  

In today’s world, stress is a big problem for most people. US employers lose billions of dollars each year due to stress and stress-related illnesses. Stress can cause people to have a lack of energy and focus, reduced creativity and more. For people suffering from stress, bringing a pet into their lives can make a huge difference. 

Some studies have also shown that: 

  • People with pets have lower blood pressure when stressed than those who don’t and adopting a pet can even help reduce blood pressure. 
  • Playing with a pet raises levels of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are calming, relaxing chemicals. 
  • People who own pets have lower indicators of heart disease. 
  • People who’ve had heart attacks survive longer if they have a pet. 
  • Older pet owners visit the doctor 30% less. 
  • Pet parents are less likely to suffer from depression.
Scientists believe that oxytocin, the same chemical responsible for romantic bonds and parent-child bonding, is responsible for our human connection to pets, a connection that is boosted through touch. When we interact with animals, especially dogs, oxytocin is boosted in both us and the animal.  This may be part of why dogs are man’s best friend. Dogs boost our oxytocin levels just by making eye contact, the same way that babies do with their parents. They are able to calm us just by being there, which is why they make such wonderful emotional support animals!  Although the simple presence of a pet in your home can bring many of these health benefits, it’s important to be proactive – and active – in relaxing with your pet to make the most of the connections. What are some great ways to do that?

1. Take a walk!

Your dog needs exercise, and so do you. Having a dog, especially if you don’t have a yard, means taking them out regularly for walks. Dog owners are far more likely to get their daily steps in and be more fit than people without dogs. Physical exercise helps humans reduce stress and lower blood pressure as well. 

Making sure your dog gets enough exercise helps keep them calm and relaxed when inside too. Burning off all that excess energy, especially in puppies and young dogs, is as good for your furniture and shoes as it is for the two of you!  You might even make new connections with your neighbors as you stroll around the block.

2. Visit the dog park.

If you have a dog park nearby, it’s a wonderful way to let your pooch run with other dogs. Dog parks are fenced, so they’re safe, and most dog owners who bring their dogs make sure their pets are well-socialized and friendly before doing so. Hanging out and chatting with other pet parents while your dogs run and play in a secure environment is very relaxing. Bonus points if the dog park is a walkable distance away!

3. Set aside time for playing.

Whether you have a cat, dog or other pet, most love to play! Invest in some good toys that allow you to interact with your pet. Maybe your dog loves to play tug-of-war, or your kitty loves to try to catch a bird on a “fishing pole.” Laser pointers can be fun for both cats and dogs to chase. And of course, almost every dog loves to play catch and fetch. 

Consider taking your pet to the “toy store” and see what they gravitate toward. All of these activities help your pet burn energy and allow your bonds with them to deepen, ultimately boosting all those lovely chemicals mentioned above. They also see you as a source of fun and good times, which also increases that bond.

4. Pet them.

The importance of petting your cat or dog regularly cannot be overstated. Humans need touch, and so do our pets. Just petting a cat or dog is shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure as all those good hormones and chemicals flood our brains and bodies. A good snuggle session makes even bad days better and makes good days awesome! 

If you like to watch TV and movies to relax, turn that into cuddle time with your cat or dog. If that turns into “Netflix and napping,” so much the better. Any time you’re sitting with your hands free can become time to pet your pet.

5. Wrestle with them.

Many dogs, especially bigger breeds, love to wrestle with their people. It offers connection and play time that they enjoy. Some dogs seem to like being “tickled” in the process. They almost laugh when their bellies are scratched in just the right spot. 

6. Sing to them.

No one loves the sound of your voice more than your pets! Find some great music YOU love and let out your inner rock star. When we sing, we breathe more deeply, which instantly reduces stress and blood pressure.

7. Try dog yoga.

Dog yoga, or doga, has been around for about 20 years. It’s based on the idea that many yoga poses and the ways that dogs stretch are very similar. (The pose is called downward dog for a reason!) Practitioners of doga believe that practicing yoga together deepens the bond between dogs and their humans. Dogs get many of the same benefits from doga that humans get from yoga: improved circulation, soothing, relaxation and stress relief, gentle exercise, mobility, discipline and impulse control. For dogs that are older or recovering from an injury, doga can provide a way to get some physical activity without damage to joints. YouTube has tons of videos that can help you build a doga workout at home. You may also be able to find in-person doga classes in your community, which may help build connections for you too!

Pets are great for helping us relax and making us healthy. Taking an active role in making that happen can only boost the benefits that they bring to us, both physically and emotionally.