Mental Health Week- May 6-12

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When bored, and left to their own devices, dogs can sometimes develop undesirable behaviours.

Tracy Titchkosky, a dog trainer and receptionist with Morden Vet Clinic, says dogs require plenty of mental and physical stimulation which can sometimes be lacking during the winter months.

"The most common things we see would be chewing, inappropriate chewing on furniture, even walls and drywall..., inappropriate urination can sometimes happen when they're bored. We can sometimes see what's called 'zoomies' where dogs get to a point where they have this burst of energy, and tear around the house."

She notes this is disconcerting for some dog owners, especially those with young children.

Once frustration levels rise you can begin to see displacement behaviours, jumping, mouthing, and biting when the dog is unable to release that energy.

Behavioural issues aren't the only concern dogs can face. If there is a consistent weight loss during the summer, and weight gain over the winter, that fluctuation can cause joint and digestive system problems.

Though heading outdoors may seem unappealing, it can do wonders for your dogs, says Titchkosky.

"What a lot of people don't realize is dogs get more mentally, physically, and emotionally out of being able to sniff a bush or a 10-15 minute walk, then they do out of a 20-30 minute walk."

Titchkosky is an advocate of the "sniff walk" taking your dog to the park for 15 minutes. Allowing them to run around and sniff things will engage their muscles, respiratory system, and brains without having to be outside for an hour.

Just like ourselves, it's essential to bundle up our dogs, especially short haired dogs, because their ears, foot pads, and noses are susceptible to frostbite.

If the weather is too cold, a simple dollar store hula hoop can do the job of mental and physical stimulation, through various games and training activities.

"This is a perfect time to start engaging with your dog. Just practicing sit, down, stay, come anything that can get them focused on you, and not left to their own devices is super important when they don't have a lot to do in the winter."

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