SadDogWe all know that the most fantastic fun for our four-legged friends usually involves a walk of some sort. Whether it’s a trip around the neighborhood, a romp off-leash on conservation land, or time spent trotting along the Rail Trail, few things bring a dog more joy than being out and about. Unfortunately, there are just some days when getting the dog out for that good, long walk just isn't possible. Maybe it's the weather, or we're down with pneumonia, or our trick knee just flared up...again. When that's the case, consider these seven ways, provided by Small Animal Massage Practitioner, Carolyn Romano, to keep your pup's mind engaged and happy.

1. Play with your dog
There aren't a lot of substitutes for giving your dog your undivided attention. Yes, I said it: Undivided. Attention. That's where 100% of your focus is on your dog. For some of us, that rarely ever happens for more than about the first 30 seconds when we get home from work. But finding 20 or 30 minutes where you and your dog wrestle, play fetch, hide toys under the couch cushions, or work on training goals provides a lot of mental stimulation and is incredibly satisfying for your dog. You may like it, too!

2. Take your dog for a drive
Better yet, take your dog for a drive to your favorite pet store. Apart from the time your dog spends in the car with his head stuck out the window enjoying the wind in his face, he’ll have a blast exploring such a dog-friendly zone. With the typically dog-enthusiastic staff you'll find as well as the new smells from all the dogs who have gone before, pet stores can provide a high amount of stimulation when you’re walking the aisles. Your dog will want to take advantage of the free dog treats usually available, and you may stumble in when a fundraiser to benefit a local shelter is happening and—voila!—Spot's nails are trimmed for a worthy cause.

3. Sign up for a training class
My dog Frankie generally loves other dogs. But when he turned five, he developed an aversion to giant, six-month old puppies. At the time, lots of giant six-month old puppies frequented the dog park where we loved to play, so Frankie and I had to excuse ourselves from park attendance. Instead, we signed up for "Reactive Dog" classes at Especially for Pets in Sudbury. We trekked there every Sunday morning for three months while Frankie learned a kinder, gentler way of interacting with those goofy, hairy baby Berners and Labs. He reintegrated into the park fabulously. Attending those classes served a few purposes: (a) Frankie and I had valuable one-on-one time without my other dogs competing for my attention; (b) during class, he got to use his brain while he learned to control his body and reactions in an environment with lots of distractions; and (c) he had loads of fun playing with all the other dogs there who were also figuring out the ins and outs of acceptable playtime behavior. Hmmmm, it was not unlike...a dog park!

4. Invest in some butcher bones, Kongs, or other doggie puzzles
Nobody likes being bored or cooped up for long periods of time. So, when the dogs and I are all stuck in the house due to inclement weather, I am grateful for the frozen butcher bones I keep stashed in the freezer. When my dogs have licked these clean, I run them through the dishwasher. I "reload" them with canned dog food and/or (xylitol-free) peanut butter and pop them back into the freezer until the next blizzard. Puzzles work great, too. You can buy Kongs and other people’s ideas of doggie fun, or you can make your own. Hide treats under a row of Dixie cups, place a cupcake baking tin upside down on the floor and pour your dog's kibble all over it, or make a slit in a tennis ball or two and fill it with treats. If you’re concerned about your dog's weight, use his breakfast and/or dinner portions instead of additional kibble. And, of course, always supervise your pet when s/he has a bone or toy.

5. Catch up on your dog's appointments
During the winter when it can be hard to get outside with the four dogs, I fill many of my Saturday mornings with appointments for them. I schedule Lou's wellness check, Britta's grooming appointment, and Ripley's chiropractic session on different days and use the appointment as an excuse for more of that one-on-one time I mentioned above. Between the car ride, the time my dog spends being loved on by Dr. B (or being spoiled by Louise the groomer for that matter), and the inevitable hamburger treats from the McDonald's drive-thru, a near perfect adventure for my dog has been had. If a trip to the vet or groomer’s is your dog’s worst nightmare, see Number 2 above.

6. Try Day School at Especially for Pets in Shrewsbury & Sudbury
Whether your dog is a socialite and loves the company of other dogs, is a bit shy and/or could benefit from training, s/he stands a good chance of loving the Day School environment, offered in Shrewsbury and Sudbury. It is a fun-filled day of interactive play with dogs and humans, personalized training, as well as nap time and snack time! For a busy pet parent, it is a great alternative to traditional day cares. The professional dog trainers combine the best aspects of training, enrichment and socialization. Low student to instructor ratios ensure that your dog's experience is productive and positive. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!

7. Sign your dog up for a massage
Small animal massage is growing in popularity as a way to maintain and support the health and well-being of your dog. A massage for relaxation, for instance, usually involves a car ride, time with a dog-loving person your dog doesn't see very often, and premium treats while your dog's sore, tired, and possibly overworked muscles get the attention they deserve.

Free mini-massages and consultations are happening at your favorite Especially for Pets locations on these dates:

  • Wayland: Saturday, March 3, 2018, 11am to 4pm
  • Westborough: Sunday, March 4, 2018, 11am to 4pm
  • Sudbury: Sunday, March 24, 2018, 11am to 4pm

CarolynRomanoCarolyn A. Romano, J.D. has over 150 hours of small animal massage training from the renowned Bancroft School of Massage Therapy. These skills are added to Carolyn's over 25 years of experience using integrative and alternative modalities like Reiki, hypnosis, and shamanic healing practices with individuals and groups. Now, she has expanded her practice to include integrative therapies—like massage—to support the rehabilitation of dogs with physical issues or trauma histories. Carolyn offers an apprenticeship program for women leaders seeking to discover and use their personal medicine in a more powerful way. For more information, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Carolyn, call 508-481-2547, or visit her website.